You can learn more about Hampshire College's Farm, as well as their degree programs in Agriculture Studies and Rural Life at goodfoodjobs.com/education.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I always loved animals as a kid and really wanted to know more about them as I was growing up. When I turned 8, my family moved to a smaller, rural town and we started raising chickens for eggs and meat. Raising these hens, being involved in their everyday care and marketing of the eggs, was really what sparked my interest. In the following years we got turkeys, geese, and goats. I also took on other farm jobs away from our little hobby operation and got experience working with cattle, sheep, horses, fiber goats and eventually pigs. Farming and caring for the land and the animals makes me feel empowered to make meaningful change in the world and gives me a sense of purpose.
How did you get your current good food job?
I've always wanted to work on farms as I was growing up and once I got into high school I decided to seek out some farm work. I answered want ads at my local farmers co-op and got jobs through word of mouth. Finally in the summer before attending Hampshire College I learned about the summer farm work through a family member and started working as a livestock intern there. I've been assisting in managing the farm's livestock program for three years now. I'm also currently operating a heritage breeding program at the farm in addition to running a five-month study on the nutritional and environmental impacts of raising breeding pigs in different outdoor settings. The first piglets are being born on the farm this fall and I'm collaborating with several professors on having their students utilize these animals as teaching tools. You can read more about my work here, or visit the Facebook page I maintain for the breeding program here.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
My previous experiences taking care of my own poultry and small livestock really prepared me for a career in agriculture. My father has acted as a great mentor in all of this since he grew up on a large scale poultry operation and currently works in the food safety industry. Along the way I've had many other amazing mentors, as well.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
I wouldn't say there has been one crazy large obstacle in my way. But there have been many small bumps, particularly those moments when something goes wrong and you feel frustrated, even angry, and consider yourself a complete failure (particularly when an animal dies in my care, especially a newborn). What helps me persevere through these moments is knowing the failures are part of learning and growing. If you're never uncomfortable, you're never growing and improving.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
I think one of the best pieces of advice or positive things a manager ever told me was what I've mentioned earlier - that there is a difference between pain and discomfort. Being uncomfortable is natural and positive, as an important part of growth, but serious pain should be avoided at all cost - your health is always worth more than completing your task. This concept can be applied to workplace health and safety as well as in taking on new business endeavors (it may be scary and uncomfortable but it's important to try it anyway). I've also tried to apply this as a mantra to the rest of my life, especially in matters relating to my emotional and mental health.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
This is a hard question to answer - there are so many amazing opportunities in food right now and so many more to be made! However, I particularly see a lot of increased interest in the demand for local foods and face-to-face human connections around it. So I see a lot of good opportunities for community outreach and empowerment through local foods. This can happen in so many ways but most recently I've been very excited about the increasing number of community gardens and farms throughout the country. Food can bring people from so many walks of life together, and that is a beautiful thing.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Probably just smiles, laughs and camaraderie in general. I feel this a lot with the people I encounter through my work.