May 24, 2009

"His father would refuse to drive him to soccer practice because he thought using a car to travel somewhere to exercise was ridiculous."

And now, 19-year-old Alex Liebman, has taken a year off from college to work on an organic farm.
This will be Mr. Liebman’s third farm internship. He has come to love the muscle fatigue that sets in at the end of a day. The rhythm of farm life is a welcome break from cellphones and Facebook. And the work makes him feel as if he is doing something to better the world.

“I’m not sure that I can affect how messed up poverty is in Africa or change politics in Washington,” he said, “but on the farm I can see the fruits of my labor.”

“By actually waking up every day and working in the field and putting my principles into action, I am making a conscious political decision,” he added.
Are you raising your child to be a farm hand?

Or maybe you are a farmer, in which case: Do you want a farm hand like Alex Liebman?

73 comments:

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I remember that when my daughter was a college freshman and had called me in tears just one too many times about the bureaucratic crap she had to put up with, I told her dad that we should have just sent her out west to be a cowgirl.

Does that count at all?

She persevered, and has graduated.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I was going to laugh until I saw this quote from one of the people running the program: "They need structure."

And I can't see how being able to show you'll work for slave wages can hurt your resume.

nansealinks said...

A kid has a free ride. He should graduate. That he used his college experience to know that a desk engineering career would basically deplete his spirit was his master thesis unwritten. He is such a self learned being. It shows that college does not always make the
Human. The spirit of such does.

Bissage said...

Working a farm internship with a conceited attitude must be a pretty good way to get laid.

Balfegor said...

Andrew Marshall, who began organizing apprenticeships for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in 2003, used to see an average of 75 applications a year. This season, he has fielded over 200, with more coming in every day.

This is not all that surprising, considering that the market for college internships has dried up almost completely this year. I have a sister and a cousin going through university right now, and judging from their experience, it's extremely difficult to get an conventional internship, not just at the (defunct) investment banks, but pretty much anywhere. I suspect a lot of students are expanding their net a little wider this year.

EDH said...

Now that the media industry is in free fall, what better use can English majors put their efforts? I suppose there's no harm in that, except like the media, there can be a hidden agenda.

Sometimes, the interns can get a little too political. Recently, an intern in Florida wanted to report her organic farmer for using antibiotics on sick sheep... permitted as long as the treated animal is separated from the herd —a fact the young agrarian did not know.

She called Ms. Adam, who set her straight. “She thought the farmer wasn’t P.C. enough,” Ms. Adam said. “A lot of these students are very idealistic in terms of farming.”


Still looking for that Woodward and
Berstein moment, even as a hand on an organic farm. Dream on.

Pogo said...

"...a pretty good way to get laid."
That depends on the other interns, and the farm animals, in a pinch.


"an intern in Florida wanted to report her organic farmer for using antibiotics"

Get thee behind me, Satan!

Jennifer said...

How self-absorbed does one have to be to perceive playing a team sport as nothing more than exercise for an individual? Not to mention banning your child from a team experience because it seems ridiculous to you.

And now young Alex toils away daily in a collective pursuit for the good of all. There's some psychology to be examined there...

Meade said...

"...a pretty good way to get laid."

Yeah, especially if he picks up a guitar and writes songs that are pure poetry.

Chicks dig cowboy/farmer poets.

Believe me/dang me.

Curtiss said...

I grew up "on the farm".

That's why I'm an architect and not a farmer.

rhhardin said...

Farming means a guy shows up three times and plants, sprays and harvests respectively.

Lucius said...

Sounds like he works cheap, shows up, and takes his job seriously (if a bit too much so).

Sounds like a perfect farmhand to me.

American Liberal Elite said...

A year of farm work will make most of them long for an air conditioned office and a decent wage.

Joe M. said...

Sounds to me like a fine way to spend a summer, especially for a student.

William said...

