2017 YOELLA DIAMANT-COHEN
Yoella’s story of breaking into farming is important because it illustrates how experimentation is vital to the process. She also reminds us that every experience is a learning opportunity, and can help you connect the dots to your dream job. But most of all, we love Yoella’s energy and passion, and we can easily picture her out in the field, meet her destiny with character and individuality.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
While walking the Israel Hiking Trail, I was exposed to the beautiful and simple desert farming lifestyle. When I finished, I immediately headed back to the desert and began my farming career as an experimental agronomist. I worked mainly in a greenhouse filled with 1,000+ varieties of new peppers (red, orange, green, purple, brown, large, small, spicy, etc.) It was a lot of work – and fun – but far from the organic farming dream I had in mind.
Next, I worked at Roots Farm (also in Israel, 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv) which was a CSA-based farm with one tractor that was mainly used to haul the day’s harvest out from the swampy field into the packing house. The work here was non-stop: from spreading compost to support growing plants, to weeding with a simple knife, to covering and uncovering crops, and packing CSA box shares twice a week, we worked from sunrise to sunset every day.
In Israel, there are loads of unique farming opportunities. My uncle is a farmer in the Israeli desert, and although I never actually farmed for him (it made me too nervous to ruin a good friendship), what I have found is that farming is more than just a job, it is a way of life. I have had teachers who simply read permaculture books and started their own flourishing garden.
If you are inspired, start farming and get connected. Even if it doesn’t work out at the farm you are currently working at, your boss or a coworker may just lead you to another farm – the one you didn’t even know you were looking for.
How did you get your current good food job?
I saw an ad on Craigslist for a farm hand at Potomac Vegetable Farms in Loudoun County, Virginia. I had just arrived back to the United States after six years in Israel, and was looking for a farming job close (but not too close) to my parents in Baltimore, Maryland. My boss, Hana Newcomb, has been my most accommodating boss so far. Her motto is “I only want someone who wants to be here.” She will help you build a schedule at the farm that works for you and will not guilt-trip you into believing you are responsible for everything that may happen at the farm at all times (which has happened to me on other farms). This role ended up becoming a challenge, because I had to make bi-weekly trips to Baltimore by public transit, but the weekly potlucks and farm yoga classes are something that I will always cherish from those months I spent living in a cabin on a farm with a perfect view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I recognized a pattern that I had only worked in farms with men and had often become frustrated with the lack of connection or understanding from my boss. This made the job at Potomac Vegetable Farms hugely appealing, and I felt a huge difference! We held a morning meeting every day, so everyone felt involved and jobs were offered to everyone. It is such a warm environment and I realized how important it is to have a boss that listens and respects you.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
I felt that I came from very work-intensive, hands-on farms, and I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of tractors at Potomac Vegetable Farms. While I found them fascinating, I personally connect most with responsibilities that have me touching the plants and soil. I requested from my manager to have me mostly working on the hands-on tasks and my wishes were respected. Often, it is important to simply say what we think or need and the solution can be a lot less of a big deal then we make it seem in our head.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
My boss, Ayal, from the Roots Farm would play music all day. Aside from being an amazing organic farmer, he is also a reggae DJ. He played music on a boombox in the packing house and even attached speakers onto his tractor for when he was out in the field. The crates we used to load up the produce were yellow, green, and red. Ayal’s spirit and true care for his farm can be taken in through all the senses . I learned from Ayal how important it is to always represent yourself and have as much fun as you can while doing it.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
I would say that with all the craziness that is always going on in the world, it is essential for me to feel self-sufficient. Growing your own food, cooking that food, and eating that oh-so-yummy food are my favorite things to do. I LOVE FOOD.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Don’t get me started! I wish there was no money! I grow tomatoes, you grow mangoes, we all share, no more worries.