Interviews on Powerful Farms - L

Updated: Oct 25, 2021



Summary

L celebrates her fourth full year at the farm. Although her life was comfortable, she made some poor decisions that led her onto the streets. At rock bottom, she was open for a new job - a job that would change her perspective on life and bring her family together.


Photo credit Wasatch Community Gardens


Key Quotes

It’s a life lesson that people can only learn on the farm or in the garden.

Because of the company I kept, and the drugs I bought, and the lifestyle I led… led me to the home … to the streets.

No… When drugs take over your life, you lose grasp of everything else.

I almost quit the first week that I started. April 30th I started. It was so cold. And Eve was in the locker room, “I am so cold; my hands are freezing!” I was kind of chilly that year in April. She just started talking with me… and I just stayed...

I threw my whole self into this place - almost from day 1 except for those first few weeks. I’ve worked a lot of hours. Not wanting to go to the Road Home. And knowing that this was where I felt is my sanctuary.. I felt safe.

The first season… Joy worked here with us. We were able to take the excess produce. We would take it to the shelter. And people were standing in line waiting for it. That felt… Something I had never done before. I never experienced that before. They were so excited. Living there, I knew what we ate. I knew how we were treated. It brought me a lot of joy.

My health wasn’t good. My self esteem. My worth…All of that. It seemed like night and day because.. You don’t think much of yourself when you are drugging and dealin’ and all that other stuff that is not good.

When I got to the farm and started learning this stuff that made me feel good … I get to play in the dirt. I get to tell my kids about it. And that was the biggest thing - the relationship. I had no place for them to go. Now they could come to the farm. That’s where the family has regrouped now. We have two grandsons and my three boys. We just never had any place where we could sit down together - at least eight years before that. That was the biggest thing. That was a life-changer. That meant so much.

Simple makes me happy.. Working here makes me happy. Walking here in the morning, riding my bike.



Transcription of 25-minute Interview


L:

… even if someone doesn't need to be healed. Or should I say, Even if they never thought they needed to be healed….

Yeah.. Well, I know from my own experience, yes, definitely. But..



THE FARM TEACHES ME ABOUT LIFE


Farmer Karl:

Because we don’t realize it, but every living thing has a being


L:

Right


Farmer Karl:

It has an essence. And it has a glory. I use that because I know you have a bit of a faith background. It emanates light in some way….


L:

Right


Farmer Karl:

And that tree is living… and It’s got a purpose, and it has an end game. It knows what it wants to be in the end. (lol. )


L:

Yeah, we don’t know.


Farmer Karl:

That’s more than we know. That’s why the garden and the farm can be a teacher…. Almost everything I do…. Like I was picking cherry tomatoes today… and I was just saying, “I’m feeling joy from these tomatoes.” You know., They’re just giving off.. They are just so happy to give.

And that’s what I see in the cucumber plant that got so tall. They gave their every bit to produce that cucumber….. even though the rest of the plant is about ready to die. They will protect their young… What kind of a lesson is that?


L:

It’s a life lesson that people can only learn on the farm or in the garden.


Farmer Karl:

That’s what I think! It can’t be learned on a baseball field…


L:

Because the majority of us have maternal instincts anyway. We are going to do what we are supposed to do. Right? Or whatever is the norm. But, the life lessons that are taught on the farm, that we have learned… from James and we’ve learned from you, you can’t pay to have someone to teach you that stuff. You really can’t.


Farmer Karl:

And it is not taught in the schools either.


L:

No.


Farmer Karl:

It’s not taught in colleges.



HOW SHE GOT THE JOB AT THE FARM


L:

I definitely believe I was supposed to come here… I was supposed to get the job when I got the job. When I got hired, Camille interviewed… but there was a lady that walked in with a little dog that walked in there right before me… and she walked right back out so I am thinking, “I guess we’re not getting a job, Eddie…”

But, it wasn’t just the fact that I told her and I expressed how much I wanted to work at the garden, that I am a hard worker. And I will show you. Just give me a chance... She said, “We’ll work around Eddy”. And that started my journey...

My journey began really when I was born. But, this I have done on my own without my mom and my dad and without someone by my side, my husband or my second husband - or whomever… Eddie came into my life after that.


Farmer Karl:

Right, it was your decision

So you Ended up homeless… How many years was that?


