Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Processing Good Change At The Beginning

I've been thinking about how I was unable to properly express myself in my earlier post. I thought that maybe it would help to go back to my initial farm questionnaire, which I filled out before speaking to L. or getting the gig.  I'm actually surprised at how much I already knew myself and what I wanted. Some of my responses would be slightly changed now, but on the whole I wrote truthfully at the time and most of those truths still hold up. Below are the questions and my responses.

1.     Why do you want to farm?
I want to be part of a farm or creamery because I would like to create a tangible product that can bring joy or pleasure to others. I also prefer living in a rural to semi-rural environment and would like to find a way to do so while also supporting myself. Finally, I definitely believe that sustainable non-factory farms are incredibly important to our country and food culture, and would like to be a part of such a movement/community.

2.     What type of farm would you ultimately like to own/run?
Ultimately I would either like to become a cheesemaker at an existing sheep or goat farm, or to translate the skills I learn to a larger cheesemaking operation like Rogue Creamery or Jasper Hill.  I would love to have a small farm of my own, which would probably focus on sheep, as I have the most experience with them…and they seem slightly easier to manage than dairy cows. I also dream of having my own flock of chickens.

3.     What do you most need to learn?
Everything. While I have had firsthand experience with livestock, I have no firsthand experience with a creamery or dairy operation. To either eventually have my own farm or to work at an existing one in a creative role (ie: coming up with new cheeses etc.) would mean that I would need to learn a lot more about the actual steps that go into the whole life cycle of a farm, and specifically of making a cheese. From separating the whey and the chemistry of rennet to affinage and determining what kinds of milk lend themselves to create the best feta, cheddar or brie…the depth of knowledge I lack is great...but I really want to change that.  

4.     What do you feel you have to offer Glendale Shepherd Dairy and Creamery?
I can offer Glendale Shepherd Dairy and Creamery my true enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture and food products, cheese, sheep, land preservation and ‘the farm life.’ I can also contribute my will-do attitude, true passion for shifting my career in a new direction, and commitment to adding value to your farm while adding value to my own life. I also believe I could support any social media initiatives you may embark upon as well as contribute to the blog and being a happy representative for the farm at farmer’s markets  etc.  

5.     You know farming is not a 9 – 5 job. Are you prepared to pitch in and be extremely flexible?
I am well aware of the unpredictability of farming and am more than willing to roll with the punches and do what needs to be done.

6.     Tell us about your marketing skills – whether it’s people skills or more extensive?
I have created a number of press releases and articles for my current employer in order to gain more clients and blog readers. I am also quite comfortable speaking to anyone who crosses my path (I have, from time to time, been described as charming). At work we sometimes receive calls where people have numerous complex questions or a complaint; I am usually the person to whom my colleagues transfer the call due to my ability to deftly and diplomatically handle even the most difficult of inquiries.

7.     Have you done any retail?
As a teenager I worked at a children’s clothing consignment store, which would certainly be considered retail. I have also worked in the restaurant and catering industry, which is not quite the same, but does require many of the same basic abilities in relation to interacting with others.  I know my way around a cash register.

8.     Is the customer always right?[1] 
If the customer asked me this question I would say absolutely yes.

But the reality is that sometimes the customer isn’t right…but that doesn’t change the fact that as a person in a service role, it’s important that you remain respectful and that you address their concerns – warranted or not. This reminds me of a dinner I had a few months ago…a few tables away a woman began loudly complaining to her server that her food was too hot. The server apologized and offered to take the dish away to try to cool it down, or to get her an entirely different dish…but the woman continued to berate the server and complain about the fact that the food was too hot (which, honestly, seems like a pretty weird complaint). The server remained polite and again asked the woman what she, the server, could do to make her happy. The woman never answered the question, but continued to complain loudly disrupting the dining experience of the rest of us. It was as if she didn’t actually want the issue resolved, but just the opportunity to complain to someone who was trying their best to help her.

My point here is that the woman had the right to be annoyed that her food was not exactly to her liking, but she was not right in continuing to complain to the server when the server was trying to fix the situation. So honestly, I don’t think the customer is always right, but I do think that it’s important to always allow them to think they are/to try to find a way to diplomatically address any concern or wacky request that might come my way.

9.     What is the best thing former employers/teachers say about you?
One of my bosses often refers to me as ‘a hoot.’ I think most would comment that I’m honest, a good communicator and reliable when it comes to our deadline-oriented work. If I say I’m going to get something done, it will be done … and if something clearly will prevent me from getting something done, I’m diligent in finding a workable solution or compromise.

10.  What would your former employers/teachers say is your weakness?
I’m pretty terrible at certain areas of IT/computer fixes and am not overly familiar/comfortable with Microsoft Excel or how to troubleshoot wireless network problems. So perhaps they would say that certain kinds of technological skills are weak for me.

11.  Do you have any building or art skills?
I have a degree in photography and writing, so I can generally take decent photos and write compelling and clear copy. I can also knit (biggest project was an afghan). I have no building skills to speak of, but I do know how to relight a hot water heater’s pilot light without blowing myself up.

12.  What do you like to do in the off hours?
When I’m not working I’m often reading, writing or watching television. In warm months I’m a big fan of swimming in lakes or oceans…or simply sitting on their shores with a book in hand. I am a great lover of games – Rummy, Catan, Cards Against Humanity are some favorites. I also enjoy playing darts (I currently captain my own team). This summer I gardened a bit on my deck, which included an heirloom tomato plant, dahlias, marigolds, geraniums and other harder-to-kill plants.

13.  How do you see interacting with the family?
I know how to fit in with a group, but I also know how to entertain myself. I value engaging with others, but I also value my own quiet time. I see myself interacting with the family in a respectful way. I imagine we would be working together at one point or another on almost all days, and would hope to create a solid working relationship built on mutual trust and honesty. When not officially ‘on the clock’ I would hope to have the occasional meal or conversation, but would also understand when the family would want their own space and time.

14.  If you were cooking a meal for us, what would it be[2] ?
I make a pretty mean slow cooked pork shoulder, the leftovers of which I make into my own version of pulled pork. I also enjoy brining and roasting chickens and turning whatever is left into a curry or lemon chicken soup. My macaroni and cheese is no joke. I also recently started getting pretty decent at making soon dubu jigae, which is a spicy Korean tofu soup. My lamb tacos have also generally been considered a hit by those who have tried them.

15.  Describe your sense of humor?
I do believe that everything is easier if you can find the humor in the situation, no matter how dire. That is not to say that I make jokes out of serious issues, just that I am more often than not trying to lighten the mood or find the joy in what might be a challenge. There’s a little sarcasm thrown in there as well. Bowfinger is a movie I consider quite funny.  Here is a terrible joke I made up:

Q:What did the bus driver say to the hobbit?
A: Do you have any tol-kiens?

16.  Do you like to teach kids?
I do. I recently spent a long weekend with family due to a wedding, which included six young cousins ranging in age from 12 months to 9 years. I loved showing them new dance moves, reading them stories and generally engaging in any conversation they wanted to have.

17.  Create a question for us.
I couldn’t just create one…
What have previous interns at your farm gone on to do?
What do you consider the most important quality that you’d like an intern to possess?
In what ways are you thinking about expanding your farm’s business?

 [1]I know this is more than three sentences and apologize!
 [2]Also more than three sentences…but there are so many things I like to make!

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