It all started with a summer job after college. Murphy was 22, had just graduated with a biology degree, and was trying to figure out what to do with her life when she began working on a farm in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. By the end of the summer, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to farming. Since then, she’s managed and helped launch several farms, and as a consultant, she helps write crop and business plans, troubleshoot field issues, and design and build farm infrastructure – things like irrigation and outbuildings to extend a farm’s growing season. Murphy has also launched a project, Farmer Seeking Roots, a visual and written exploration of small-scale global agriculture, through which she’s showcased more than 160 farms from around the world, including this shot that spotlights a farmworker in Punjab, India.
“I have found that I am fascinated by the methods used and the food grown in different parts of the world,” Murphy says. “My project is about highlighting the farmers and food producers that I stay with and sharing a bit about what I have learned from each one.”
Modern Farmer: Why do you consider yourself a modern farmer?
Joneve Murphy: I think I am a modern farmer because while I am consistently participating in the production of food, I don’t fit the traditional farmer mold. Instead of working the same land year after year, I travel and work on farms all over the world. The agriculture industry is changing rapidly and you can now build the career that you want. There are so many options and niches to fill.
MF: Why is it important to you to support local, sustainable agriculture?
JM: It’s important to me as an environmentalist and as a socially responsible person. Support small farmers and you support sustainability.
MF: If you could grow or raise any food or animal, what would it be and why?
JM: I particularly like working with chefs and starting farm-to-table projects. The passions of farmers and chefs are often aligned which makes the relationship easy. I love walking into the kitchen and presenting them with a box of beautiful produce; the look of love and wonder on their face is priceless. If I’ve done my job well, there will only be time for quick pleasantries before they begin to work on a new dish.
MF: What’s your favorite vegetable?
JM: That’s a tough question. It changes with the season and with what is growing best that year. I will say however, that I am addicted to leafy greens and all of their greeny goodness.
MF: If you could give other modern farmers any advice, what would it be?
JM: Take it slow and work on as many farms as possible before starting your own. I see a lot of people jumping into their own farming business without much experience. Growing food is not the hard part; anyone can grow a tomato. The hard part is the consistent production of a known amount of food without breaking your back. That’s what is needed in a successful farm enterprise and it is rarely self-taught.
MF: Do you have a farming/agricultural hero? Why do you admire them?
JM: All of the farmers I have met are heroes in their own way. There are, of course, some amazing champions in the “real food” movement, but every farmer risks it all every season, pouring heart and soul into what they produce. They are all brave, passionate optimists, and they are all heroes.
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