Like so many of you wonderful folks out there, Christy came to us through a random email. She wanted to share what she was working on - the beginning of her journey across the United States, literally working her way through various sustainable farms - and find out if there we could help one another. When we started GFJ, we always intended this blog to illustrate the many types of good food 'jobs' in the world. What we didn't expect is how satisfying it would be to promote the work of others who are doing work that matters.
Don't forget to check out Christy's blog, the Traveling Farmer, after you read her story.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I was finishing up my last year of college studying landscape architecture and had a hard time finding my niche within the profession. For my senior capstone project I had free range to create any type of project I wanted and was interested in "Agri-hoods" so I decided to pursue that concept. In the midst of my research and designing, I realized that I had no experience in growing food, so how could I design a whole community based off of farming? I made the plan to work at an organic vegetable farm in Vermont that following summer and fell in love. Waking up early to watch the sun hit the morning mist, learning how to grow 40 different fruit and vegetable types, and working with the community changed my perspective on food.
After the farming season was over, I moved back to my college town to work as a landscape designer. I was now back in an office setting, yearning for the hands-on, intimate connection with the land that I received from the farm. After speaking with a couple of local organic farmers I quickly learned that these hard working individuals simply do not have the time to advocate for themselves, their businesses, and the sustainable food movement. That is why I decided to hit the road to work at farms all across the United States while using journalism and photography to express different means of sustainability, community, and economic perseverance.
How did you get your current good food job?
I actually found the first farm that I am working at through Good Food Jobs! That and ATTRA have been great sources to find organic farms from livestock to honey, flowers, or fruit and vegetable production. These farm-lovin' search engines are going to come in handy for my next year or two of traveling.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
Having run my own little landscape maintenance business throughout college, as well as working in restaurants. I have a connection to the landscape and food industry. It wasn't until I worked at the organic vegetable farm in Vermont where I learned the behind-the-scenes aspect of the food industry, while still putting my landscaping skills to use.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
My greatest obstacle was is my own mind and letting others influence whether or not this was a good idea. I left my job of being a landscape designer, bought an old camper, put in a good chunk of my savings to refurbish it and simply hit the road. At first my family thought I was crazy, but I also got a lot of support from people. I think adding in the sub-context to this whole idea (sharing my experiences in hopes of making a difference) brought more peace of mind to those who doubted this would be successful. And if at the end of it, my website and journalism never take off, then I have a really stellar experience to keep with me.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
My boss at the farm in Vermont would continue to give me hard work and a lot of responsibilities and yet we are still friends who can joke and laugh together. It was extremely encouraging knowing he saw that I could handle both the production end of things as well as being in charge of writing our weekly CSA newsletter, and co-managing the CSA. I think as an employer, finding a balance between a friendship and getting on the same page about the billions of tasks required for running a farm makes it enjoyable for everyone.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
Food brings people together. It always has! There is so much potential in community building through food that is already happening - it just simply needs to be brought to more peoples' attention. My college town of Fort Collins always has farm-friendly events that include other fun hobbies like bicycling or beer that naturally entice people. Including activities that folks already gives them a gateway to a new love: community through local food!
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Gas, so I can visit as many farms as I can! I absolutely love driving and being on the road so, aside from farm-fresh veggies, that's all I need.