Work Life Balance

Autumn Stoscheck lives on a 75 acre farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York State with her husband Ezra and their two children, Leila and Zuri, plus dogs, cats, chickens and lots and lots of apple trees. She and Ezra own and operate a certified organic cider apple orchard and cidery called Eve’s Cidery.

It’s ironic in a way, to be writing a guest blog post for Homestead Mamas in the homestretch of harvest while I’m absolutely not manifesting any type of work-life balance what-so-ever. I’m writing to you while multitasking on cider production on what is probably my 40 straight 10 hour day of work. But it will be winter soon and things will ease up and over the past 20 years I’ve gotten used to the fact that folks are going to be thinking about apples, and ciders, and the people that grow and make them in the fall– when the apples are ripe! So when Amy asked me to participate (in October), I said “Sure!”.
 
I started Eve’s Cidery 21 years ago, at the age of 21. Knowing what I know now, I honestly probably wouldn’t have jump-started my life’s trajectory in that way, but that’s the folly of youth. And actually, I’m glad for my adventurous and impetuous self. Starting a first-generation farm from scratch, while helping to build a beverage category that didn’t even exist in this country, while raising young children has been a very hard project. So hard that in 2018, I’d had it with the farm and everything else but had the good sense to take a sabbatical and get a fresh perspective (you can read about that adventure here).
 
My husband Ezra joined the business in 2005 and together we own and operate a 15 acre certified organic orchard where we grow over 50 cider-specific apple varieties and ferment them into critically acclaimed ciders which are nationally (and internationally) distributed (You can read more about that story here). We have two children, Leila and Zuri, who we have homeschooled with the help of our parents and a vibrant community, and a large, weedy garden where we grow most but not all of the vegetables we consume. 
 
I treasure the opportunity to have a very real, joyful, authentic, fair, collaboration with Ezra in my everyday life. For us, fairness has been a key element in making work-life balance work for us. Having been raised in a patriarchal culture, we’ve internalized a lot of those values, and have had a lot of untangling to do as we’ve navigated our career and family goals. So much of the unseen and unpaid labor that goes into having a family has traditionally been done by women. Even today, a time when women are freely pursuing careers, they are often “trying to do it all” juggling paid and unpaid work. In our family, because of the lifestyle choices we’ve made based on values around living close to the land, rejecting consumer culture, eating high quality, local, organic food and educating our children ourselves, that “unpaid” portion of work is even larger. Add to that a lot of blurred lines between where the homestead starts and the farm ends and there has been a lot to navigate. 
 
From the start, Ezra very much wanted to be equally involved in parenting and I very much wanted to have equal time in the business. To make sense of it all, we’ve basically looked at the domestic side of our lives in a similar way to our business: figuring out all the tasks that need to be done, figuring out how to do them efficiently, splitting them equally, and staying actively engaged in planning and communication. This goes for the kids too, who are involved in not only the responsibilities of everyday life, but the decision-making processes as well. We have a regular weekly family meeting in which we determine who does what chores, what the weekly schedule looks like, and what fun thing we are going to do together on our family day.
Even though we are big on systems and planning, we are not at all rigid. I like to think of our approach as emergent…as a family we are always adapting…as children grow and parents age, as the seasons turn, as interests and skill sets change. 
 
Another big piece of the work-life balance for our family is food. Because this is our passion, so much of how we live and work revolves around eating and drinking well. I think the pleasure of delicious food is what keeps us going, both in our work and in our everyday life. We love to eat and drink wonderful things that are ethically and ecologically made by real people. To us that means leaving time and energy to grow a huge garden and forage for mushrooms and plants in the wild. It means cooking three from-scratch-meals a day (work that is shared amongst the members of the family). It means spending our food dollars with folks we know and building community with other farmers and food makers who are doing good work. And it means mentoring and supporting the next generation of farmers for a better future. 
 
Everyone has their own work-life balance solution to find. But if it feels hard, that’s because it is. In the United States, we live in a culture that tends to value work above all else. To make space for a broader life experience we have to create that space. Not an easy task but an important and worthwhile one.
 
Cheers to you, and to balance.
-Autumn
 
PS Speaking of fairness, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that food, farming and land access systems in the United States are deeply unfair. Just 36%* of farmers in the US are female. But worse yet, just 5%* of farmers in the US are people of color. That’s right: 95% of farmers in the US are white and 100% of farms in the US are located on colonized land, a statistic that is not a random accident but the result of a long history of institutionalized land and labor theft. We recognize that the lifestyle we live is a tremendous privilege and make reparations part of our everyday spiritual practice. (Learn more about reparations in the cider industry here)

*2017 USDA Census of Agriculture

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