L:

Probably 8 years before I even hit The Road Home. So 14 years.


Farmer Karl:

What was that lifestyle like? Every year you had to move?


L:

More often than that… with friends...

At friends houses, whoever let me stay, I had apartments in between. That is why it is hard to say.. .I can’t break it up. I didn’t keep the apartments very long.

I had a second husband, my second husband was so nice - He was eight years younger than me., so giving .… without being court-ordered, he ended up paying me..$740 every two weeks. I didn’t have to do nothing.


Farmer Karl:

Why couldn’t you have kept living that way?


L:

Because of the company I kept, and the drugs I bought, and the lifestyle I led… led me to the home … to the streets. He paid it to me for six years.

My first husband said, “He must be really stupid or just really nice”. …. But he was an active army ammunition guard. So he’d make the big bucks. But that fueled my lifestyle for quite a few years… so it was hard to keep apartments because even if you got money, you’re not responsible, you’re not wise… you’re not thinking right. I lost a lot of apartments… l lost my first house I bought after I got divorced from my first husband and the second house that I got as a rental from my first husband....


Farmer Karl:

You just couldn’t keep them.


L:

No… When drugs take over your life, you lose grasp of everything else. You can’t...


Farmer Karl:

The time just goes…


L:

Well, $1400 per month not to have to do anything - just to pay my rent.

I had lots of cars from my first marriage. Just...



TURNING THE CORNER


Farmer Karl:

So what was it that made you want to be clean and turn that corner?


L:

I thought I hit my low when I came down to The Road Home. So that was 8 years ago… at the Road Home, the one they tore down…. where all the weeds are grown up. Right around the block. That was the road home was for 25 or 35 plus years. That was specifically for the homeless. It housed when it was busy during the wintertime they talked about 12 to 1400 people.


Farmer Karl:

Were things so bad there…. That you said… that’s it. I don’t want to do this anymore?


L:

No, things were so bad when I got to that point. I went to jail for 3 weeks. I got out of jail. Went to a motel for a little bit.. No more money. Came down to the Road Home. I had no money for drugs, no money for this… I had nowhere to go.

I come down to The Road Home…. And Eddy and I made it work for 5 years. I didn’t have any place else to go. I sold cigarettes before I got the job with Camille. I was always doing something. I rolled cigarettes. It kept me with the few things that I needed because my x-husband stopped giving me money about six months after I got here.


Farmer Karl:

So you found Camille. How did you even hear about this job?


L:

My case manager put it on my bed because she knew I was one of the ones that could work hard. I seemed like a “go-getter” And she put a notice on my bed, and I just showed up for the interview time.


Farmer Karl:

Awesome! Did you get to tour the farm before you said you wanted it?



STARTING WORK AT THE FARM


L:

No, I didn’t even know that this was here. And I have had a lot of people tell me that.. You wouldn’t know this is here.


Farmer Karl:

So what was your first season like at the farm? 2017? 2018?


L:

I just had my fourth year anniversary. They opened in August of 17, and I started April of 18


Farmer Karl:

So the first real growing season

I almost quit the first week that I started. April 30th I started. It was so cold. And Eve was in the locker room, “I am so cold; my hands are freezing!” I was kind of chilly that year in April. She just started talking with me… and I just stayed...

The first week or two or three, we had to crate Eddy up. He was miserable, And I was a little bit miserable. So…. The one we put the chickens in. We didn’t know how he would be… And james...


Farmer Karl:

So you worked that first week, and …


L:

I wasn’t sure I wanted to work here… But I got past that first week, the first couple of weeks. It’s been a wild trip because I am such a hard worker. But I don’t always retain the things I am supposed to learn. But it is surprising to me now that my head is clearer - just in the past three or four months… the things that James has taught me that I should know. Before that -- the past three years or so, my head has been clouded with other stuff that should never have been brought on the farm with life and business - distractions.


Farmer Karl:

How has the farm given you a new perspective about life? About things that are important?



FARM GIVES NEW PERSPECTIVE


L:

I threw my whole self into this place - almost from day 1 except for those first few weeks. I’ve worked a lot of hours. Not wanting to go to the Road Home. And knowing that this was where I felt is my sanctuary.. I felt safe.

It was good for Eddie…


Farmer Karl:

So, It was just more of a haven. Just a place you could….


