Everything is Everything

I have some big news. 

After months of reflection and internal searching, weighing the options, and talking (read: arguing) with Travis, I have decided to resign from my job at Johnson’s Backyard Garden.  I gave two weeks notice on Friday.

This will probably come as a shock to most of you.  There are a lot of reasons for this decision.  Unfortunately, this is not the time to divulge the entire story of everything I’ve been going through at Johnson’s.  What I can say is that Travis and I have discussed my future there, and we both decided that my staying was no longer contributing to our goal of getting our own farm.  It makes more sense for me to find an off-farm job, begin a small farming project on the side, and try to grow our business that way.

I want everyone to know that this certainly doesn’t mean I don’t like farming anymore, and it doesn’t mean the end of Dissertation to Dirt.  This is just another chapter in my path to owning and operating my own farming business with Travis, and I’m confident that this is the best step forward. 

I wish I could tell you more, but for now let me just say that in my year and a half of working on organic farms, I have learned a lot of what I expected to learn–that broccoli and cabbage are part of the same family, that garlic is ready to harvest when half of the leaves turn brown, that tomatoes are a pain in the ass to grow, and that hot peppers are way more productive than they should be.

But I’ve also learned a lot of things I didn’t expect.  Like that farmers, organic or not, can’t pay their workers a living wage because of the demand for cheap food. That wholesaling to large food companies is a quick ticket to bankruptcy.  That there are all kinds of ways to farm and still be considered “organic.”

And that we better get our heads around just what we’re looking for as we’re trying to make a change in our food system.  As I look for land to farm on my own, I’m keeping all these things in mind so they may shape the kind of operation Travis and I have.  Farming is not just about making money to me.  Viewing food as just a commodity continues to plague our food culture. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live where the garden is a hobby and not a job, like those presented in the blogs like this one:https://gardeneaze.com/

I also want to say that since I announced my resignation to my friends, everyone has been incredibly supportive and helpful in trying to connect me to other employment.  I’m looking, predictably, in academia since that is where most of my experience is.  I expect to stay connected to the farming community in Austin through volunteer work, the Austin Grower’s Guild, community gardening, going to the farmers markets, and any other way I can think of.

On a related note, there are some exciting opportunities in front of Travis and me:

  1. My cousin Thanos put me in touch with a development company in Florida who is looking for a couple of farmers for a small organic farm within a new low-cost community.  We would be charged with developing and running our own CSA and farmers market.
  2. Our friend Jon has connections to two separate pieces of land, each under 5 acres, that we might be able to rent together and begin a small farming operation.
  3. Thanks to the Austin Grower’s Guild, I just found another 2.3 acres in Webberville.  The owner is willing to rent in exchange for a share in the vegetables.
  4. Travis’ mother has put us in touch with a couple of farmers in New York who are looking to retire and pass their land onto a young farmer.

(this is the first plant in my new windowsill garden.  I named him Chardy)

When I told Brenton I was leaving, he seemed to think it was because I wanted to do something else.  Quite the contrary.  I am more motivated now than ever to farm, and to get something started of my own.