Monday, April 11, 2011

Growing Food in Niagara-How things change in 14 years : PART I: The journey there

When I quite my career as a social worker to begin a new one selling organic vegetables some 14 years ago, I saw it as a way of simplifying and de-stressing my life. 

Growing and gardening for me was a way of getting back to my roots.  I've never been a city girl, a pretty girl or a flitty girl.  I like country, farms, soil, animals and all the reality of it.  Putting a seed in the ground and seeing a miracle happen.

I met a lot of wonderful people as a social worker, no question about it.  But "helping" people who don't necessarily want to be helped while trying to work within an bureaucratic organization full of red tape, 
requiring reams of paperwork to prove accountability (and cover my ass and that of the agency) was not my ideal situation.  Add to that the stress of having children whom I liked under my charge committing suicide, break the law, run away, require frequent court appearances, be sexually assaulted, sexually assault others, prostitute, attempt murder...never a dull moment. I was also physically attacked and had my life threatened.  But...the pay was good.

On the farm.... (l-r)   me, dad, Muff , sister

When my dad died in 1997 from an infection he had acquired in hospital while on the mend from a heart attack, my world was literally turned upside down. Dad was my advice giver, my rock, really.

 As if it was yesterday, I can remember him saying to me, "Linda, I have no regrets. If I die, throw me on the manure pile.  I've had a wonderful life.  But you'd better be doing exactly what you want to be doing now. Don't have regrets."

As a single parent at the time, "the agency" gave me little support.  When my Emily had a rash of health problems requiring hospitalizations, I had to take vacation time.  Once my supervisor even came to the hospital to make sure I was there.  This considering all my performance reviews were exceptional.

As a grieving daughter when my dad died, again the agency did nothing to support me.  On my first days back to work after my dad's memorial service, I attended a meeting which included the agency director.  He said nothing to me, a 12 year veteran at the time, about the loss of my dad.  No "sorry to hear of your loss", no, well....anything.  I thought that was just an act of human decency.

The job I was working at was quickly becoming my regret.

It clicked into place pretty quickly where I stood.  Yes, I got a paycheque. I had bought and paid for my little house. But I was a good worker, went the extra mile.  Was respected and liked by people I worked with, by workers I dealt with in other agencies, by the kids I worked with, and generally their parents too. 

But the reality that this meant little to agency was the reality check I needed. My buddy left that meeting with me early to offer me her shoulder and I knew the end was in site.  I was stressed out from the job, grieving the loss of my much loved dad and very, very clear about what I personally was sacrificing to get that paycheque. 

Quite simply, too much. 

I quit about a year later, when I had already begun growing and selling organic veggies on my "veggie route."

I didn't want another social work job.  I didn't want to sit in an office.  I didn't see my Social Work degree as a waste, because it brought me to where I was. Also I loved university. Just loved it.  But it was time to move on, and for me growing and selling vegetables was a natural.  I was a farm girl, through and through.

(Tomorrow- My experience selling vegetables the first 10 years: Not local, but grown here, and organic!)


Phoenix C. said...

What a moving and inspirational post. I so agree with your Dad's words, "You'd better be doing exactly what you want to be doing now. Don't have regrets."

Sylvan Muse

Linda said...

Thanks, Sylvan. I got a bit weepy writing that...but I dad's advice was the best.When I need to make many tough decisions I remember what he told me. That advice and many more pearls of wisdom from him. I often think, "what would dad do?"