Farmer Spotlight: Colleen Hotchkiss

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"I’m able to learn from some very experienced farmers, do my best work while having the flexibility to accommodate that things never go exactly the way it’s planned…that’s just farming and that’s how it goes!”


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After some involvement at her campus garden while pursuing her studies in Spanish and gender sexuality in college, Colleen applied to be a farming apprentice on a small farm just an hour south of her college town in Maryland. It was the first time she had ever worked a physical job outdoors, and she thought, “oh, this would be something cool to do the summer after I graduate, I’ll get to learn how to grow food, i’ll just try it out.”  

It was small farm, roughly 8 acres with a CSA program an one farmer’s market. Colleen along with 3 other apprentices all lived and worked together on the farm for the summer. After the internship program ended, Colleen decided two things; (1) that she really liked farming and (2) she wanted to do it more. 

She then got connected to Green String Farm in Petaluma, renown for providing produce to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant. Farming at Green String Farm was what really planted the seed for Colleen that farming was exactly what she wanted to pursue long term. Not too long after that she was working full time as the farm manager for East San Jose’s Veggielution Community Farm with a strong emphasis on food justice and community building. 

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Colleen Hotchkiss has been a part of the Spade & Plow crew since May of 2018. During our interview, Colleen works with the most graceful ease, elbows covered in potting soil, popping one tomato seedling after the other into larger pots. Surrounding her on the ground, with barely any room to walk around, are crates stacked high with freshly transplanted tomato plants stretching out their leaves and looking happy with so much more room to grow.   

It’s been 8 years since Colleen started farming. 
How did she get her start? 

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After five years of working for Veggielution, Colleen made the transition to working full time working here at Spade and Plow. According to Colleen it’s been a refreshing change for her to go from working on a educational farm to a production farm. 

In her words, "I’m able to learn from some very experienced farmers, do my best work while having the flexibility to accommodate that things never go exactly the way it’s planned…that’s just farming and that’s how it goes!” 

We can’t believe it’s almost one year since she started! It’s such an honor to have Colleen here as the assistant farm manager of our farm crew. Her stellar organizational skills and continual passion for farming is something we don’t take for granted. 

She works alongside Mike, our farm manager, with just about every and any task that needs to get done on our farm. In peak summer season you’ll most likely find Colleen out in the fields driving the tractor in a big floppy straw hat listening to her favorite podcasts. 'Hamilton the Musical,’ a couple of astrology podcasts, and “Farmer to Farmer” to name a few. When music just doesn’t cut it, podcasts keep her busy mind entertained on days where she is working by herself for hours on the farm. 

Ian Thorp