Fresh out of college, my first venture into the ‘real world’ has likely looked different than that of plenty of my classmates. While the typical 9-5 may conjure images of videochats, spreadsheets, and other office drudgery, I spent my summer in the dirt. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rushton Farm has become the place of summer’s sweetest memories, made alongside enchanting scenery and even more fascinating people. I had studied much about food systems to complete my degree, but without on-farm experience, I arrived clueless about the everyday workings of a farm. Only four months later, I cannot say I am anywhere near an expert on that subject, but I am at least sure of one fact: food is magic. The work of producing food, moving my body for hours in all sorts of outdoor conditions, pushed me to reconnect with my humanness in a profound but altogether simple way. It just felt right. Even the smallest occurrences provoked childlike awe, such as my first time picking green beans off the vine and thinking, “woah, this is really a green bean!” This farm, to me, is the most ‘real’ of all the places I could be.
The magic of farming derives not only from the tangible production but the sharing of it all. At Rushton Farm, I made friends of all ages, each drawn to the farm from a distinct background ranging from foraging to film. The wonderful company often made it feel more like summer camp than work. And when the heat of the afternoon made us sluggish, I was at least assured we were suffering together. Beyond the field, I shared the farm with family and friends by regularly doling out fresh veggies or bouquets of flowers. Giving a portion of the work I adored, whether to our members or my loved ones, was perhaps the most human part of it all.
Amid all the wonders of this work, I often thought about how fortunate I am to have had the experience I did. Because Rushton Farm is a beloved CSA with a strong community farm program, my coworkers and I are paid a decent wage that does not fluctuate with yield or profit margins. While our members get to enjoy the freshest organic produce, I considered how countless Americans lack access to such local, nourishing food. My proximity to agriculture exposed just how separated we are from the realities underlying our food systems.
As I depart from Rushton Farm, I am assured that I am on the right path—a life motivated by the magic of food and the people who make it possible. Whatever I do next in my study of food systems, I hope to continue to share all the love and learning I found in these six acres.
Maria DiGiovanni | Maria graduated from Cornell University with a BS in International Agriculture and Rural Development in May 2023. She is devoted to research and advocacy at the intersections of food systems and labor. At Cornell, her senior thesis in partnership with the Cornell Farmworker Program aimed to increase the perspectives of the New York State undocumented workforce in policy discourse regarding proposed federal legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. This fall, Maria is traveling to Italy as a Fulbright Scholar to investigate how young Calabrian farmers maintain sustainable agricultural livelihoods, aiming to imagine policies and pathways that revalorize rural spaces and draw future generations to farming. She looks forward to continuing her studies of rural development in a graduate program.