What you, the potential applicant, should know about the Fox Haven Organic Farm Job Posting.

First and foremost, DO NOT APPLY FOR THIS JOB, and spread the word to others who might have been interested or have already applied. It is a false write up, as the farm doesn’t really exist outside of an unsustainable hay operation, some blackberries/asparagus on a removed and highly erodible site, and a lease of 50 acres to a dairy farmer. The farm does not know what they want or where they are headed and you’ll find yourself  part of a buzzword fairytale told by the landowner on capitol hill.

What does the farm actually entail?

900 acres of land, with most of the riparian areas being planted in CREP trees (the landowner received millions of dollars in government funding to take marginal farmland and plant it into trees). Most of this marginal farmland is perfect for agroforestry orchards, and could have been expanded under EQIP, however the large majority of these plantings are accompanied by restrictive easements, which won’t allow you the farmer to use these plantings for agroforestry or any human use other than timber down the line. The trees aren’t planted for timber, so future forestry opportunities are limited. 

Around 100 acres of hay (I’m not exactly sure) of declining quality, which I’d guess has never been amended. The soil on these hayfields likely has been compacted and could be accompanied by a hardpan from the repeated use of large haying equipment over the past two decades. Up until recently, the hay was all sold off site to an organic dairy. However due to the poor quality, even the dairy farmer is only buying a portion of this year’s crop.

A new tractor was bought last month, picked out by the octogenarian farm manager. There was no consideration of a farmer actually needing to use it for farming purposes. It only suits his need to mow all day, every day. It can’t pull a small subsoiling keyline plow, nor a tree planter. There is a BCS walk behind tractor with a mower, tiller and snowblower implement. Ask for any other implements and you’ll get the story about how the owner has to stop spending money. Ask for pallet forks for the tractor, you’ll get the same story. Nevermind the fact that you’ll have to fight tooth and nail even to drive the tractor, despite previous experience. 

There is a “production garden” which is the only place on the farm with irrigation potential. There is no fence, deer and rabbits are everywhere, it’s a removed location without electricity (so no hope for a packing shed or storage), and on a VERY windy site. So windy, in fact, that someone once tried to put a wind turbine on that site (rumor says it  fell apart into pieces). I planted garlic there last year and all of my mulch blew off, along with some of the soil. You’d be best off using plastic in order to grow crops on this site, but if we’re talking “permaculture” or “regenerative ag” or any other buzzword listed in the job posting, you won’t be able to farm on this spot with a clear conscience. There is a hoop house at the production garden, where the sides don’t roll up and there’s no ventilation other than the doors on either end, rendering it difficult to manage. The two things going for this site are asparagus and blackberries planted by the former farmer, which is the only part of this site the prospective farmer should consider, in my opinion. However: no fencing, deer are rampant, rabbits abound. You’ll see a stunted blueberry planting on this site, as it has been browsed from day one. Fencing was another item asked for by the farmers and fell to the same fate as the implements.

Cold storage is in the learning center barn, a 6 x 8 room run by a coolbot that marginally works miles away from the production garden. 

Housing for me, the past farmer, was nearly impossible. My advice to you is to NEVER consider living/renting on site if there is space. The owner will walk in the house uninvited, snoop around your yard without notice, complain to others about your own personal projects happening on the property you are leasing/renting (read: paying rent, which started out at 1200/month plus utilities), allow people to enter the property late at night or anytime of day to take firewood/access the barn for sweat lodge purposes. The owner will try and claim your belongings for her own, like potted trees, chickens, and a compost pile. As a tenant at Touchstone house, you will be harassed in one way or another. If you come with a partner, this will put a huge stress on your relationship. Bickering back and forth constantly about what rights you have, how you are being violated by the landlord, and why you should/shouldn’t move away. Oh, there are also illegal animals on the property where you may be asked to live, which appear to be kept as pets (they have names). The wild animals have been kept there for 2 years and no matter how hard you try and protest them being there, they are still there bringing you paranoia and loads of continual discomfort. That’s another form of harassment. 

