The 156th Real Farmer Care recipient is Angela McDermott @theflyingtangerine in San Antonio, Texas. Angela writes, "I am the interim farm manager and garden educational specialist for the San Antonio Food Bank’s Farm and Garden Program in San Antonio, TX. I’ve worked here for 6.5 years. This is a medium sized farm with three locations, 6 growing spaces (including the gardens at our sister food bank in New Braunfels). That’s around 100+ acres with about 15-20 acres in production year round. We (currently my team of three, including me) work with 5,000-9,000 volunteers annually to keep the farm running and grow between 200,000-300,000 lbs of produce to sell at our farmers markets and distribute to the 29-county region we serve. More info: https://safoodbank.org/
This has been a tough write for me because although I farm, it’s not mine. Not the equipment, farm land, seeds, the cultures I farm for, I don’t even work the markets, sometimes not even the direction of the farm is mine alone to steer. There is IT support, an Accounting Department, a communications Department, a department to coordinate volunteers, I could go on. I have healthcare and benefits, paid holidays and time off and I’m generally discouraged from working over 40hrs/week. This is a unicorn farm job. I wish this was the norm and that more farmers had this kind of support.
What does farming mean to me? Abundance. Once you start farming you see that there’s no need to compete. If you care for the land it provides for you, for other animals, for insects, etc. There is an abundance of abundance if you give love back to the land.
What does farming mean to my community? We provide help. The farm provides access to farming and gardening to those who might not otherwise start a farm or garden themself, but don’t mind getting their hands dirty to help provide food to those in need. It provides fresh produce to those who have limited or no fresh produce options.
My farming experience: My mom and her family farmed cocoa and nutmeg in Grenada. She loves gardening, she loves food. I do too. I started by helping my mom start composting then helped her start her garden while helping my maternal grandma with her garden. The food from the garden was so different, so good. I took classes and volunteered through Georgia Organics ( I lived in GA at the time) then in 2011 I took my first farm job at 30 yrs old as an intern. I transitioned to another farm in 2012 working with a permaculture designed site and working with 30 refugee families who wanted to farm or access to land to grow food for their family. I moved to SATX in the fall of 2012. I was burnt out from those two experiences and wouldn’t have farmed again until my husband saw a job posting for a Garden Worker at the San Antonio Food Bank in 2015. Working here has been challenging (I’ve cried and screamed on the farm when really frustrated) and I’ve wanted to give up several times, but I’ve always gone back and found joy in the work I do. I co teach gardening classes, garden, give tours to all ages, manage a small scale farm, learn about hydroponics/aquaponics, flood irrigation and small scale fruit production. It’s a LOT of work, but seeing people connect to farming in different ways really warms my heart.
Importance on community care: farming is not an individual sport. It takes a community of people to get it going and keep it going. Having people more experienced to lean on, less experienced to learn from and customers to invest and believe in your vision. So many touch the farm. Many hands make light work! We need to care and water each other like we care for our farms.
Self care/mental health: I have burnt out several times while farming or doing other jobs. Asking for help and not being afraid to use your voice are very important things for a farmer to master. I’ve learned it is more foolish to pretend I know and fail then to ask for help and learn from my mistakes. I’m learning to have fun off the farm. Farming can get into your head and you can end up thinking about it 24/7. I’m relearning to have fun (I might take up roller skating or biking), rest- in all it’s forms, reading non-farm related literature (although cover crop manuals are pretty fun, lol!), giving space to others so they can use their voice and spending time with my family and friends doing silly things. I’m learning to invest in my soul just as I would the soil on the farms. Basically un-grinding my way to a more content space.
What does support look like for me? Farming while undergoing infertility treatments was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I felt really alone. Fertility is job one with farming so being told I was the equivalent of poor soil was pretty devastating. AND that I would need expensive not covered by insurance help and not having someone else in farming I could talk too was isolating. Support to me is having access to affordable childcare for farming parents, access to healthcare and reproductive choices, farming collectively so not one person is shouldering the burden alone, access to affordable mental health professionals so you can learn to be easy on yourself when your crops fail or a natural disaster wipes you out or someone (again) asks you why your produce prices are so high (‘cause farmer gotta eat too, yo!) so you don’t take it personally when things go awry or out of control (you were never in control anyway) and so you don’t feel guilty for eating that ice cream, going on vacation, hiring that extra help, buying those non-farm clothes. Support is help to be a human to do human things without feeling guilty for being human."