Gabrielle Leblanc Interview
Work plan meeting:
Logistics and Practical Checklist
Did you submit a resume?
Can you come up with a work plan?
- Factor e Farm
- research climate
- one month shift
- two month shift
- one year shift
- research - Category:OSA (Open Source Agroecology)
- create a year-round plan for feeding a community that is replicable
- animal polyculture
- dairy operation
- revenue plan for integrated agriculture - supporting people with selling agricultural output - particularly for FeF.
- Crafts, CSA, woodworking
- Forestry - sawmilling, chainsaw
- take responsibility
Would you be able to feed the community at FeF?
I can start thinking about a program to make that happen. I know rough yields for a garden plot size - scaling what I know - ratios.
Please introduce yourself and what position you are applying for (if not clear on position, it will be covered later)
My name is Gabi LeBlanc and I am applying for the position of Farm Director or Apprentice, whichever is most needed.
Are you interested in working on-site at FeF or are you interested in remote collaboration?
I am interested in working on-site at FeF.
Are you applying as a volunteer or for a paid position?
I enjoy volunteering and do not expect to be paid.
Are you ok with a 2 week trial period? One month trial period?
Yes and yes
If it's the paid position, is $2000/month acceptable to you?
n/a, but yes.
Which track are you interested in (management or admin/apprentice/entrepreneur)
management or apprentice
When are you available?
July, 2012 - can push it to mid-June to prepare for the Greeks' visit to FeF.
How long will you stay with us?
As long as there is demand for my help.
How did you find out about us?
Friend showed me the website
Have you seen my TED Talk?
What do you care about?
Subsistence survival, health of the earth and its organisms
What are your long-term goals?
Unknown in the face of Climate Change. Go where I'm called. In 15-20 years, I'd like to own my own land and make decisions for the sake of the land. It's difficult to find the funds right now at my age, so right now I'm working other people's land.
I could be at FeF for 1, 2, 3 years - beyond that I can't predict.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Strengths - focus and nail it and then move to another task with a rapid transition.
- Weaknesses - my rapid transition style can be jarring for some people. I might be unpredictable when I shift from one thing to another. I'm an idealist and I say yes too much - but then I have to acknowledge my limits and delegate - but my idealism is good because it motivates me to try to make the world better.
What does a better world mean to you?
People working for themselves because they find fulfillment in it. People working directly on things they care about. Direct results from work but not considered work. Responsibilities for work - working together - following through. A happier place is created.
How do we get there?
I'm reading 'Always Coming Home' about utopian California. Aside from huge massive crises, I don't see a peaceful transition. Capitalism is going downhill - if it crashes, there will be problems for people in transition. We can't predict what the future holds. We have to shift thinking - otherwise we won't survive.
How does OSE shift us to that paradigm?
Trying something new - people are conservative in Agriculture - people refuse to let go of their time-tested techniques - but people depend on huge global companies and these dependencies are dangerous - OSE communicates ideas - size in numbers - shift ideas - new places will adopt these new ideas and it will spread.
Have you seen resistance in your peers in adopting technology?
How deep are you willing to go into the technology?
I'm willing to dive in. I have used a welder/plasma cutter before - to make art then I made fencing - I have some fabrication experience. I am willing to meet that challenge head-on.
Are you able to get your head around new concepts and learn instead of it being a constant challenge?
Challenges are often self-created -
Do you have any reservations about coming to Factor e Farm?
How would you participate in documentation?
I've written blogs and taken photos. I've been in documentaries for Discovery Channel, it was interesting being interviewed and having an on-camera presence. I feel comfortable doing that. I was led around as the figurehead of the ranch for a while.
I'm good at writing and photography. I've done some amateur video work. I would learn more about video.
Would you do simple vlogs everyday?
I have contacts with an older generation - I found myself getting along better with older generations.
There was a lot of pride in the work of the older generations. Some people were worried all the time and others were confident about their knowledge base - we faced challenges - footrot, diseases, drout - people were worried and others were confident in their abilities.
How many hours per day do you work currently?
From 8 in the morning to 6 or 7 at night. It's unpredictable - sometimes things come up and you have to deal with them.
What happens after the honeymoon period?
I usually don't burn out, my honeymoon period lasts longer than it does for most people.
At other places, I didn't like being harassed for being female at my old job. I spent more time with my co-workers, bi-lingual situation, people tried to kiss her, cultural differences, tried to be honest, lay out what didn't work for me, finding my voice was difficult. I had to prove myself after I communicated and was honest.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I have a border collie so I go for walks. I run long distances and bike sometimes 40miles in a day. I like to read and writing in a journal - making a meal - doodling - the other side of agriculture sitting at a table shelling peas, preserving foods, pitting cherries, etc. - it's fun to socialize while doing that - I like to explore - a change of scenery.
