New Role, New Responsibilities at Gathering Together Farm

November 22, 2011 · 14 comments

Sooo…I got a job. Actually it feels less like a NEW job and more like a homecoming, something so familiar but yet challenging and inspiring. Starting this week, I’m the official social media manager and blogger for Gathering Together Farm (GTF), an organic mostly direct-market vegetable farm in Philomath, OR.

I’m going to use this post to give you a little bit of background on my personal experience at Gathering Together during the five+ seasons that I was on the farm crew. I started working there part-time in the summer of 2001, just after I graduated from high school, and I officially quit in the fall of 2005, shortly after I graduated from college. I only ever worked spring, summer, and fall (into December the first year) because I was a full-time student during that time, too. At the height of the season, though, I would regularly put in upwards of 70 hours per week.

When I look back to my life at age 18 through 22, essentially ALL of my most formative experiences and biggest influences were Gathering Together Farm related, and when I decided to move on, almost all of my marketable skills had been learned at that place and from my coworkers. I’m the first one to admit that I’m NOT a farmer, and in my years working on a farm, I learned embarrassingly little about growing vegetables because I rarely if ever followed one planting from seed all the way through to harvest. I did learn how to work my tail off, organize, manage my time, speak Spanish, and monitor quality control. It was also the first and only place I have ever been paid to write. (I authored the weekly CSA newsletter in 2003 and 2004.)

I was totally inept I was when I first started. I didn’t have a grasp of what my priorities should be, what a positive outcome looked like, or how to organize my actions to get desired results most efficiently. I blundered my way through chores and tried to take it all in without looking like an idiot. I screwed up. A lot. After a couple seasons though, I started to feel the flow of the tasks and rhythm of the seasons. I learned to count subconsciously (a skill necessary for picking a specific number of heads of lettuce), and before I realized it, I went a little OCD and started counting constantly, how many steps taken, how many squash washed, how many tomatoes sorted. The work grew on me and in me until it all seemed so obvious. Within the confines of my specific job, I knew exactly what to do to get from start to finish, but still, every day offered a new opportunity to learn, practice, or master a new skill.

During the summer, we started at 6:00 am and would quit around 7:30 pm. At the end of many of those long days, we’d take our time collecting our personal belongings and gathering vegetables to cook for our own dinners. There was almost a hesitation to leave, and some of the best conversations and best ongoing jokes began during those moments of calm and closeness.

Walking around at the farm now brings up so many ghosts (mostly good ones) from my past. I remember picking turnips that first fall I worked in my brand new insulated rubber boots (essential!) and brand new rain gear. It was pouring rain, but with about ten layers on my body and good rain gear, I was perfectly comfortable, enjoying the meditation of the quiet root trimming and percussion of droplets splashing on my rain hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sundays were the only day that most of us didn’t work, but as often as not, we’d end up spending more time together, either at the farm itself or at someone’s house, a basketball court, or a bowling alley. At 20 or 21, I gave up almost all socializing with my peers for months in order to work, so my coworkers became almost like family.

In the fall of 2004, one of my coworkers, Carmelo, was in a horrific car accident and was in the hospital wavering on the brink of death for days. I was in school at the time, working some afternoons and Saturdays, but as soon as I heard the news, I cut all my classes for almost a week because the only thing that was going to keep me from sobbing was working alongside people that cared as much as I did. I have vivid memories of expending all my emotional energy picking leeks and washing squash while we waited anxiously for any news of his condition. After several months in the hospital and years of recovery, Carmelo is back to working full time on the farm, and I am so thankful to have him with us today.

We picked summer squash and cucumbers almost every day of the whole summer, but occasionally we would find hugely oversized zucchinis. We dropped kicked those and let the fleshy debris rain down on the rest of the crew. Sometimes after hoeing until the point of exhaustion, we would make up songs (always in Spanish) about our coworker Cirilo who was a good sport about often being the butt of jokes. We sang at the top of our lungs (and I have a terrible singing voice) and hoed and were strangely happy.

