Meet Hannah, Our New Farm Manager!
It's always a surprise to realize that I'm really a farmer. But such a pleasant surprise! My dad has always been a farmer and throughout my childhood he encouraged me to join him in the gardens (or told me that I had to). Farming is such a part of his identity, however, I never imagined it could be a part of mine in the same important way.
But it is!
One of my favourite things about farming is the vital role that mentors play in the education and inspiration of new farmers. After finishing my undergrad degree in International Development Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, I spent some time travelling and WWOOFing in Europe. In Croatia, I met my first farming mentor, Barbara . Barbara went through her days with incredibly strength, good humour, and her one-year-old daughter on her back. She helped me to see how at home I was in the garden and she trusted me there much more than I trusted myself. My two week stay quickly turned into two months and by the time I left, Barbara was joking about sending her kids to Canada to be WWOOFers on my farm as soon as they were old enough. We both saw farming in my future.
I recently visited another mentor, Susan, at her farm in New Brunswick, where I worked as an apprentice the summer after returning from Croatia. I hadn't been back to Susan's farm since the day my apprenticeship ended, and I was struck by the special place my teacher, her land and her home, hold in my heart. Susan, who is now in her 70s, has been a mover and shaker in the organic movement since before I was born, and her passion and commitment inspire me to keep working even through challenging times. The truth is, during the days and weeks that immediately followed my apprenticeship with her, I wasn't sure that I wanted to continue farming. I worried that the slugs and the black flies, the heat and the cold, the emotional and physical demands might have gotten the better of me and I wouldn't be able to do it all over again. But by midwinter, when thoughts turn toward spring sprouts, I felt certain that despite its difficulties, farming was the best job I'd ever had.
Last April, I moved to the Southern Okanagan in BC to work under the mentorship of yet another amazing female farmer. Though she's still a young farmer, Annamarie has been at it since childhood, and is incredibly skilled at growing food (and doing pretty much anything else). She is the fastest, hardest working, most determined individual I've ever worked with and every year she and her husband Kevin teach herds of apprentices that it's possible to make a good living as an organic farmer. When I grow up, I want to be able to pick beans as fast as Annamarie.
I want to be as strong and capable as these women, and I hope that over time and with enough effort, I can share Barbara's encouragement, Susan's passion and Annamarie's know-how with other new farmers. That's what has led me to Fresh City. Each of my mentors gave me enough skills and confidence as a farmer that today, with a blizzard outside, I'm ordering Fresh City's seeds for the coming season! I know that farming in Toronto and becoming a part of the city's thriving local food movement will introduce me to many capable and eager people from whom I can continue to learn and also pass on some of the skills, wisdom and determination that these amazing women have so graciously shared with me.