This post is the last introduction from our 2013-2014 interns. Enjoy getting to know Join the Farm! intern Jeannette Ban from Los Angeles.
My name is Jeannette Ban and I have the grand opportunity of being the Join the Farm! intern this year. I was raised in Southern California, just over the southern side of the mountains in Venice/West Los Angeles. I recently moved back to California from Olympia, Washington where I studied Sustainable Agriculture/Political Economy and lived for four years. While I thoroughly enjoyed the 6 months of rain and the accompanying living green flora that carpets all of the Pacific Northwest, I am so pleased to be back in the Golden State where a tried and true brand of sunscreen is more vital than a good pair of gloves.
On the farm, I’ve enjoyed sending pictures of our tomato vines that are still stoically pushing out orange and red globes of fruit in late December to friends who have settled in the freezing Midwest or East Coast. This gives me the grounds to casually suggest to them, “Well, have you ever thought about moving down to California?”. No one as of yet has accepted my challenge, but I’ll get them yet! Probably when I tell them that the corn grows sweet and juicy here until mid-December.
Tomatoes and corn in the winter months are special treats that remind me of exactly where I am in the world. As an employee of a small SoCal organic vegetable farm, growing, weeding, harvesting and selling produce to customers are filled for me with meaning, promise and hope. The little mundane tasks that make up my day are small anecdotes that weave together to make a grand narrative. This “big-picture” motivation seemed clear to me, and probably to all of those who are associated with The Abundant Table or any food justice organization. We are here because we are greedily searching for a way to participate in a food system that rewards those who work hard and proceed with care.
But after a conversation with my mother about her desire for me to pursue further education, I realized that maybe things aren’t so cut and dry. She had asked me why I chose to join the farm team as the Farm Intern instead of beginning a graduate school career. I replied, easily, that it was a simple decision because the work that I did here was important and meaningful. She asked then, “How?”.
After I was done sputtering and huffing and puffing out a generic answer probably involving the phrases “food justice”, “worker’s rights”, “oppression” and “sustainability”, I thought about what my actual answer to this question is. Why is creating a space for a small, organic farm that practices sustainable land, economic and social practices to succeed an important and meaningful thing? “Sure”, my mother seemed to say, “growing your own fruits and vegetables and bringing them home for us to cook with is nice and all, but you’re saying that there is more to what you’re doing here?”
Five months into the internship and I’ve spent a fair amount of time filling in the grey spaces of what that question is really asking. I know I am here because, yes, I enjoy the miraculous experience of watching shoots slowly turn into the things I like to eat. I do enjoy the dirty hands and the meditative process of weeding. I love meeting folks at the farm stands who rave about our carrots or our melons.
But so far, much of this internship has been about stripping away so much of the righteous and rigid facts that I learned about agriculture in school and replacing them with the human facts of life in this enormous Californian economic industry. Often times there are no right and wrong answers in the human facts trade, just whether something is a little less wrong or a little bit better. I see this equation played out on the farm all the time, and wonder at how it seems to make my grand narrative question impossibly more complex.
I’ll be here for the next 7-months, working on an answer to the question my mother posed me. In the meantime, come join our CSA or visit me out in the fields for a good time weeding!