The farm is a distinct entity, separate from the Learning Center. This is important. The Learning Center is a non-profit organization which does a lot of good with teaching cool classes and hosting events. It consists of 12 acres and is home to a 2 acre heirloom orchard (I planted it before I took the farm job), a defunct american chestnut breeding orchard (a small percentage of the trees remain and they are dying), and a beautiful herb garden which functions as a community space (bean collective)/herb CSA. The orchard and herb garden are the only spots anywhere on the 900 acres which have a fence. But they are not part of the farm, and will not be in the future as there are large strides being made to separate the two for legal reasons. This is, in part, why the job announcement is so false. The organic farm is not comprised of orchards and community gardens and classes and events. That’s the learning center, which is a non profit governed by a board (but only sort of). In reality, the owner of Fox Haven has had a habit of making decisions in defiance of the board’s decisions (which causes stress, disgruntled employees, confusion, stalled momentum). Unlike the learning center, the organic farm is completely under the owner’s impulsive control, and that is reason alone to walk away. An example of impulsive: You’ll get called last minute into a farm meeting to talk about growing kale for the community, days after you had a meeting with a facilitator, employees and owner, explicitly stating that no talks of that nature were to happen until larger goals were sussed out for the farm. When you express the need to stick to the plan agreed upon by everyone, you’ll become a target of obsession by the owner, who will cross boundaries from your work life into your personal/tenant life and try to nit pick you into submission.

Still think you maybe can make it work? Reach out to me, I’ll connect you with others who will tell you about their experiences at Fox Haven Farm. It’s not just me who has been tricked by delusions of grandeur and then terribly burned.

***Disclaimer: I was fired 3 weeks ago from this job, where I made $15/hour and couldn’t make a penny more (capped at 40 hours a week). Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll make 50-60k. The goal was to design and plant orchards (agroforestry-oriented) and then lease that land when the trees started to produce. The idea was that in lease fees and a percentage of the crop, the trees and labor would pay for themselves and start to make a profit over time. There would also be space integrated within these systems to allow for annual agricultural leases from other people. This is why I was hired. I was also hired to eventually take over for the octogenarian farm manager, who was described to me as “old school” and only farms from atop a tractor. He wasn’t in the loop when I was hired, and he repeatedly threw me under the bus in order to keep his job. Though I don’t know why I was fired (Maryland is an at-will state), I was told that if they would have known that it would take trees 5 years to start producing money, the farm manager would have never brought me on in the first place. This is an example of how dysfunctional Fox Haven Farm is. You bring someone on to create an agroforestry system on site and then let them go, citing how waiting 5 years for trees to start making an income is a poor business decision for a so called regenerative/permaculture farm.  Though I am upset about being fired, this post is to bring awareness to anyone considering this job posting. The take home message is: Do not pursue it. How many times must someone be a beginning farmer? This position will only perpetuate the cycle, especially if you are a perennial farmer. Seek elsewhere, somewhere that has concrete goals and visions. I was naive in thinking that I would be different than the other farmers before me who were kicked off for no apparent reason. Don’t repeat our mistakes. Do not pursue this job posting. Be well

Job Description is below in case they take it off of Indeed.com and it resurfaces later in one form or another.

Organic Farm Manager
Fox Haven Organic Farm and Learning CenterFrederick, MD

$50,000 – $60,000 a year
Fox Haven Farm seeks organic farmer/gardener to manage the farm and finances with experience in sustainable, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and managing the business of running a farm.

Qualifications:

* extensive knowledge and experience with organic farming

* minimum of 2-year’s experience of managing an organic farm as a business

* experience organizing a community garden, and managing people

* flexible and cooperative personality, open mind, open heart and practical skills

* motivated to make the world better, provide alternatives and influence thought leaders

Salary is dependent upon experience

Fox Haven is an organic farm, ecological retreat and learning center, wildlife sanctuary and nature preserve. We seek to live in harmony with the natural world, balance ourselves and reconnect with nature. Grounded in nature, we hope to build right relationship with the living earth. Just an hour’s drive from the nation’s capitol, we are well aware of global environmental problems like climate change and shrinking biodiversity and we offer local solutions to global problems. We are modeling sustainable systems that don’t destroy life on the massive scale that is now happening and do it in a way that can be replicated and serve as a model for government officials coming to Fox Haven looking for workable alternatives.

