Job ended during pandemic, so I left New York and moved to a farm

It has been so important to learn and fully understand what goes into feeding people — a chain of labor that is consistently undervalued in this country.

Plants at the farm.

Maddie Molot.

The farm is not commercial, meaning the owners grow food for themselves and their close community, not for sale. This takes a huge pressure off of them and the workers here, there is no supply chain or corporate interest demanding a certain yield. 

It is an unmeasurable privilege to work in small-scale, not for profit agriculture during the coronavirus, as farm workers across the country, the vast majority of whom are Latinx and POCs, are denied hazard pay, fair wages, and safe working conditions in order to keep food on our tables. Undocumented workers cannot file for unemployment, sick pay is vastly limited, and childcare is often unaffordable when schools close. 

The history of farm work in this country is fraught with racism, injustice, and violence. So much of modern farmland is land that has been stolen from black and indigenous people, and those profiting from slave/migrant/low-wage labor are overwhelmingly white. While much of farming today is rooted in Afro-Indigenous tradition, Black farmers currently account for less than 2% of all farmers in the US. 

From picking vegetables to sauteeing greens to cleaning up after a large group dinner, the farm is a small-scale, humane, environmentally-conscious example of the labor that is involved at every point along our food chain. 

Unlike my initial dreams of farming, there are no baby goats to bottle feed, and there are way too many mosquitos to even think about frolicking through any sort of wildflowers. The work is hard. The days are long and tiring. Ultimately, I’m unpaid labor on a small, cute organic farm as a break from “real life” while so many agricultural workers on industrial farms are contracting COVID at high rates. I’m comfortable enough to take a working vacation like this and not know where my next source of income will be. 

I’m also learning to appreciate not only how much labor is involved in growing the food I eat everyday, but also what level of care must go into maintaining an ethical and successful environment. 

I’m not sure exactly what my next move is after I leave the farm. Wherever I end up, I plan on adding recurring donations to food justice initiatives to my routine, shopping more regularly at farmers’ markets, and continuing to seek out local farm shares. This entire experience has taught me to be patient and listen to my gut more often than not. In picking my next career move, I know I’ll take the time to think intentionally about the value of my labor and how to support the ecosystem of people around me.

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