Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food: Meet Lane Callahan, our Greenhouse Manager at FFF!
Lane managed her first garden when she was 7. She grew her favorite things to eat at the time: bell peppers and corn. Her family spent a lot of time outside when she was growing up – gardening, camping and hiking. It might sound idyllic, but Lane says she hated garden work and dragged her feet up hiking trails for a long time. “There were tears,” she remembers. But, as she went through school, she had a lingering feeling that outdoor work was something that would always be part of her life. “I just had this deep gut feeling,” she says.
Lane took a gap year after high school and, although she was interested in studying sustainable agriculture, she decided it didn’t make sense to become saddled with student loans in order to become a farmer. She wanted to find other learning opportunities to make her way into the field. A friend inspired her to join a CSA offered by a local farm (a community-supported agriculture program), and she found an organic CSA with the option to do a work trade – an exchange of food for hours worked on the farm. Her work trade turned into an internship with the farm and a year later she was the assistant farm manager. She had WWOOFed a little bit before that (farmed through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), but hadn’t done much other farming. Now steeped in farm life, she enjoys the hard work and the delicious food. “Mostly the food,” she laughs. She was excited to learn to cook with all of the new vegetables the farm introduced her to. It immediately felt like this could be her career.
Lane found Freedom Food Farm when she went to a workshop with Chuck on season extension and cold storage. “It’s the go-big or go-home vibe of the farm,” Lane says, describing what impressed her about the Freedom Food Farm model. “The fact that he’s dedicated to the end goal of having a sustainable farm, almost to the extreme - no corners are being cut - is inspiring.” Chuck talking about a benefit of producing food year-round being employing people year-round interested Lane on a socially sustainable level. Two years after that workshop, Lane joined our team in August 2018. One of her favorite farm chores is ripping up black plastic – “It’s everyone else’s least favorite job!” Her favorite green that we’re producing now is komatsuna, a Japanese green that she likes to eat raw, in stir-fry, or “rip it up and put it on top of tacos and sandwiches.”
Lane is also a new potter who makes kiln-fired bowls, cups and other goods in Providence, RI. She would like to tie pottery in with farming someday – she really enjoys earth tones in a lot of ceramic works. “I’m still a new ceramic artist but I’m looking forward to digging up some clay from the farm and trying to throw with it,” Lane says.
Lane is pretty sure she’d like to have her own farm or homestead someday, a place to produce food for herself, her family and potentially her community. The most challenging thing about farming is getting the general population “to understand the value of food and understand the value of the way we’re growing food,” she says. People aren’t seeing the separation between how food in the store is grown and how we are growing food. “I think that that’s what makes me want to work so hard – knowing that we’re producing the highest quality food possible and we’re constantly working to get better at that,” Lane says. “Our customers, the people that are currently supporting the farm make it worthwhile for me, those that do see the value…It’s important for people to ask more questions about how their food is grown, and what better place to do that than when buying from the people that grow your food.” Plus, she adds, the food is delicious.