‘In­dus­try Night’ of­fers county work­ers a chance to connect, build com­mu­nity

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Sara Schon­hardt For Foothills Fo­rum

On a re­cent Tues­day evening, the in­dus­trial in­sides of Pen Druid Brewing buzzed with a few dozen county work­ers. The brewery is usu­ally closed on Tues­day, a sleepy day in a place whose food and bev­er­age in­dus­try re­lies largely on tourism. But that was why many in the room were able to be there. In­dus­try Night, as the gath­er­ing

is known, started as a way for peo­ple em­ployed in the food and farm sec­tor to get out and be so­cial, par­tic­u­larly since their hours can be in­hos­pitable — mostly nights and week­ends — and the work de­mand­ing — lots of time spent on one’s feet. It’s also a chance to build a com­mu­nity in a place that both re­lies on con­nec­tions but can be iso­lat­ing given big, open spa­ces and few es­tab­lish­ments that cater to younger clien­tele on res­tau­rant or farm worker salaries. “A lot of it was just about try­ing to cre­ate more com­mu­nity in this age group and with these folks work­ing in these in­dus­tries,” said Stacey Carl­berg, a co-farm man­ager at The Farm at Sun­ny­side, and one of the orig­i­na­tors of In­dus­try Night. She and her part­ner Casey

Gus­to­warow have been man­ag­ing Sun­ny­side for five years and reg­u­larly hire in a hand­ful of sea­sonal work­ers in their 20s and early 30s to help with food pro­duc­tion, mar­ket­ing and farm­ers’ mar­ket sales. Most stay on the farm a year or two, but by help­ing fa­cil­i­tate some con­nec­tions, she hopes they might find a com­mu­nity that would keep them in Rap­pa­han­nock a bit longer.

“Af­ter last year’s crew left, I was re­ally think­ing of how to connect these young folks more to the com­mu­nity and other peo­ple that are work­ing in the county,” Carl­berg said.

That led to a con­ver­sa­tion one evening with Craig Batch­e­lor, coowner of the Sper­ryville Cor­ner Store com­plex and Jon­eve Murphy, farmer in res­i­dence at the Inn at Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton, about ways they could connect their em­ploy­ees.

All three ac­knowl­edged one of the chal­lenges with keep­ing peo­ple in the county was a lack of so­cial net­work — even they strug­gle to find the time to make plans and meet with friends.

“There are young peo­ple here, and we do have things in com­mon; it’s just a mat­ter of con­nect­ing the dots,” Batch­e­lor said.

And also rais­ing aware­ness about what busi­nesses are do­ing in the county.

“You think that we’re in this small com­mu­nity and we’ve prob­a­bly all gone to each others’ busi­nesses but there are still new introducti­ons every month,” Carl­berg said. The In­dus­try Night gath­er­ing at Pen Druid was just the third since the March kick off at Head­mas­ter’s Pub. On a ta­ble at the back of the brewery sat alu­minium trays of finger snacks pre­pared by chef Josh Ries­ner, who moved to Lu­ray with his wife in 2017 and has been work­ing at Head­mas­ter’s since last sum­mer.

He says he wanted to get in­volved be­cause Rap­pa­han­nock is such a small place and he’s seen the pos­i­tive im­pact busi­nesses can have on a com­mu­nity — even some­thing like reg­u­lar mu­sic on a week­end or a monthly First Fri­day event that gets peo­ple out.

“It’s see­ing peo­ple out­side of work that is dif­fer­ent. Nor­mally they see me and I’m just peek­ing over on the other side of the line,” Ries­ner said, re­fer­ring to his chef ’s sta­tion.

While cre­at­ing con­nec­tions was the im­pe­tus for the event — held on the sec­ond Tues­day of each month — Carl­berg also hopes these gath­er­ings will help peo­ple feel they’re a part of some­thing big­ger and could lead to fu­ture part­ner­ships.

“I’m cu­ri­ous to see what could hap­pen by get­ting this group in the same room,” she said.

Jor­dan Lysaght, the 28-year-old co-man­ager at Head­mas­ter’s and a Rap­pa­han­nock na­tive, says she al­ready sees the po­ten­tial.

“I hope it means that we can fill our res­tau­rant with more lo­cally grown things and that we do more things as a com­mu­nity, and that we say, ‘Oh, let’s do this big event and let’s all be in­cluded’ be­cause we all sat down and hung out and talked about it.”

For Jenny Mello from the Sper­ryville Cor­ner com­plex, In­dus­try Night is a chance to recognize the hard work she and her peers are do­ing and feel cel­e­brated.

“When you’re in that room with ev­ery­body, there is no hi­er­ar­chy,” she says.

The abil­ity to connect is some­thing Mor­gan Jackson, 27, who has been at Sun­ny­side since March im­me­di­ately picked up on.

“Ev­ery­one is tired and works re­ally, re­ally hard out here — a lot of young peo­ple do awe­some things — but it’s re­ally nice to show up for your­self and also ev­ery­one else.”

Fel­low farm worker Sophia Fast, 25, says the reg­u­lar­ity of the event is a nice, for­mal­ized way of cre­at­ing com­mu­nity. “You know peo­ple are go­ing to be here, you don’t just have to show up and hope that you’ll meet peo­ple.”

While Carl­berg was ini­tially focused on con­nect­ing Rap­pa­han­nock’s younger ser­vice and farm work­ers, the gath­er­ings have brought out peo­ple of all ages.

That in­cludes Sylvie and Keith Rowand at Laugh­ing Duck Gar­dens & Cook­ery. They’ve been to all three events and say it’s nice to talk with new and dif­fer­ent faces out­side of a work set­ting.

“I'm a bee­keeper and have been able to do some show-and-tell with peo­ple I ‘re­ally’ met at the event,” Keith said.

Sylvie, a chef and mi­cro-spe­cial­ity farmer, says she’s ex­changed plant­ing tips and had the chance to catch up with some of her veg­gie providers. But mostly, she says, “I en­joy see­ing and chat­ting with peo­ple in a re­laxed at­mos­phere, not nec­es­sar­ily as ‘do­ing busi­ness’.”

Carl­berg has started an email list­serv that she sends out each month to roughly 60 sub­scribers, and she’s hop­ing some of the farms will host events this sum­mer. The next gath­er­ing will take place June 11th.

PHO­TOS BY SARA SCHON­HARDT

The lat­est group of work­ers at Sun­ny­side (from left) Livia Marrs, Sophia Fast, Mor­gan Jackson and Eizel Luna, say they ap­pre­ci­ate the so­cial at­mos­phere of In­dus­try Night.

Since be­gin­ning to col­lect emails in March, Stacey Carl­berg, co-farm man­ager of The Farm at Sun­ny­side has built up a solid list­serv of at­ten­dees.

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