At a stage in his life after he had wearied of raping serfs and writing great novels, Tolstoy went out to the fields and regularly worked himself to exhaustion. He found a kind of peace in strenuous activities. This was supposed to have been a kind of spiritual epiphany, but I wonder whether it simply wasn't something like Eliot Spitzer jogging five miles after a tough day at the office and/or bordello. Maybe this kid is mistaking endorphins for fulfillment.

bearbee said...

Now that the media industry is in free fall, what better use can English majors put their efforts?.

Ya mean learning to shovel shit in the event the media industry gets a 'stimulus' and recovers?

Jen said...

Sounds like an amazing program. I think more urban people should spend time on farms and learn how our food is produced.

I remember my great-uncles dairy near Appleton. They knew all of their cows and cared for them.

That farm, and my uncles, are long since gone. But the experience of helping them on that farm stuck with me.

Later, I experienced work with very large dairies. Automatic walk through milking machines, etc. etc.

It's a very different experience for the people and the animals.

Bob_R said...

To think that all those summers in the '70's when I baled hay, moved irrigation pipe from field to field, and packed sweet corn I just did it for a paycheck. Who knew that it was some bobo lifebuilding experience. I think the farmers I worked for would have been ashamed to call what I did an "internship." Yet another reason not to eat organic food.

DADvocate said...

Working on a farm is a good experience for learning how to work hard and long. Doing it as a political statement is absurd.

Palladian said...

I guess this is what happens when it's no longer politically correct for left-wing American Jews to send their children to kibbutzes in Israel.

Quayle said...

My good friend grew up on a farm. His wise father said that any of them could take the farm over, but only if they had a college degree.

So far, after leaving the farm and studying, none of the sons have asked to come back.

I think it is important to not get too far from the soil. There are a lot of very important things to lean trying to grow things.

But farm work is hard and hot and dusty and low-paying.

kathleen said...

Would I hire someone like him as a farmhand? Sure, as long as I don't have to deal with his father. at all.

AllenS said...

Basically, what these young people want to be is a stinking hippie. During hay time, let them work the top of the hay mow, and they'll be gone before an hour is up.

Skyler said...

Organic has two modern meanings. The first and most important means, a chemical containing carbon.

The second is food that has more bugs in it.

Skyler said...

I can't read the article because I don't want to bother getting a NYT subscription. But from the brief quote I don't think this kid understands that farming in equatorial Africa is not the same as farming in Florida. The farming is different and the problem isn't farming anyway, it's malaria and corruption.

NKVD said...

Skyler - I agree, but what about the conditions in Africa?

David said...

My son did the organic farmhand thing for a few years after he dropped out of college. The wages were pathetic, the work hard and many of his coworkers were lazy and unreliable. Eventually he figured out that he was being exploited and moved on to other things.

I gave him no money through this period of experimentation and eventually he went back to college. He graduated college at age 28 and is now in grad school in Madison.

This time was good for him though difficult. It was also difficult as a parent because there were stretches when I did not know where he was and how he was getting along.

As to whether I would hire this kid, hell no. I don't need an employee who is constantly scanning my life for socially and politically objectionable aspects.

I would not have hired my own son during his period of rejectionism either. He was more reliable than many, according to his accounts, but not committed or reliable enough to be a satisfactory employee.

Nowadays I would hire my son for any job in a heartbeat. He's smart and has developed a work ethic. He studied woodworking and furniture making in school and is doing the same in grad school. He's damn good at it and has no idea how he will make a living when he gets out. But now I'm confident that he will find a way.

As to the pleasure of hard work--yeah, it's great when you are 21. I worked construction in those days. The guys who were still doing construction in their 40's and 50's were really starting to pay a physical price for the hard work. So do farmers.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Recently, an intern in Florida wanted to report her organic farmer for using antibiotics on sick sheep... permitted as long as the treated animal is separated from the herd —a fact the young agrarian did not know."

I think some people think farmers and evil companies like Monsanto woke up one morning and decided to poison the plants and animals with pesticides and herbicides and antibiotics. You know, just for the hell of it.

PatCA said...