Fox Haven Farm models innovative agricultural practices that are sustainable and can make a difference; permaculture, biodynamic farming bringing spirit into the cultivation of the land, installing solar panels on the barn roof to reduce use of fossil fuels, planting thousands of native trees to slow soil erosion, working with the American Chestnut Foundation to grow out blight resistant Chestnut trees, grafting heirloom apple and pear trees, building nutrient rich black soil by rotational grazing of cattle, sequestering carbon in the soil, cover crops, composting, preserving wetlands and wildlife habitat, keeping bees, using holistic management to balance all the parts with the whole. By modeling innovative organic farming practices that are alternatives to chemically intensive industrial agriculture, free of GMO’s and toxic chemical pesticides, we are part of the solution to collapsing ecosystems.

Fox Haven Learning Center is a gathering place for people seeking innovative and systemic solutions to the complex environmental problems threatening our planet. We offer workshops in permaculture design, bee keeping, mushroom cultivation, mycelium running,

fermentation, finding wild edible foods, foraging, syrup making, children’s programs exploring nature, growing herbs and making tinctures, oils, cooking vegetables fresh from the community

garden, cultivating the inner and outer ecology of health. We are looking to find someone who has the ability to make real the potential of Fox Haven and has the spiritual capacity to hold a field of compassion and gratitude to serve the local community.

Fox Haven is also an ecological retreat, safe haven for environmental groups in Wash DC for rest, relaxation, recuperation and regeneration, to take time to appreciate the beauty of pristine nature they are working to save. It has been used as a think tank bringing together thought leaders from different fields to talk and conceptually create sustainable systems by learning from nature. It offers a place, a salon for conversations, to answer the question, “What would nature do?” about man made systems that were well intentioned and appropriate at the time they were set up but have since become outdated and destructive. How could we create an ecological system of governance based on natural living systems instead of the mechanistic, polarized, competitive government we now have that pits Democrats against Republicans? Can we learn to live in harmony with nature?

If we want to learn how to create sustainable systems, we can learn from nature. There is no better teacher than nature. She’s been at it for eons. The complex, intricate, interdependent relationships and patterns in the natural world are stupendous and we are just beginning to understand the dynamic complexity of living systems.

Inspired by the genius of nature, Fox Haven seeks to live in harmony with the natural world with reverence for all life. So at Fox Haven, nature is our teacher and inspiration as we study how things work in the natural world. We are learning how to work with the forces of nature; sun, rain, wind, gravity and growing plants. We are fascinated by the mutually beneficial relationships and cooperation that make nature so abundant, bountiful and beautiful. We share this sense of wonder with all those who come to Fox Haven, to learn from nature and be part of the solution.

Job Type: Full-time

Salary: $50,000.00 to $60,000.00 /year

Required experience:

  • farming: 2 years
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5 thoughts on “What you, the potential applicant, should know about the Fox Haven Organic Farm Job Posting.

  1. Eliza, Sorry to hear about your bad experience. I enjoyed the classes that you and Pete taught. I was interested to know how the callery pears did after we grafted the Asian scions on this spring. You really inspired me to do and learn more about grafting different trees. Don’t let this negative experience stop your great work and dreams. Keep in touch and keep growing. Good luck! Dave Keane

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. That truly sucks and you definitely deserve better! What are you going to do next, or what are you guys thinking? (new post?) -David

    On Sun, Oct 29, 2017 at 8:48 AM, unconventional stories from an app

    • Hey David,
      Unfortunately, the situation was so bad that my partner and I split in the summer. I thought I could stick it out, and he couldn’t take it any longer. Anyways- what’s next for me? I’m taking off the next 6 months! I can’t be impulsive on my next move and owe it to myself and others to really plan out what comes next and to manifest my minds ideal in business plan form. I have an easy part-time job that pays my bottom line and affords me a lot of time to get excited and creative. So stay tuned… 6 months from now I’m hoping to be refreshed, confident, and holding a plan of action that I’m excited about.

  3. I’m sorry to hear… I helped design the place long ago and know the players well. Sorry to say your experience has not been unique…so much potential and yet it is stalled in frustration…One point, pretty sure that particularly with cost of the land CREP did not make money for owner and yes, too bad the restriction s on those lands though US gov. standards I believe.

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