L:

I didn’t know anything about gardening before I got here. In fact, when I first arrived, James was somewhere in the Caribbean. So, I worked .. This was my second week actually. He was gone for the second week. I was digging a lot of weeds. We were digging a lot of weeds. I didn’t really fit in.


Farmer Karl:

It was a job.


L:

Yeah, and a lot of freedom.. Amber was here when James was here. Joan… she liked to give weeds for the chickens. That’s what she would do all day long.


Farmer Karl:

You could care for the animals. You could give something.



THE POWER OF GIVING


L:

The first season… Joy worked here with us. We were able to take the excess produce. We would take it to the shelter. And people were standing in line waiting for it.


Farmer Karl:

Giving of the produce


L:

That felt… Something I had never done before. I never experienced that before. They were so excited. Living there, I knew what we ate. I knew how we were treated. It brought me a lot of joy.


Farmer Karl:

So you just ate canned goods.


L:

We just ate from stuff we could buy at convenience stores. We would have places come in to serve us hot meals a couple of times a week. But, there was no steady meals. There was no kitchen there. The dining room was across the street - Vinny’s.


Farmer Karl:

So the people were really glad to see the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.


L:

Peppers, whatever we could give them. Yeah, they were excited. And I think that was my first experience giving to the homeless. Because after that I would help a lot of people...I would take people under my wing. But, you can’t really do that unless you are where you are in your own life … It takes too much work. It takes a lot of energy.


Farmer Karl:

When did you actually get to the point where you could get your own place so you could start saying, this is where I live?


L:

..with my life and my family. That started two years ago last month.


Farmer Karl:

How did that work?


L:

James introduced me to the owner of the apartment…


Farmer Karl:

It was somebody from the farm who built the bridge…


L:

It was James…He knew that I was struggling trying to find some place to live… and I didn’t want to go just where they wanted to send me. I stood my ground for a decent place. He told me my landlord, his good friend, who had never done housing before. They were willing to take me in. All I had was a voucher for Section 8 housing…

It’s been wonderful. More than wonderful. There are four of us. My landlord lives upstairs. It’s gated… everything, everything.


Farmer Karl:

How would you say the farm has helped your health and wellbeing? When you first entered the shelter, what was your health like? Has that changed at all?


L:

My health wasn’t good. My self esteem. My worth…All of that. It seemed like night and day because.. You don’t think much of yourself when you are drugging and dealin’ and all that other stuff that is not good.

When I got to the farm and started learning this stuff that made me feel good … I get to play in the dirt. I get to tell my kids about it. And that was the biggest thing - the relationship. I had no place for them to go. Now they could come to the farm. That’s where the family has regrouped now. We have two grandsons and my three boys.


Farmer Karl:

So it was a safe place for them as well.


L:

It is. We just never had any place where we could sit down together - at least eight years before that. That was the biggest thing. That was a life-changer. That meant so much.


Farmer Karl:

So then they could recognize you in your role as a mother. That was huge because that is what you really wanted to be all along...


L:

My kids were pretty much raised when I went off on my tangent…. My youngest will be 31 this month. So they were past teenagers. I waited until they were grown before I did what I did.

It’s a relationship I didn’t have prior to me being homeless, though. And I am helping them with a lot of their struggles - helping them understand them. Instead of struggling myself and then trying to help them struggle, which is not healthy...you can’t do it. I’m teaching them how to eat better. I’m teaching them important stuff. And I light up when I talk about the farm and the people I work with. So they light up. They like that.


Farmer Karl:

They know you love it here. You enjoy the work here. It’s hard but it is also fulfilling and rewarding…


L:

Yes. That’s hard to explain to somebody….

(Lost recording)



WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE FARM


Farmer Karl:

What are the most important things you have learned here working at the farm?

Tell me more about that.


L:

(I learned) Acceptance, tolerance… um, just because I do it one way doesn’t mean that’s how I should expect it. Maybe I didn’t communicate it with the other women that work here. I learned a lot in working side by side with the other women here… because I don’t ever want to be a teacher. I want to work hand in hand. Even though I am a lead grower, I don’t ever want them to feel like I am up here and they are down….


Farmer Karl:

So the farm is an equalizer in a way. Everybody is learning. You all have different views of things. And you are sharing at the same time.