When I was growing up in Chicago, all the boys, even the rich ones, went off to Wisconsin every summer to work in the corn harvest. They didn't talk about it much when they got back, like it was a secret club or a rite of passage that was just theirs. I hear that my old boyfriend, now a physician, has just bought his own farm. :)

David said...

The money quote from the article:

Rick and Kristie Knoll, who for 30 years have worked a 10-acre plot in Brentwood, Calif., used to hire interns who were eager to be part of a farm that supplies restaurants like Chez Panisse. But it got to be too much work.

“These are kids who are not used to living in a small trailer or doing any kind of work,” Ms. Knoll said. “Most of them are privileged and think they want to try something new. They need structure. We need farmhands.”

TitusIbetyouthinkthesongisaboutu said...

Liberal Jews are so fabulous. Liberal Jews Rule.

They were on the front lines of civil rights, women's rights and gay rights.

Yes, Friedan didn't think much about the mos but we have the ever bitchy Larry Kraemer. And the blacks bit the liberal jews in the ass.

I had mushroom and swiss last night and when I pinched my morning loaf there were whole mushrooms swimming seperately from the nuclei of the loaf. They were completely whole. It was like I could of picked them from the bowl and had them for lunch today. Isn't that fascinating?

A jewish organic farmer...how exotic...I love it.

Jews have nice cut hogs too.

Black, white, gay, straight, animal,disabled, conservative, libtards we all pinch loaves. What a powerful statement.

thank you.

Chris said...

Tillsonburg Oh Tillsonburg
My back still aches when I hear that word.

TitusIbetyouthinkthesongisaboutu said...

How was your loaf today Palladian?

Were there any farts with it?

How many wipes?

Color?

Texture?

How many turds?

Grunts?

Smell?

Details please.

elHombre said...

I gave him no money through this period of experimentation and eventually he went back to college. He graduated college at age 28 and is now in grad school in Madison.

I hope you've cut him off again for this latest transgression.

elHombre said...

He studied woodworking and furniture making in school and is doing the same in grad school.

I take it back.

J said...

People who take "a dim view of industrial agriculture" might get a better reality check spending the summer someplace that doesn't have it, though spending the summer making slave wages while producing a vanity product for wealthy consumers is probably better than nothing.

"Are you raising your child to be a farm hand?"

Probably, if you're paying for them to get a humanities degree.

"The second is food that has more bugs in it.

Not true; farmers are allowed to use bug spray on organic crops.

Fernando said...

Ann, I finally figured out why I like your blog. You read this NYT trendy crap so I don't have to.

kentuckyliz said...

Ooh, I can't wait to see what happens to these libtard kids when hog castration day comes. Then there's the Rocky Mountain Oyster cookout.

I wish them all luck with their future organic farms when they graduate from those expensive colleges. Somehow, I think they'll get stuck on Step One.

1. Buy farm.

Lem said...

I rather be on a farm than on medication.

JAL said...

In Louisa May Alcott's days, her father was into "the water cure." That meant taking a cold -- in the winter near freezing cold -- 'shower' early every morning. It was to invigorate the vital energy and cleanse one's body, soul and spirit.

Every generation has its whackos.

The dad who refused to drive his kid to soccer ... did they have a garage door opener? Just wondering.

The interesting thing is there is no way organic gardening can feed the world. Local produce is great.... But these folks are definitely not thinking globally.

It is somewhat distressing to think that such naivete continues, not to mention is admired.

I lived in India at the beginning (early 70s) of the "Green Evolution." These organic kids are the same people who fear genetic research and hybrid (seed) development.

Let the peons starve for purity's sake.

This too, shall pass.

Palladian said...

I suggest you leave me alone, Mr Lee.

Thank you.

Lem said...

We (my brother and sisters) stayed on a farming community called Oviedo in DR b4 coming to the states, late 70's.

I remember my grandfather on my stepmother side making rope and saddles for horses. I thought the ropes were beautiful.

It was curious how after he completed the job there seemed to be a kind of dance about payment. He would send me "tell so and so I sent you" and then expect a report on the client's reaction.

I was never good at that.

