Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where you gonna go when it hits the fan?

I was going to post something else here but my browser crashed and I had to re-do my post. It's probably for the best because I had some of my most negative comments about the farm on there. I realize now, I don't need to put all the negative stuff out there--at least not yet. After taking some space from the extremely physically and emotionally stressful day yesterday, I can post more calmly.

There is not much direction here on the farm. We have a white board on which the tasks that need to get done are written. What I and the other interns have been doing is choosing from the list based on what we think really needs to get done. This one guy, Matt, has worked on farms before so he's been helping Alex and me learn the ropes, so to speak.

Yesterday, as we've been doing everyday, we decided on our task and that was to plant squash. We still have a ton of planting to do, which shouldn't be but the farm is really behind and its disorganization does not help that problem. Alex, Matt and I started and then two other interns came to help. We dug 10 really huge holes (I was raking and leveling the terribly unlevel ground), and then poured fish emulsion, compost, and soil, stirring while we went. Then we made a mound and planted the squash. We had just completed planting and I went in to get lunch, when Peter, the husband of the couple that owns the farm, came up and started talking to Alex and Matt. When they come in I find out that Peter immediately came up to them and said that was a bad idea and that we're going to have to dig them up! We originally got the direction to plant the squash in the back from, Jane, his wife and co-ower of the farm! So, then Matt and Peter had a "discussion" (it wasn't really a discussion, since Matt wasn't allowed to explain why we planted them there) about growing squash and how it needs more space than what we gave it.

What eventually ended up happening, was that I refused to do anything with the squash any more and then Matt, Alex and two of the newest interns went into the field (after traipsing back and forth from one field to the other to find a good spot) to plant more squash--we ended up only digging up one from the back of the house--and then spent 2 hours just preparing the rows. We originally took an hour to plant 10 squash plants and because of the inefficiancy of Peter's communication, they took 2 hours to just prep the soil. From Alex's accounts, they we're criticized on everything they did--from digging the hole, to mix the soil, to even pulling the hose out to water! They had to use the exact tool that Peter thought was appropriate for the job, which required several trips to the other field to get these important, missing tools (the other field is hundreds of yards away). Alex ended up getting fed up with the micromanaging and left before they even got the squash in the ground. While they were doing this I decided to put circles of stones around the tomato plants in the back yard because it's the thing that allowed me to be alone and not yell at anyone.

Basically I cried a lot yesterday because I was miserably home sick and tired of all the drama and miscommunication. I was also physically exhausted and drained to the point of breaking. I wanted to leave immediately. Alex did eventually calm me down but it took a long time.

This is what this farm is like. The husband and wife don't communicate with each other and then we end up bearing the brunt of it. In addition to that, the husband gets most of his information out of books and then takes them as gospel which you must then follow to the letter. There is no room for input from other people. It's Peter's way or no way. Even Jane apologized to them for squash debacle not because she didn't check in with Peter!

I think ultimately why I was so inconsolable yesterday was that I felt crushed and beaten down. My hopes and expectations of this farm were not only dashed but stomped and then spit on. I expected a stronger female role model than I got. I expected to learn sustainability (since it is a sustainable farm) but it's not evident with what they're doing. I expected to get off the farm more but that's only happened a handful of times and usually to go to the general store. (I will say, though, that day before yesterday we went down to the coast because there was a low tide and we had a super cool time--Peter wasn't with us). Things have to change and I'm going to have to be the one to change them. I have to take care of myself over this farm because it's evident to me that the happiness of the interns doesn't seem to register with the owners of the farm because they are so caught up in their own worlds. So, yesterday was the breaking point but I'm going to give the farm another chance before I decide to leave. If there is another day like that, I'm contacting other farms immediately to see what is out there.

It's kinda sad but I'm really glad that all of my positive expectations were killed yesterday. At least I don't have to go through the heart breaking disappointment and despair that I was going through again. I'm still thankful for this experience but in different ways than I would have expected--instead of learning how to run a successful farm, I'm learning how to make sure I don't run an unsuccessful farm. I suppose that's good enough for now.

(My next post will have pretty pictures of the low tide, I promise.)


  1. Wow that sounds so frustrating! I'm sorry it isn't turning out the way you hoped. I'm sure in the long run it will at least be a learning experience. Even though it's sucking I'm really jealous because it's just such a different experience than anything I've ever done! And I'm excited for you to have a farm someday I'm totally bringing my future children out there to learn about farms.

    Oh and does "homesick" mean for St Paul?! Does that mean sometimes you'll visit St Paul?! I hope so!

  2. You're right, this is/will be a learning experience and I'm already thankful that I've had the chance to do this. Also, I would love to have you and your cute little family visit my farm someday (I love talking theoretically)!

    I miss you and say hi to Minnesota for me!

    Also, of course I'll visit St. Paul! It's more of a home to me than Louisiana. Louisiana is just where my family lives :)

  3. Hey Jess,

    I really feel for you after reading this. Please try not to get jaded. This experience is showing you how important communication is in running a farm successfully. You will also come to appreciate the good experiences yet to come so much more. I'm speaking from personal experience on this! I worked for two previous companies in my industry that ran their businesses much in the way you are describing in this post. It took a lot of persistence, but I'm finally working with a company that pays me a living wage, asks for and respects my opinion, and treats me as a professional and not just a "helper".

    I'm glad you are persevering despite the hardships, you will learn so much from this and you will find your niche eventually...

    Good luck! I miss you!


  4. Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Jackie.

    I miss you too!