ARTIST & FARMER
Brooklyn, New York to Rockland, Maine
Jacinda Martinez’s dad was at a loss when she revealed to him her passion for farming. He said “Oh Jacinda, I left the Dominican Republic so my children wouldn’t have to be farmers.” Jacinda left her tight-knit family and community in Brooklyn, NY to learn to farm. After several years working on a farm in New Jersey, she landed a coveted role as farm manager at the James Beard award-winning restaurant, Primo. While on a trip to Maine, she happened into Primo the day their farm manager had left and was hired on the spot. She relocated her life up to Maine and spent three years managing the incredible farm that supplies nearly all of the produce and meat for the restaurant. Farming though isn’t her only passion; she is also an avid sewer and artist. Jacinda’s father managed a store in the garment district of New York City so she definitely owes some of her love of construction and design to him. Two years ago, interested in combining her two passions, she began playing around with some of the vegetable waste from the farm. She’d fill a bag with green onions, old lettuces, and beet greens and bring them home to start working. She sewed, weaved and constructed this raw vegetable matter into intricate couture dresses. Wanting to capture the dresses before they decomposed, she put together a rudimentary photo studio in her basement and started photographing friends and acquaintances wearing her work. Her series, Fashion in the Raw, has been featured in several group shows and she has a solo show hanging at Primo restaurant. She is planning on eventually expanding the project into a book. Her basement is filled with some of her lovely decaying specimens, each dress is its own unique sculptural masterpiece. This year she decided to leave her management position at Primo to pursue her art and begin working as a farm consultant for people seeking help with growing plans and soil restoration. Jacinda’s story further proves that farming is a highly creative pursuit all on its own and by combining it with her other passion, she has made her farming experience couture. (Click here to jump to her interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
Learning how to farm was my inspiration for leaving the city for good.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?
My initial challenge was transportation. Although, I only moved to New Jersey, I was in a rural part that even the public transportation did not reach. So this left me to really get to know the space I was in. And I still do not own a car, so it is manageable, but it continues to be a challenge sometimes.
What surprised you most about country living? Did it meet your expectations?
I must highlight that my initial country living is very much tied to living on farms, so what surprised me the most was how I did not really miss all the noise. Imagine, the ambulances, the cars, and streetwalkers all lulled me to sleep growing up and now I was in a place where there was not much noise. There were families of black bears that frequented the woods across the street! They weren't noisy of course, but very cool to see. I also want to note that I moved to this farm without a cellphone and very spotty Internet access. I was very disconnected and I loved it. I honestly did not set up expectations. I was a year out of college when I moved and really trying to figure out my place and since I still live in the country, I would say that my expectations have been met and then some.
What were the hardest things to get used to? What do you miss the most about the city?
Although I enjoyed the solitude, I found that I really craved seeing and interacting with people I didn't know. Living in the country usually goes hand and hand with being close to a small town where everyone knows something about everyone, if even by name and this has its beauty, but can also be a bit boring. I miss most being around people with diverse backgrounds.
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
I would only go back part-time. I have a dream to live 9 months in Maine and three winter months in New York City. That would be a perfect balance for me. I really only go back to the city in the winter. I would not move back permanently unless I was bridging the urban life with farming.
What do you appreciate the most about life in the country?
I appreciate the slower pace and the intentionality that I have when interacting with people that I know I will see around town again and again. I also really appreciate promoting local shops and artisans. Maine is a perfect place to buy something you want straight from the source.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city?
Be prepared for all the shops in your town to be closed, the latest, 10pm. And for your favorite coffee shop to be closed at least one day out of the week starting after Labor Day. This means your morning coffee routine gets derailed on that one day you forget they are closed.
When you go back to visit the city, what are the first three things on your to-do list?
1. Walk around with nowhere in particular to go just to take in the people and noise.
2. Visit my grandmother in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where she has lived in her tiny apartment for the past 40 years.
3. Buy a linzer tart from the French bakery I grew up frequenting as a kid in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
My inspiration began when I spent about two weeks on a small homestead in Ayreshire, Scotland. The woman I stayed with is a professional basket weaver and she grows 12 varieties of willow that she processes on site and then makes these beautiful basket sculptures. This practice of a full circle product really stuck with me and this is where I continue to draw inspiration from while farming organically. In the same vein, I feel very passionate about food being grown ethically and with local purposes.
Have you noticed a change in yourself and/or your work since moving away from the city?
This is an interesting question because I moved to the country permanently in my early tumultuous twenties. During a time when most recent grads flock to the city and have a pulsing social life with a night life and accessibility to whatever they want whenever they want it (at least this is what a bunch of my friends chose to do after college), I chose to live my post college years in solitude with simple means. So I wouldn't call it a change as much as it was a forming.
Walk us through a typical day in your country existence? How does it compare to the day to day in the city?
My day-to-day is riding my bike four miles to work. Farming for ten hours, then heading back home on my bike. Most nights, my boyfriend and I cook a satisfying home meal, but every now and again, we will go out and get a tasty meal from one of the many awesome restaurants you can find in mid-coast Maine. On my day (s) off, I stay inside and read or work on sewing projects.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
Yes, I go hiking and canoeing and I cycle for fun. I really didn't have the opportunity to be an outdoors type growing up in the city, but now I am able to partake in really fun outdoors activities. I even learned how to snowboard last winter.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
I really enjoy going to the library for some inspiration.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
I think a common perception of moving to the country is that there will be fewer complications, but life can feel just as complicated; the only difference is that everyone in your small town knows about it. Ha! That may not be the case, but sometimes it feels like it. Another misperception could be feeling disconnected, but with the Internet, online shopping and Skype, you can move to the country and still be very connected to the folks you left behind in the city. And finally, I want people to know that living in a small community as a single person (like I was when I moved here) can have its challenges with making friends and dating, but if you are patient, then the opportunities to make friends and make a romantic connection can happen, albeit slower than for those fast paced city folk!