JAL said...

I give away my horse manure to people who want to compost it and use it in their gardens.

One person who called asked me if I medicated my horses. Specifically, did I worm them.

Ummm..... Yes.

That was a no-no, as they were afraid it would pass through the manure and kill the good bugs and worms in the compost.

Based on the earthworms in the ground under the poop, I'd say he'd been misled.

But the bigger question for me was why I shouldn't take care of my animals and keep them healthy? ("Pets require responsibility.") Because some people have a need to have other let them live self righteously "natural?"

"Natural" in one case meant a young horse left unwormed developed an infestation of worms which made him look like he was pregnant (!) or fat. He was sick.

I guess I wasn't supposed to vaccinate my animals, or worm them, or treat their infections, either -- saving them pain and perhaps their lives, for a human "natural" composter.

JAL said...

Well, KentuckyLiz -- I bet these kids had a problem with the Palin Thanksgiving interview ... /g/

Big Mike said...

I don't know how someone can make a go of farming without studying some finance and accounting, some mechanical engineering, and some elementary veterinary medicine. I don't know what's on the curriculum in a 21st century Ag College, but I bet none of it ends the word "studies."

At the very least those liberal arts majors should immerse themselves in the recent books of Jon Katz and his experiences at Bedlam Farms. It's clear that Katz, for all his good intentions and willingness to question his a priori assumptions could not make it without his income from writing best-selling books about dogs and his good luck in finding support. These kids as farmers? Not a prayer.

JAL said...

Typo Alert: "Green Revolution" @ 3:08. Sorry.

Lem said...

BTW, picking cotton in the sun by hand is very very hard work.

Chris said...

My ex-wife's mom was hardcore into the whole back to the land shit after her husband ditched her. Dragged my ew to some backwater in NC where fucking in cars and driving drunk was pretty much the entire social experience. She soon moved in with her urban slut of a father.

Chris said...

I'm sad no one knows of Stompin' Tom Connors.

rhhardin said...

Nobody has mentioned blood.

No job is done right until it draws blood.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Okay, I earn my living as a farmer, as in no off-farm jobs and not a nickel of government subsidy or grant money.

I gave up on "apprentices" a quarter century ago. They cost far more than any reasonable reckoning of the value they contribute. They all want to drive tractors -- a task of which they are manifestly incapable without causing significant "iron worm" damage -- and are significantly adverse to taking direction.

Our lead employee is paid far better than minimum wage, and the relationship is far better than anything usually experienced with apprentices.

As an ecological farmer ... I'm tired of being a favorite animal in the petting zoo of American liberalism. I'm simply trying to earn an honest living.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Chris --

'Oh I'm Bud the Spud, from the bright red mud ... and I'm goin' down the highway smilin'. The spuds are big on the back of Bud's rig, 'cause they're from Prince Edward Island."

That good enough?

JAL said...

The physical labor is good for these kids though. No lounging around in bed texting in the morning.

I am not a true farmer. But I have to walk my fence line regularly and make repairs. I have to figure out how to pay for the liming and the fertilizer (I skipped it this year -- oil prices have created havoc with farmers. And of course the liberals want to increase oil prices so we [not them] all car pool and use public transportation [which is impossible in most of the country, but I digress...] forgetting that much of the country uses oil based products for other things like food production, manufacturing, etc. Idiots. Your BREAD is going to cost twice as much. So much for "not taxing the poor.")

I have to pay to have my hay cut and baled, but my family and friends get it out of the field, (40 lb bales handled individually) loaded on trucks and put up under cover before the afternoon thunderstorms ruin it all... If I sell any I'd rather make sure I got paid enough to break even.

For me this is satisfying (though sometimes stressful). But I can't imagine trying to make a living at it.

I admire farmers tremendously. I hope these interns do.

JAL said...

Thank you Bart.

bearbee said...

One person who called asked me if I medicated my horses.

Would be interested if they ever have medicated/vaccinated their kids since their kids poop goes somewhere in the world and affects something.

David said...

elHombre said...