I am a certified Yoga Teacher - I practice mediation - I have a daily practice of meditation and stretching - Acro Yoga - I would love to teach to the community at FeF.
Are you bringing your dog?
I would like to - he doesn't go after chickens so much - I can have him on leash and off leash when we're not at the farm - we can train him to not go after chickens - he doesn't notice chickens - I can start now - he is a farm dog - he understands the farm - he was born in ranch land and picked up by a construction worker and dropped off at my ranch - so I worked with him - he's a good sheep dog.
He could bark if an intruder came in - he'll bark at rabbits - he tries to kill but I've never seen him kill anything - he's a pretty good guard dog if something comes up in the night - he could possibly be a guard for the chickens - he's 1 year old.
What do you see yourself doing with us at Factor e Farm?
I see myself raising crops, planning and managing fields, as well as practicing animal husbandry, infrastructure development/repair/maintenance, crop processing, and cyclic development of soil (compost, vermiculture, manure, recycling nutritive waste).
- erosion control
- surveying - I have surveyed before - the garden I worked at setting up convenient pathways set up regularly
- keyline plowing
- come up with a land-use plan
- build ponds
How does our work relate to your care?
Outreach and exposure to the entire world, accessibility of information and effectively sharing it, emphasis on do-it-yourself projects and autonomy from corporate privatization, reuse of resources to create new tools that are practical, responsible use of land and its resources, a subsistence-oriented template and community-building.
For that which you care about doing with us, what is your track record/work samples?
I've designed infrastructure for grazing and milking sheep and goats. I find myself maintaining a host of organisms that provide me with resources to use for the betterment of myself and others. Intertwined with that is the management of plants, pests, and soil. I have coordinated community gardens, planned events/workshops, and enjoy bringing people together for collective work or just to meet each other and talk. I did this at the Experimental College Garden in Davis, and for a year and a half was the point person for all the gardeners, while maintaining the land there and developing new garden plots. I have started long-term projects, such as a multi-year mulch to have bermudagrass-free areas, built ponds and habitats to encourage ecosystem diversity, planted mini-orchards, and laid foundations for others to enjoy and watch develop in the years to come.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up being sad that most of the farms around my area were gone and replaced with houses of capitalist consumption. I found myself passionate about animals and grazing land stewardship, and after I got my degree in Animal Science I plunged into the food system. After working at a large-scale conventional operation, I soon found that my idealized life is one of subsistence-living-scale agriculture. I am trying to live my life as if I am still a student, who is constantly observing, while being extremely active and involved in things that do good for others as well as myself.
Tell me about the last 5 years of your life.
5 years ago I was in high school. After graduating in 2008, I went to UC Davis for Animal Science with a specialization in Livestock and Dairy. I soon realized I was learning "what not to do." The university was fueled by industry, and they only taught us conventional agriculture. I ended up graduating a year early, in 2011, and recognized this time as my opportunity to continue educating myself through independent study and hands-on experience. I worked at a large-scale sheep and goat and grain ranch full time straight out of school, and after injuring my back began smaller projects at an organic apple orchard with a smaller, more diverse production. I have been developing infrastructure for milking sheep, and building ponds and outdoor kitchens in the time between maintaining the food and seed crops. It was at this time that I realized how insular this method of subsistence was, and craved a greater output for the world community to benefit from. I also craved an exodus from California in order to broaden my knowledge of other climates and communities.
What are you interested in getting out of this opportunity?
Working with people with completely different skill sets, experience, and methods from my own, in order to learn more about subsistence living through agriculture.
What do you think is the best use of your time?
Arduous tasks that are long-term and projects designed to enhance the cycles of resources on the land, ideally involving crops and animals.
What are your three strongest skills that you bring to this position? Substantiate.
Resourcefulness: If there is a problem, I look to the abundance around that others may not recognize at first.
Animal Husbandry: I am comfortable and passionate about taking care of animals and their means for productivity, often using a low-cost, low-input strategy that works with, not against, the laws of nature and the limitations of the animals. (The word animals, to me, includes humans)
Infrastructure Development/Maintenance: I can lay and fix pipes, build and maintain fences, put up and design structures, landscape and transform spaces.
What are the principles you use as guidance?
Maintaining observation with appreciation, and staying present while being eager for more. In my life there have been many forks in the road, and I am open to letting life take me wherever my intuition follows. I respect forces greater than myself, and rapidly adapt to anything that happens by chance. I do what needs doing, for myself and what is around me.
