Starting With Farming

Goat_onahill

From desk job to farm intern.

For me, giving up a steady paycheck-earning desk job to pursue a farming career was a combination of careful planning along with a leap of faith. My initial plan was to go to a farm internship institute for one term, then find a follow-up internship on a working farm. I even got so far as to interview (in person) with the farm institute, and start planning my exit strategy for my desk job. Then I found out I had been wait-listed for the term that I had applied to, and my plans were crushed.

Being the resilient person that I am – not really, there was a lot of chocolate and wine involved in lifting my spirits – I set off to find another option. I didn’t want to wait any longer to start interning, and I was no longer convinced that the farm institute was the best option for me. So I renewed my WWOOF membership (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), found an apprentice/internship listing service for sustainable farms, and started scouring the internet for internship positions in California.

I very quickly discovered that most farm internships start in Spring, in fact most farms don’t even want interns during the Winter. I was emailing people everywhere, and got very few response emails. In my desperation, I emailed a SoCal acquaintance from a chicken meet-up group that I was involved in for a while. When I first met Cari, the farmer, I had bookmarked her farm’s website and would frequently check in online to see what she was up to.

Duckies

Interim internship, a foot in the (barn) door.

It turned out that Cari was very open to having me intern with her, but she wasn’t set up to host an intern/WWOOFer on the farm. She was also okay with the fact that I couldn’t commit to specific timeframe for the internship; I knew that I would want to start in January but had no idea if/when my next internship would start.

Through this whole process, I was applying for full-season internship positions that would start in Spring. With the promise that the SoCal internship would be just be for the Winter, and that I would be pursuing a full-season internship with housing on the farm, my parents gave me the go-ahead to crash their guest room temporarily.

My first day on Cari’s farm was Christmas Eve. Cari has a herd of dairy goats, turkeys, ducks, several breeds of chickens, and a hog. I was in heaven. I ended the day with a wicked splinter in my hand, and had my car die on the drive home. I still think it was an absolutely wonderful day. I got to cuddle with the sweet and adorable goats, watch the ducks play in a small pool, and start learning the ropes of feeding all the animals.

Goat_friends

Are you talking to me?!

Onward from here.

Hopefully I will have some entertaining stories to share from the farm. I am still working on landing a more permanent internship, updates to follow soon (fingers crossed). I have two interviews set up, and am looking forward to getting a better feel for each farm before committing (assuming that the farms choose me).

Goat_selfie

Goat selfie!

Turning 30

This post was written back in November, it’s the journal entry that started the blog.

On turning 30.

Today is my 30th birthday; the months leading up to this have been an intense time of introspection and self-reflection for me. The irony is that I’m naturally introverted, at some level I am always reflecting inwards.

I thought I had it bad when, at 25, I hit my “quarter-life crisis.” My friends and I all commiserated about what a difficult age that was; our careers still in their incubation phase, college not long enough past to be a faint memory, and the real world of bills transitioning from exciting independence to scary reality. I still think that 25 was a tough birthday, but it didn’t inspire the level of profound questioning that I’ve gone through for my 30th.

Who am I? What do I want to do?

At 30, I’m ready to face the fact that I’m probably not going to be rich. I don’t have the desire or qualifications to be a CEO, and it would take me years -if not decades- to reach a six-figure income doing the job that I currently have. This realization has been freeing. If I’m never going to make much money, then what is it that’s determining my career path?

I work a desk job, in a field that I have somewhat started to build a resume in. I pushed myself and moved from working in a semi-legitimate for-profit university Registrar Office, to a job in a different department of a high ranked public state school. I made sacrifices to get here, and I did it knowing that this wasn’t necessarily a final destination – but merely a stepping-stone in my path.

As I look at my life right now, it doesn’t make me happy. It doesn’t satisfy me in a way that compensates for the low paycheck and horrible boss. My generation has gotten some flak for having unrealistically high expectations, especially of our careers. I think the description was that we expect not only a green lawn, but a green lawn with flowers and unicorns. I want to be happy, and if that is a unicorn, well then I want my damn unicorn.

Jumping off the cliff, figuratively of course.

Knowing that I want to make a change, and making a good change are two very different beasties. I have rushed head first into many things in my life and the one bit of wisdom that has started percolating through my thick skull is: take a step back and think about it. This nugget of wisdom isn’t for everyone, and in many ways I’m adding a corollary to it. Take a step back and think about it; if you still want it, then take the plunge and give it a shot.

All of this leads to the fork in my path, that little dirt trail that I’m stepping off the highway for. I love animals, I love sustainable farming, I want to be a farmer. I’m college educated, suburb-raised, and what I would consider fairly normal… and I want to try a completely non-traditional career. The deciding moment was when I realized that I might try farming and fail, but if I don’t try farming then it will always be that thing I regret.

I’ve been married and divorced, and while I struggle with the fallout of my divorce, I don’t regret my life experiences. I went back to school and earned a teaching credential, then spent a year as a high school teacher and decided that wasn’t for me. I am okay with trying something and knowing that it isn’t a for-sure, answer to all my questions and dreams, life decision.

I can wax philosophically about the potholes of my generation, about the moral and ethical reasons that I believe in local agriculture, or about the fundamental flaws in the current American lifestyle. Maybe I’ll write about all of these things eventually, but for now I’m more interested in the who-what-where-when-why of my own life – hoping that maybe I’m not the only one facing these daunting questions.

Birthday Cupcakes!

Birthday Cupcakes!