He graduated college at age 28 and is now in grad school in Madison.

I hope you've cut him off again for this latest transgression.
He's paying his own way (with scholarship and teaching assistantship.) How do I like them apples? Very mucho.

David said...

Part of my point is that there is still hope for Alex Leibman. (If his father lets him get introduced to the world beyond Daddy Pays.)

Lem said...

It's interesting to read how some people worry about medicated horses when it's a medicated populous that gives me pause.

MadisonMan said...

Dad de-tasseled corn when he was in High School. He said it's the worst job in the world. Farm work is just that : WORK. One of my classmates from High School is a dairy farmer -- never has a day off.

But can I say that I agree with the Dad in this story? It is ridiculous to drive somewhere to exercise. Why not walk there, or bike? People who drive to health clubs to exercise? WHY?

The CSA farm that I participate in -- up near Viroqua -- hires Mexicans (the same ones) each year to work for them. The only internship-like work is the cook for everyone.

Crimso said...

As a professor, I have an academic year appointment (i.e., summers "off," though I'm still expected to mentor my grad students for free). The last few I've worked at least part of the summer on a framing crew run by my brother-in-law. $8/hr since I'm unskilled (though I pay very close attention to what's going on around me, both to learn and to survive). Carrying 26 ft long 2X6 rafters and standing them up so the guys on the roof can reach them isn't much fun in the dead of a Tennessee summer, and starting the day as early as we can see well enough to work kind of sucks too. But when I go home, work stays firmly and completely at work, and you can see substantial progress every day. In my academic job, research can take months to show any real progress at all (Mother Nature guards her secrets VERY jealously), and the thought of the job never leaves my mind. As I tell people, the academic job is physically easy and emotionally excruciating. The wood toting is physically demanding but emotionally blissful.

TitusPushPushInTheBush said...

I grew up in a farm and wanted to get away from it as fast as I could.

Now the older I get the more interest I have in running back to it.

Wow, that was another profound and powerful statement.

Thank you.

I would love to plant my own food. There is something very cool about planting, picking and eating your own food.

kathleen said...

"There is something very cool about planting, picking and eating your own food."

In light of the general theme of most of your comments, I'm sure it surprises no one that you feel this way.

nansealinks said...

detasselling corn is from hybrid large company farming. really sweaty, bugfilled, itchy, dirty. It's great money compared to talking orders at the burger cafe and a realtively short season. It does depend what pick you are on. The tractor used to go through the fields at least four times. The first time it's all pull, pull, pull, no time to think or look at anything else. The fourth pull is boring, detail work and you usually get the toughest crew chief. There better not be any tassle left in your row if you are on fourth pick.

The joy of working on a small farm, the more idyllic is a small garden what the farmer's wife usually got to grow, and then the canning and creativity involved with thinking up jams, jellies, the juices, a few trials of berry scnhapps. The preparation of chickens, ducks, and geese probably less romantic.

Penny said...

Have you noticed that kids this age always need a "cause"? It was so then, and still so.

I think it's their passive-aggressive way of getting back at their parents for saying, "Cause I said so."

Ralph said...

They didn't talk about it much when they got back, like it was a secret club or a rite of passage that was just theirs.
How do you think "corn-holing" got its name?

I do the office work and much of the retail at a fertilizer/grain dealer. Some middle-aged yankee hippie from Chapel Hill wanted organic sudangrass seed to feed cows so he could sell organic manure. He took the treated stuff we sell, for about half what the other would cost.

Ralph said...

The preparation of chickens, ducks, and geese probably less romantic.
My grandmother grew up in her parents' village hotel/restaurant. 80 years later, she still talked about the help grabbing a chicken by the head and slinging it around to break its neck. Thank you, Capitalism and the division of labor!

Balfegor said...

But can I say that I agree with the Dad in this story? It is ridiculous to drive somewhere to exercise. Why not walk there, or bike? People who drive to health clubs to exercise? WHY?

