Meet Your Farmer: Joanna

Name: Joanna Kraft

Favorite Farm Tool: Hori Hori

Favorite Vegetables to Farm: Solanacea - the nightshade family. While they can be tricky, they are the most satisfying to watch flower/fruit and care for.

Favorite Vegetables to Eat: Tomatoes and broccoli 

Interests: Hiking and exercising, singing and chatting, sketching and writing.

Where I came from and why I farm:

I grew up in the suburbs of Boise, Idaho with my parents and younger brother. It was a charmed life full of sports games, choir concerts, AP classes, and summers spent in the Sawtooth Mountains. From an early age, I had a special interest in environmentalism and social justice...I think it stemmed from growing up in a liberal Christian church and attending a summer camp in the woods every year of my childhood. The main lesson that stuck with me from those experiences was that life, and the planet we inhabit, are gifts beyond all reason or comprehension; gifts that should be honored and explored each day. With this foundation, I stretched my wings and flew to Tacoma, Washington for college, in pursuit of a rigorous academic experience.

In school, my areas of interest intersected at food: sustainability, economic development, and community stewardship. I envisioned myself working for a food-related nonprofit or organizing community gardens, eventually moving on to write environmental policy or develop a network for food waste management. All excellent ideas and necessary careers in our complex world! Honestly, though, I could see no clear path where my life would actually lead. As graduation approached, I applied for dozens of jobs in the Puget Sound area, all in the thread of nonprofit academia. In an attempt to connect with the local food movement, I reached out to a farmer I had met two years earlier while volunteering for an environmental philosophy class. I asked the farmer if I could pick her brain about the farmers market scene or ag-extension agencies in the area; she responded by suggesting I apply for a summer internship on her farm...an email exchange that would change my life forever!

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After an interview and tour of the 40-acre farm, I agreed to do the internship. I moved all my stuff onto a single-wide trailer parked near the back border of the farm, sandwiched between the greenhouses and goats. Positioned next to my new home was a renovated school bus - the abode of my now-husband, Brian. In a word, that summer was magical. As interns, we were fully immersed in farm life. Living, eating, working, socializing - almost every moment of those five months was spent on the farm. With each passing day, I fell deeper in love with the entire practice of farming. I loved the immense and intimate knowledge a farmer needed to have about each plant and insect; the physical work paired with the intellectual demands of running a business and plotting a crop plan; the creativity needed to problem-solve quickly and efficiently.

Most of all, I loved that farming allowed me to practice my values every day, with every action. I could participate in environmentalism, provide a necessity for community members, and be physically and emotionally satisfied at the end of each day. For the first time, I could clearly see a path for my life where I would be continually challenged while having the liberty to create my own story - rather than owing my time to an organization or company. I had to push through some mental hurtles related to resume-building and preconceived career expectations, but ultimately, I knew farming was my "calling."

It certainly didn't hurt that I was quickly falling in love with the boy next door - another novice farmer-to-be. We spent countless hours sitting across a rickety trailer table discussing everything from farm ethics to the cosmos...staring wide-eyed at each other as we attempted to comprehend the bountiful joy we were experiencing every day. Sure, there were challenging moments (breaking down in tears while weeding the 20th bed of onions in a day or navigating lines of communication with a small, intimate crew), but the gratification was worth it. 

Have you ever put together a jigsaw puzzle? You dump a thousand uniquely shaped cardboard pieces onto a table, flip them all over to the colored side, and stare at them for hours...hoping somehow you will find enough commonality between two pieces to fit them together. And then two more, and two more, and finally you begin to form an idea of the end goal...?

If my identity is a jigsaw puzzle, farming is the mind that finds the commonality between two puzzle pieces and begins to create some semblance of purpose and direction. Farming takes all the pieces of "me," swirling around in a sea of anxious potential, and shows me how all my interests, values, skills and relationships fit together. It simultaneously nudges me to exercise my strengths and puts a spotlight on my weaknesses...never allowing a day to go by where I don't learn something.

On a more spiritual note, farming is deeply personal: the limitless possibilities for creating a unique, self-sustaining life are more than intriguing to me. And at the same time, farming is deeply communal; calling upon countless generations of knowledge and stewardship to continue the work of the early agrarian. I feel something divine buried in my bones when I witness a seedling push its way out of soil, or pinch a bean off its vine and crunch it between my teeth. The connection between personal and communal, earthly and divine, past and present, is the great mystery - the gift - and something I feel free to explore through the practice of farming.

At Small Feat Farm, Brian and I divide areas of focus to ensure we are playing to our individual strengths and aren't stepping on each others' toes. I tend to take on more of the business-related tasks: bookkeeping, Excel spreadsheet making, and email writing. I am also responsible for most of the tedious harvesting (i.e. salad mix and flowers) and washing/processing/packing vegetables, as well as the regular gamut of farm chores. I like giving a lot of attention to details and making sure our customers are getting the best value possible. The best part of farming, for me, is working along side my partner and encouraging him to be the best farmer he can be. It is always a joint effort and constant flow of ideas between us...what a wonderful thing to create a life with the one you love.

Our journey as farmers is just beginning and I feel so fortunate to be on such a wild path of self-discovery. It will be exciting to see how our farm grows and changes, where we will find ourselves, and how our interests and goals morph over time. I am so grateful to have found purpose so early in life and feel energized to build on that purpose over the years to come. Thanks for reading!