I remember trying to contain my enormous smile the day I picked a flat of strawberries faster than Rodrigo, the foreman. I was hustling as fast as I possibly could, and he didn’t know we were competing, but still…

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses during those years. There were plenty of sunburns and rotten vegetables and bone-weary, dragging-on-forever days. There were a lot of sore muscles, hurt feelings, and tears, too. It wasn’t always pleasant, and there was probably more monotony than excitement overall, but my selective memory has chosen to recall more of the good than the bad. Funny how that works.

The farm has changed a lot since I worked there full time. It’s big now, big enough to justify hiring a part-time social media manager. Gathering Together Farm grows hundreds of varieties of dozens of crops on about 50 acres of ground. They sell at eight weekly farmers’ markets, provide produce for 300+ CSA members, and are partnered with restaurantes and grocery stores up and down the Willamette Valley and on the Oregon Coast. Gathering Together Farm employes over 100 people (full-time and part-time) during the middle of the summer, making them one of the largest private employers in our small community.

My job will be pretty straightforward. I will man the Gathering Together Farm Facebook page (“Like” it for farm photos, recipes, gardening tips, current events, and chit chat.), and I will write regular blog posts about a topic of interest to the farm (current or otherwise). I will take lots of photos, too. Gathering Together Farm already has an solid reputation that is much bigger than the farm itself. I will work to clarify that image with real-world information and perspectives. I’m hoping that this type of writing will appeal broadly to not just the folks who live around here but to anyone interested in sustainable agriculture, vegetables, cooking, and eating. Because of this, I will most likely be posting some of my GTF blog posts here on my personal blog as well.

Tomorrow, we’ll be headed down to Northern California to meet up with my mom’s family for Thanksgiving festivities. In between large meals and games of cards, I’ll be blogging here, setting up the Gathering Together Farm Blog, and conducting long distance customer service for my Etsy shop that was featured in the December issue of Sunset Magazine (see photo of the pages here!). It’s going to be a busy and exciting week.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

mae November 22, 2011 at 8:57 am

Something about that turkey photo… it’s great!

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Camille November 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I thought she (I think) had a lot of character. Thanks

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ga447 November 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

Your photography is just amazing and the subject is so beautiful. I grew something by seed (cabbage rose) and it actually grew very well, I would have had more but my husband thought it was a weed and weed wacked it.
Happy Thanksgiving.

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Camille November 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Yeah, I think the ticket to good photography is a beautiful subject and a little effort. I am trying.

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Cynthia November 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

Look forward to reading more. Beautiful photos here. Good job!

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Kathy Ramsey November 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

Congrats Camille! This seems like such a natural next step for you. Didn’t you and Henry meet at GTF?

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Camille November 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Yeah, that’s kind of a huge part of the story that somehow got left out. hmmm…I’ll have to add a Part II or something.

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marni November 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

this is really exciting! i’m looking forward to reading about the farm, about what they are doing and how they are working, and of course more of your pretty pictures. you will be a great asset to their team (again)!

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Amanda Whitmire November 22, 2011 at 10:19 am

Congrats, Camille! (seems like I’m saying that to you a lot this week. ;-) ) I couldn’t think of a better person for a social media position at GTF. I look forward to your blog posts, and to seeing what’s going on at the farm through your lens (literally and figuratively!). Agree with Mae – LOVE the turkey shot, and the leeks, too.

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janay November 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I love the turkey photo as well.

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Sabrina on Harris Road November 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm

congratulations! That is so exciting-it will be fun to read!

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abby November 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I can’t think of a better person for a job like this. You really are an excellent writer Camille, and your photos are exceptional. Looking forward to reading your GTF posts. And congratulations on your work featured in Sunset Magazine!! That is exciting!!

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Camille November 29, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Totally exciting. And thanks

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abby November 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Ha! I just read Amanda’s comment… “can’t think of a better person…” Tis true : )

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