search by region
  • Region
  • Location
  • to search by radius, close this filter and enter a zip code in the search box above
  • Category
  • Type
  • Compensation
Mary Brower
Blue Stem Farm
February 23, 2016

When did you know that you wanted to work in food?

Aaron and I lived in rural Russia early on in our lives as farmers. It was a small village: intermittent power, one telephone that didn't work when it was cloudy (also sometimes when it was too sunny), cows for dairy, and four seasons a year of almost zero food purchases above and beyond little candies from the convenience store several miles walk away in summer - nearer if the river was frozen and you could take the shortcut across it. And we ate really well.

How did you get your current good food job? 

We lost the lease on the land we were farming back in New England, and decided to grow up and move home to Michigan. We found our property on and got our farm loan from the USDA Beginning Farmer & Rancher Loan Program.

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job? 

The wonderful thing about being a small farmer is that you're also a mechanic, accountant, marketing team, community organizer, and delivery driver. (The hard thing about being a small farmer is that you're also a mechanic, accountant, marketing team, community organizer, and delivery driver. ) Fortunately, Aaron and I have a past littered with partial careers and random jobs to draw upon. It's a perfect life for us.

What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream? 

Any path in life has plenty of obstacles. The luxury of being in our place and time in history is that many of us get to choose our own adventures. That's a luxury. I hesitate to say that money has been our greatest challenge, but there have been countless moments when we had to do things like load pigs into the family station wagon since we didn't have a livestock trailer, or use a pickup truck to pull a plow since the tractor was broken, or haul water to the animals from our house three times a day in winter because we didn't have plumbing in the barns. But our family has been an enormous support to us throughout the set-up phase of our farm business, and our community has also rallied around us in a way that is humbling and beautiful.

Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?

One year when I was a teacher, the administrators gave us little lunch sacks of snacks on the first day of school. As an employer, I feel like it's more than important to make sure people know that you want them to take good care of themselves. That lunch sack was a good gesture toward that goal.

What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now? 

This country needs to eat real food, period. The opportunity? Make real food. Get it to people so they can eat it. If they don't know how to use it, show them.

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be? 

All the time, our customers pay us in human warmth - jars of jam, little notes, homemade salves for our cracked hands, photos of the meals they made with our good food, and countless other tangible and intangible gestures that knit us all together a little more as a community each time. I'm so happy with this. We're really rich.

More stories in agriculture
Related Jobs