Sisters grad is following her heart to farming

 

Last updated 8/29/2023 at 10:33am

Photo provided

Shae Gascon is working at the Seed to Table Farm in Sisters. She's shown here with her favorite vegetable, Armenian cucumbers.

Shae Gascon's family moved to Sisters when she was in the third grade. She remembers gardening with her grandparents and how much she loved planting and harvesting fresh veggies.

Her interest in farming continued, but it wasn't until her junior year that she spent some time at Seed to Table (S2T) farm

"I was in IEE, (Interdisciplinary Environmental Expedition) and chose farming as my extra activity," she said. "We were working on building doors for their hoop houses. We also did some weeding. I realized how much variety there was on the farm, even learning how to build things. I thought that was super cool."

Gascon graduated from Sisters High School in 2018.

"There weren't S2T farm field trips back then. If there were, I would have been so into it. I think it's so amazing that the elementary school kids get to do that. I know I would have been captivated by it all," said Gascon.

Looking back at her time as a S2T high school intern, Gascon remembers seeing Audrey Tehan and the impression Tehan made on her.

"Audrey is charismatic," she said. "When I was a teenager, she was such a great teacher to have. I really looked up to her. I thought it was amazing to see a woman running a farm. I wanted to hear everything she had to say. She was so knowledgeable and was happy to answer all my crazy questions. She was captivating and kind. Even when she was so busy Audrey still showed up."

Working in an environment like S2T farm became a goal for Gascon. She made it a reality when she was hired to work on the farm.

"Now I'm a general farm laborer and I'm a part of the farm team," said Gascon.

Her new position involves doing a variety of things.

"I'm working under an amazing team of women with different roles. I'm harvesting and weeding and doing whatever needs to get done. I hope to get on the watering rotation crew," she said.

Seed to Table launched Gascon on an agriculture trajectory that has come full circle after other agriculture endeavors. After graduating from high school, she worked for Fry Family Farms for a few seasons in Medford. Most recently she spent two seasons working at Sungrounded Farm in Terrebonne.

Currently working as a farmer with S2T, Gascon is using everything she's learned over the years. Along with taking care of the land, growing veggies, and harvesting them, she's realized taking care of her body has to be a high priority.

"I remember I didn't know fully how to take care of my body in a job like this. Being hot, not eating or drinking enough water, all took a toll," she said. "I really felt the struggle of that in my first year of farming. I didn't realize how much you have to take care of your body as a farmer. You're doing so much with it in your work.

"At first, I thought I'll get a great tan but now I know you've gotta wear long sleeves," she said, laughing.

Gascon says one of her favorite veggies to grow and eat is Armenian cucumbers.

"I love them with salt, and I always put them in salads," she said. "They're so pretty and come in so many shapes. They are striped and go in a spiral. I remember in my first year, I was so amazed by them and all the other new vegetables."

Seed to Table farm has changed considerably since Gascon first arrived for her IEE internship in 2017.

"The farm has grown since my first visit when just the lower field was there. No upstairs or the incredibly improved vegetables," she said.

Farm staff refer to the newer upper fields as "the upstairs." Adding the additional land cultivation has provided more produce to sell at Sisters Farmers Market, offer to CSA members, and donate to 12 different Central Oregon food banks

"It's so much faster and efficient. There are new people since I worked here too. The structure has changed, and the culture is really beautiful right now," said Gascon.

When thinking about plans for her future, Gascon hopes S2T will continue to be part of her life. She hopes to grow and learn during the months the farm is in cultivation. Her job ends in late October. She's already talking to Tehan about coming back next year.

"I see a lot of growth opportunity with S2T that I haven't seen at other farms I've worked for," she said. "I can ask to take on new things like working farmer's markets. Next year, I want to learn more about irrigation, which is so important in farming. I've always wanted to start my own farm. But also, I really love working with kids. So, I hope to do something with both; I'm figuring out what that is. Educating children about the food system and how to grow food is so important. S2T is perfect for that because it's a huge part of what they do."

Seed to Table, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has a mission to increase health and wellness of the Central Oregon community through providing equitable access to locally grown, farm-fresh produce and offering opportunities in farm-based education. For information contact Audrey Tehan at audrey@seedto

tablesisters.org. To learn more about Seed to Table farm visit http://www.seedtotableoregon.org.

 

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