Jack Kittredge has always been interested in a self-sustaining lifestyle. In 1982, he and Julie made the decision to move the family out to the country to raise their kids in connection to the land and grow their own food. Jack believes it is best if: “people raise their own food, raise their kids that way and live closer to nature.” While Jack was never a strong proponent of running a commercial farm and selling raw crops in New England, he was determined to support Julie’s passion and contributed his skills of budget management and machine repair, and labor in construction. Jack was the editor of the NOFA newspaper, The Natural Farmer, from 1987 through 2020, was the policy director of the Massachusetts chapter of NOFA for 28 years, and intermittently continued working with his partners from the 1970s designing board games. He feels fortunate to have been able to develop such opportunities for work at home to support the homestead’s success.
In Jack’s ideal world, more people would be able to pursue a lifestyle such as his and Julie’s. Many people have expressed that desire over the years, he says, but feel that is not possible for them. He thinks it can be done by many more, however. He says, “I think we’re vastly under farmed in terms of the people involved in farming. We need more hands-on people and less machines, diesel fuel, and chemicals.” Jack continues to be constantly aware of environmental impacts and has written a number of papers and articles about carbon sequestration and how it relates to soil building.
Cathleen O’Keefe grew up in farm country outside Richmond, Virginia and received a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, Economic Policy from NC State. She eventually moved to the Pioneer Valley, for love and anarchy, but found herself even more passionate about being the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference Coordinator for several years. In her simultaneous role as Bulk Order Coordinator, Cathleen deepened her connections with small scale local producers, and soon joined the crew at Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst. This led to a short stint as farm store manager and a permanent position as managing owner of the Winter Farmers Market at the Hampshire Mall.
After years of supporting roles, Cathleen stole the show in her debut at Many Hands in the 2020 season. Drawing on previous experience with union organizing in professional theatre, Cathleen is passionate about tackling the social issues associated with farming. She says that while local or organic radishes cost more, “buying food on a commercial scale in the industrial food complex is also very expensive. But we just don’t see those costs at the grocery store.” She hopes that talking about these social issues can become a larger part of the organic movement, in conjunction with conversations about sustainability and environmental impacts. She is cognizant that farm workers across the nation endure brutal conditions and have few rights, but feels fortunate to work at Many Hands where she is fed, only works a 7 hour day, and is paid adequately.
Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, Ari Nicholson was always eager to get out into nature and had a particular interest in wild edible plants. That love of nature led to a passion for environmental activism and eventually social justice organizing. In efforts to be more food sovereign and eat locally, Ari found Many Hands first as a CSA member in 2018 while a student at Clark University. At the beginning of the 2020 season Ari was hopeful to start a working shareholder position at the farm and ended up starting on staff working through the entire CSA season and into the winter. In December of 2020 Ari also started in a communications and database management position. Ari says that organic farming is “a combination of all my interests— nature, being outside and working with my hands, social justice, and building the future I want to live in.”
Ari approaches farming with a justice mindset and is motivated to do this work because of its ability to disrupt the global supply chain. Growing food with others and getting to know folks while connecting with the land is what makes farming so fulfilling for Ari. They are excited about the potential for mutual aid and food justice work in the agriculture world and hope to combine their skills in leadership development and social justice organizing with their work at the farm. As a young person just starting out in agriculture, Ari sees the ability to grow food as a vital skill to bring to their community in the wake of disaster capitalism and climate change. “The intergenerational dynamic on the farm is a great place to develop those skills,” says Ari.
Maya Egan started working at Many Hands Organic Farm because they wanted to start working outside and build on prior farming experience. Their experience has blossomed into a desire to farm long term. Maya says that they are “working at MHOF specifically because of the ability to learn so much and the educational space that is available.” The community aspect at MHOF aligns with Maya’s values as community is a primary motivator for them. They enjoy living, eating, and co-conspiring with other folks daily.
On the question if farming can save the world Maya says, “I think it is a yes and a no. If done right it could, but there are also many more ways that it could not save the world and do more harm. I think it is much harder to have it create positive change and takes much more positive effort and thought.” Maya sees farming as a way to apply and employ their social justice core principles and organizing skills. Additionally, after attending an herbalism school in the summer of 2020, Maya also hopes to incorporate medicinal plants into the approach to food and health at the farm. They are excited to collaborate with other farm staff members on this project!
Juan Camilo Saavedra
Immigrant Farmer Fellow