L:

And I know my mom and dad are looking down - beaming down - and my grandma… Eddie even knew how important this was because he was so tolerant of me. When I first started here, he had a dog clock. He knew when it was break time, lunchtime, and when it was time to go.. He kind of gave up on that...because we weren’t very consistent. But, yeah - he knew...


Farmer Karl:

Looking at doing this farm for other people - recommending it for them…What would you say are the biggest reasons why they should consider working on the farm?



WHY FARMING?


L:

When you start taking all this in like I did-- because I didn’t come here healthy -- my eating habits, my thinking habits, I kept feeling I had to rush, rush, rush…. but when you got here, James didn’t want you to bring that on the farm. Because he didn’t want to feel like you were having to rush. If you were late - and you were late a lot, he would want to talk with you….

He just wanted you to experience it. Don’t get distracted with the other stuff. Because on the other side of that gate there are a lot of years I went..….I had a warrant when I first started working for Advantage. And they still hired me. It was a $1000 cash-only warrant. I told them about it. They said, “We don’t care.. “.

When they did the Operation Rio Grande and we had to walk from the shelter to here, if I got picked up, I could be tied up in the system because I had that warrant.

Camille called down to Provo; talked to the DA - set things up . I had to check myself in to the jail - I had to go to Spanish Fork for the night. Saw the judge the next day...He dismissed everything. That was a really hard thing to do. I would probably not have really done it on my own. I probably would have waited until I got picked up. You don’t want to get tied up in the system. You want to have things taken care of.

James watched Eddie..Camille took me down there.


Farmer Karl:

So, You had all this support that wasn’t going to give up on you.



MY NEED FOR SUPPORT


L:

No, no. I would have never taken care of that. I am sure of that- to spend tie in jail.

Then you can have peace of mind. I was talking to Carrie - there were a lot of things we didn’t do. Because we didn’t do them. We got in trouble. We didn’t take care of the responsibilities after we got in trouble. We let our warrants go. Get bad. We knew that they were going to kick us out of the shelter.

That was a hard one- checking myself back into jail after I had been there for three weeks. I hated it. No, I didn’t want to go. It was horrible. But they chinned up with me. When you know you got to do something bad and when you know what it is about, that’s even worse.

Eddie was all good when I came back. The farm was good… you. And it was all squished.


Farmer Karl:

I just want to acknowledge you for what you teach me every day. - Showing up. It’s not easy, and life isn’t easy. But you keep going. And there is something about the farm that calls me.. And I think it calls you, too: something wonderful, something lifting, and energizing.. I really appreciate your taking the time to interview.

I’m just trying to make this available for other people who may be stuck. Cause life can get into a cobweb, and you’re stuck and you feel like there is no hope..


L:

Everything wasn’t hard until I lost Eddie…. And so…


Farmer Karl:

And you’re still working through that.


L:

Yep, I’m still working through that…


Farmer Karl:

And I admire you for just taking it a day at a time.



HOLD MY HEAD UP AND PUSH THRUGH


L:

I knew that his journey was to help me, and my journey was to help him - and that he would be gone sometime. I don’t know. My mom told me to hold my head up and push through it.


Farmer Karl:

And you have. Anyone who knows you knows you’re going to win, you’re going to come out on top because you keep at it.


L:

B_ and I were talking about yesterday at Nourish - about new careers.

We’re not young … I don’t see myself starting a new career. I could live off my husband’s social security. I don’t know when I would do that. I don’t aspire for a car or for a house.

I’ve had houses, businesses and I’ve had cars, and they didn’t make me happy… Simple makes me happy.. Working here makes me happy. Walking here in the morning, riding my bike. Before that it was pushing Eddie in that stroller, and if the weather was bad, we would ride TRAX… I don’t see needing all that stuff.


Farmer Karl:

Right, you are satisfied with this…



SIMPLE IS BEAUTIFUL


L:

My little studio apartment is just quaint - small and I have a hard time fitting my whole family at Christmas time, but we do - we fit everyone in. I don’t have enough plates. That stuff is just cool…


Farmer Karl:

Right- You're making it work. And it doesn’t have to be fancy.


L:

I don’t have fancy stuff. I’ve gotten by with what I have. There’s a lot to be said for simple.


Farmer Karl:

Thank you, L! This is excellent. I really appreciate it.




Read more stories of transformation here


K - Wasatch Community Gardens Green Phoenix Farm


16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All