My job at Gathering Together Farm is kind of the coolest thing ever. I’m lovin’ it for so many reasons. (If you missed the fact that I now have a part-time job, you can get the background details here.)
All these photos were taken by me in the Gathering Together Farm restaurant. I do actually take many photos of the rest of the farm, but I thought these ones were fun. Also, I’m making a concerted effort to feature the farmstand restaurant more in the hopes that more folks will come out and eat/shop there this spring.
I’ve been visiting the GTF restaurant kitchen weekly to take photos of lunch preparations. I have never worked in food service before, and I’m not a particularly great cook. Watching true kitchen professionals in action is fascinating. I do my best to stay out of the way, but I am thankful that everyone has tolerated my intrusions so far.
Back when I was working for Gathering Together Farm a decade ago, my duties were pretty focused and limited to certain aspects of farming, primarily harvesting, washing, distributing, and selling produce. I didn’t actually get a rounded education in the principles of farming, and a lot of the “whys” behind the tasks we were carrying out remained mysterious. At the time, I honestly didn’t really care that much about issues related to fertility, irrigation, or propagation, or maybe I was just too tired and concerned about getting my own work done to really take in the big picture.
In my new role, however, I’m forcing myself to take a deeper look at what’s really going on, and I’ve discovered that everything that happens behind the scenes is truly intriguing. GTF’s seed, irrigation, and greenhouse manager, Joelene, happens a good friend of mine, and she’s been an outstanding resource in my attempts to pull information together to form a cohesive explanation of various farming methods.
With the help of Joelene and another friend, Paula, I recently wrote an extensive blog post about grafting tomatoes, a subject that I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward because it’s pretty complicated and technical. Not only did I learn a ton about the process, but I wrote a piece that I’m really proud to know is out there for others to read and learn from as well.
In my early 20s, many of my coworkers felt almost like family, but since then, I let those relationships fade because I couldn’t figure out how to nurture them without hanging around the farm a bunch. Now I get to be around my friends whom I never spend time with because they’re always working.
Spending time in the GTF kitchen, I get to chat it up with JC, the pork-loving head chef. I’ve known JC casually for a while, but now that I’m hovering around in his space, we’ve reached a point in our relationship where he can tease me about my choice to avoid pork products, and I can tease him for listing “cavelo nero” (which I wrongly guessed was a type of wine) on the dinner menu. We’ve also had serious discussions about why he does and doesn’t serve various types of meats in the restaurant (JC feels limited by both price and ethical/sustainability standards) and differences between his “brodetto” and his “fish stew”. While we can joke around comfortably, JC never talks down to me, and he always answers my questions with honesty and a genuine willingness to share everything he knows about the business.
I get to work on a beautiful piece of property, and my job is to look around and observe the beauty instead of hurrying off to complete the next farming task of the day. Though the farm occupies more ground then when I left, most of the territory is very familiar to me. I have so many memories from that place: first kiss with my now-husband, first time driving a cabover truck, first (and last) time getting the news that a close friend had been in an accident and might die, first 75-hour work week, first cup of coffee, first kohlrabi, first injury requiring surgery. I’m excited to share that place with others who may not be able to visit and as well as with locals who I’d like to inspire to tour the farm for the first time.
When I started this job, I kind of worried that it would be awkward for me to be taking photos of the crew laboring. I thought I would be uncomfortable because I wasn’t actually “working”, and they would look down on me because I wasn’t helping out. So far, that has not been the case. Everyone at the farm has not only graciously allowed me into their spaces, but they’ve welcomed me in. They’ve taken extra time to show and explain to me all the important parts of their activities, and they have put up with me minimally styling shots by rearranging tools and veggies or tucking unsightly bits out of the way. What I didn’t factor in is that my coworkers are proud of what they are doing, and they appreciate that I’m taking the time to tell their stories. Also, I’m surprising myself by being proud and serious about what I’m doing, too.
Sometimes I feel like I’m just faking being a writer or a photographer because I have no professional training (especially in photography, which is still so new to me), but this job is making me a little more comfortable in those roles.
Because I don’t get out much and because I’m not particularly outgoing, I don’t meet new people very often, but this job is giving me an excuse to not only meet people but also to ask questions about their jobs which often leads to more questions about their personal lives. These new folks may not be true friends yet, but we’ve got plenty of time ahead to get to know each other.
One person in particular that intrigues me is Ana Patty, the pastry chef in the Gathering Together Farm kitchen. Maybe it’s that title, “pastry chef” or maybe it’s because she’s super nice, but I really want to know more. I want to know more about danish and doughnuts and croissants. I want to know more about butter and flour and cardamom. I will probably never be able to recreate her sweet and savory masterpieces at home (in the barbecue!), but I’m just glad to have the opportunity to watch her in action. I’d really like to feature Ana in semi-regular posts on this blog explaining and demonstrating her various methods and recipes. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks “secret lives of pastry chefs” is a good blogging topic.
In some ways, Gathering Together Farm owners John and Sally took a risk in hiring me. They put a lot of faith in our relationship, and they gave me almost free reign to do whatever I thought would engage and educate not only their customers but also the farming and farm-supporting community at large. While I do have a couple of “bosses” in this job, no one is telling me exactly what to do or how to do it. That freedom has been both comforting and incredibly motivating. Even though no one is asking me to prove my worth, I am demanding results from myself, and I am starting to see those results.
- Since I started as social media manager, the Gathering Together Farm Facebook page has over 350 new fans (which I can mostly take credit for).
- The farmstand restaurant has had it’s busiest opening month on record (which I’d like to take credit for but is probably a combination of social media and good ol’ word of mouth).
- The GTF blog is starting to be read by customers, GTF employees, and folks out there googling things like “greenhouse soil mix recipes” and “why graft tomatoes?” I figure the blog will need time to develop a readership and an archive full of useful information before I call it a huge success, but that’s okay. I’ve got lots of time and lots of ideas.
I still don’t know if my position at Gathering Together Farm is where I want to be forever (though it might be), but for now, I feel like it’s just what I need for personal and professional development, and I think I’m able to offer the farm a service that they will really benefit from. Feel free to follow along with me and GTF on Facebook and the blog.