Depending on where you're exercising, this makes perfect sense, I think. For example, I have no car, and I do not drive (no zipcar or whatever), but one of the few things I think I might like a car for is driving out to national parks here in the DC area, to go for a nice walk. There's walking distance park-like places here, of course -- Roosevelt Island, Dumbarton Oaks, the Mall itself -- but a car would bring a lot more into range. And if your exercise is a sport, well, it's more fun to exercise by doing sport than it is to exercise by walking along desolate suburban backroads and parking lots to get to the sports complex.

Theo Boehm said...

I have an idea.

I think I'll buy a really big farm, make it organic with no machines, pesticides, antibiotics, etc. We'll get lots of these kids to work as interns

Then, after they can't find jobs and money ceases to be worth anything, but the Government keeps wanting higher and higher taxes and is pressing all them into National Service, we'll make them a deal:

They pledge to come work for me for life, and I'll protect them against taxes and National Service. My friends and I will organize security for the farm, and all the former interns will have to do is that really meaningful farm work, and pay me a portion for all that security, health care, etc. And if they have any children, they, too, can have the opportunity to stay on the farm and pass the work on to their children.

Or starve.

They can just call me "My Lord," and I'll call them by their Christian names. No need for last names and formality, as we'll be all one big happy family here on the farm.

Chris said...

Nicely done Bart.

Too bad about Bud and the OPP.

Synova said...

"Ooh, I can't wait to see what happens to these libtard kids when hog castration day comes"

LOL! Oh, I've done that! I was probably 12. I held the piglet with both hands around his little snout to keep him from screaming. Dad removed his little nuts and sprayed on the iodine.

I've never tassled corn, but picking rock has to be just as awful, and everyone in the family does that chore. Stacking bales is hot and nasty, too. For a while we milked cows. Dad always had a full time job, but tried different sorts of farming.

I think it's valuable for farm kids because it *feels* different to do "chores" that actually contribute to the family's finances.

Tibore said...

Is it just me, or does that article read like a kibbutz fantasy piece, reimagined in the US?

Tibore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tibore said...

"JAL said...

But the bigger question for me was why I shouldn't take care of my animals and keep them healthy? ("Pets require responsibility.") Because some people have a need to have other let them live self righteously "natural?"

"Natural" in one case meant a young horse left unwormed developed an infestation of worms which made him look like he was pregnant (!) or fat. He was sick.

I guess I wasn't supposed to vaccinate my animals, or worm them, or treat their infections, either -- saving them pain and perhaps their lives, for a human "natural" composter."


On another forum I play around in, a veterinary surgeon over in Britain had a very similar complaint about organic farming, specifically the raising of livestock along the lines of this philosophy (Note - link is to a member's only forum, so while the signup is free and doesn't even subject you to spam, it's still not easily accessible to non-members):

"In order to farm commercially and produce the sort of volume needed by today's populations, if a substantial proportion of that population wants to buy organic, it's not easy to treat the animals like that. For most, it's a commercial decision that "organic" commands a premium price, and so they'll go there.

What really angers me is seeing animals with a particular disease, with the note "farmer going for organic status so has ceased vaccination" - against the disease the animals now have! Or diagnosing parasite infestation and having a farmer refuse to treat because treating will affect his status. Ideology that says if you farm a particular way your stock should not become infected with parasites is all very well (and conventional farmers mostly take advantage of those methods too), but it's not much help when the infection has actually happened, and the calves are sick.

Small farms where the farmers love the animals and name them and care for them individually are of course wonderful. They're even more wonderful if the farmer has the sense to realise that he can care so much better if he uses veterinary medicines within the regulations as and when needed. But frankly they don't represent the majority of farms out there, of any sort, and the fact that such farms are often "organic" is a sociological phenomenon, and doesn't mean that organic is in any way better.

Personally, I will not consume any "organic" animal product if I can possibly avoid it, because of the potential adverse consequences of the organic ideology for animal welfare, and also because of an intellectual revulsion regarding the anti-science, anti-vaccination and anti-progress nature of the whole organic movement."


That's a pretty harsh indictment.