What are your professional accomplishments that you are most proud about?
I’ve managed to trim away aspects of my career that didn’t serve me. Money was one of the last big things to change, and at this point I can live without sole dependence on capital, and most of the things I receive in exchange for labor help me make a living, without involving money. Essentially I’ve been able to find exactly what I want to do, without sacrificing parts of my goals to get there. I feel accomplished with my sense of independence and agency in the life I’ve made for myself.
If you could investigate anything, what would it be?
The differences and similarities between indigenous and modern land stewardship.
What are your most important resources?
Water, community, nature
What are the qualities that are inspiring about you?
Compassion, optimism, grounded confidence
What opportunities are you hoping to get?
The opportunity to explore different perspectives, terrain, as well as aspects of my self.
What inspires you?
Noncognitive wisdom (i.e. a dog’s sense of smell transmitting not only extreme detail, but such detail over time and having sensitivity of what happened in the past and present) Repetitious natural themes (i.e. exponential growth limitations: the way trees grow and sense when a branch is about to grow into another and stops is the same process as breast tissue growth when end buds grow towards each other) Rapidly changing my perspective (going from a micro-perspective into the macro and vise versa and observing differences and similarities)
What are your outside interests?
Cycling, fiber craft, yoga, foraging, herbal medicine, meditative exploration and adventure
How do you add value?
Create and improve processes that ensure greater efficiency or productivity.
What are 5 of your greatest accomplishments in your professional history?
Reforming the animal husbandry practices on a farm where there was little transparency, and miscommunication between owners and employees due to language barriers.
Solving the problems of others through open, direct communication, and at times nonviolent communication and consensus-style facilitation.
Building outdoor areas (kitchen, shower/bath) for others to enjoy in the years to come.
Solely adopting 4 acres of seed crops and keeping them weeded all season and saving the seed to begin the Davis Seed Library.
Catching swarms as a local service, adopting them and doubling the number of active hives at the student co-operative that I lived in.
What are 5 of your greatest failures in your professional history?
Trying to communicate with a Chinese-speaking gardener that she was gardening the wrong plot.
Choosing to work in food service in high school instead of doing something I was passionate about.
Attempted repair on a 3’ irrigation pipe, buried 4 feet deep, burst during the night and the next day I came back to a swamp that needed to drain for days, while gardeners couldn’t use the water and got frustrated at the inconvenience.
Not listening to my body, I kept on doing the same work that was injuring me and suffered while not being able to do everything that I wanted and needed to do for the job.
Feeling “unworthy” of having an opinion and psychologically caging myself due to feeling intimidated by others.
Illustrate your creativity.
I make and repair my own clothes, use found resources to make useful things, I make art in the form of music (clarinet, saxophone, ukulele), drawing/painting, writing, ceramic sculpture, and fiber art. I know how to grow and process fibers for creative, spiritual, or functional utility. I see beautiful things all around me and use this inspiration in creating flowing, aesthetic spaces that are also functional and productive. I consider digging the earth to be sculpture, and it can be as artistic as you feel like making it.
What do you look for when hiring someone?
passion, balance, open-mindedness
Would you rather create strategy, design a solution, solve a problem, or create a process? Why that?
I would create a process, because inside a process there is a strategy that culminates in the solution to a problem (i.e. Very thin soil? I would graze the land with small, lightweight animals, keeping brush and shrubs down, maintaining grass roots, and making room for the trees that help stabilize soil on a slope. Maybe even let some grapes or olive trees grow. The manure will increase soil health and make it possible for food crops to grow better there in the future.)
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are endurance, adaptivity, and empathy. My weaknesses are spontaneity, having too many scattered interests, and sometimes in failing to keep the sadness of others from dragging me down.
What did you learn in your present job or position?
Herbal veterinary medicine, ethnobotanical strategies, arbory (both fruit and natives), how to eat all kinds of weeds, autonomous wool processing on a large scale.
How long would it take you to make a contribution to this company?
I tend to plunge into things with my full attention and focus, so probably a couple of days. If the question refers to a relatively large contribution, such as a change in productivity level, I would say three months.
What do you imagine that contribution would be?
Employing various cycles for diversified production that have a branching benefit to many aspects of Factor e Farm, such as tractoring chickens; improving soil fertility, food produced, and animal enrichment.
Why should we hire you?
Because I still know how to learn and strive to improve myself daily.
What can you offer that someone else does not?
Diverse interests, experience, and strength of body and spirit.
What interests you most about this position?
Challenging myself and having all of my guidelines rewritten for me by going to a new place and taking on responsibilities.
What interests you least about this position?