The Women of Operating Engineers 324

Operating Engineers 324, based out of Howell, Michigan, has been serving its union members for over 100 years. They now boast 14,000 members as they help build Michigan’s future. We had a unique opportunity to meet with some of the sisterhood. Join us as we introduce you to some of OE 324’s best.

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt
Ashley English, Elizabeth Kavanagh, and Ashley Cole

“The training center is an awesome facility and the instructors are amazing. An obstacle I faced in the beginning of my apprenticeship was that I was nervous to operate equipment in front of people. I thought I was going to get made fun of or people would judge me. But I got support from all of the instructors and other apprentices. Everyone has always been very helpful and supportive.

My mom and dad are both in the trades, so it has always been a part of my life. My mom is in the UAW but she is also an operator for Ford Motor Company and my dad is a lineman in the IBEW Local 17. I went to college for a year and was not interested in going back, so I started looking into different trades.

I got into the Operating Engineers when I was 20, so this is my first career. I think the best part of my job is that I love what I do. I love meeting new people. I also enjoy being able to work outside all day.

I think any young woman that wants to get in the trades should go for it. You can always change what you do. If you think you are interested, give it a shot. You can’t tell if you like it or not if you don’t try.” -Elizabeth Kavanagh

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt
Ashley English

“I love the amazing view of the world in the mornings, the chatter between my coworkers, but above all–the FREEDOM of the culture within the field. There are no hair restrictions, not many handbooks, and we take care of each other whether we want to or not.” -La’Tasha Smith (pictured below)

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt
Ashley Cole and La’Tahsa Smith

Crane Operator Apprentice, Jessica Knight (pictured below), has been a part of Local 324 for 3 years. Before that, she served in Heavy Equipment Construction through the Army Reserves for 18 years.

“I love the fact that I walked into both the Army and the Union with an open mind and wide eyes. I feel like I have a better chance at my own personal success. Being a woman, you have to have thick skin. If you can dish it, be ready to take it. And be open minded.

I’m helping rebuild Michigan. And showing women we got what it takes. Sometimes, you get guys who think you’re a princess. They might stare if you’re curvy, and talk about you behind your back. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Keep talking, because I’m doing my job right, so that you can run your mouth.” -Jessica Knight

“I do not keep my head down. I make others know my presence at work. I befriend my coworkers of all trades. We are here for one common goal: finish the job and go home safely.” -Jessica Knight

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt
Jessica Knight, climbing to position in a crane

“I am an Oiler. I learn to maintain the crane I am assigned to. I do my best to keep the cranes clear of debris, fluids topped off, and constant overview of the crane while in operation so that the Primary Operator can do their job…

Never be afraid to look at any piece of equipment and say, ‘Yeah, I want to learn this!’ Give ‘em hell ladies!” -Jessica Knight

Operating Engineers / Crafted in CarharttChristi Smtih (pictured above) has over 21 years of experience as an Operating Engineer. She was in construction before joining the trades and wishes she had joined right after graduating from high school. Her goal is to work 35 years and retire at a young age. Before she does that, she plans on working as hard as she can, to the very last.

Christi loves her job for many reasons. But at the end of the day, she loves getting paid to play in the dirt. Even though she’s certified to operate many different pieces of equipment, like the overhead crane, she has a few favorite machines: the side boom, forklift, and skid loader. Those are the machines that are always moving.

“I’m not a one piece of equipment kind of gal. I like being more versatile. It makes you more employable.” -Christi Smith

Over the coarse of her career, she’s seen many changes. More and more women are joining the trades and more and more folks are accepting that. She notes that the worksite has become a safer place as well—putting the common good over a quick build.

Christi is certain that the best move she ever made in her life was joining OE 324. She couldn’t be more proud to be part of a union.

“You work with a lot of great people on great jobs. And you always have a support system. The union takes care of you, keeping up to date with technology and providing a place where you can improve your skills. You’re a part of a group of people who are proud of their work and what they do.” -Christi Smith

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt

After graduating from her apprenticeship, La’Tasha Smith (pictured above) will be a Journeyman Civil Engineer. She is currently a second year apprentice with no previous experience in the field.

“Honesty, I never had any interest in the trades. I went to a career fair and one of the female coordinators approached me and was able to convince me to give it a shot.

I was 28 and broken—lost, homeless, and defeated!! Life had run me over with a truck and backed up to finish the job!! I felt hopeless. So I told her that there was no way I’d ever make it into that career, especially with no experience!! But she was convinced I could, and I actually did!

The training is very intimidating and fast paced. The obstacles I faced were being able to quickly adapt to the new career culture which is made up of predominantly males, learning new machines quickly and safely, remembering all the rules and regulations, schedule changes, and weather conditions affecting work.

I stayed connected to other women in the trade at my company. I asked as many questions as I needed to…

Do the legwork. Educate yourself as much as possible and stay teachable.” -La’Tasha Smith

Operating Engineers / Crafted in CarharttAshley O’Grady (pictured below) works under the Road Builders Contract, which covers heavy highways, bridges, and airport work. Currently, she’s on a concrete paving crew. She has 4 years of experience.

“I went through the operators apprenticeship program. The training from that gave me the confidence and skills I needed to be successful in the field. I have found support in all my brothers and sisters I’ve met through my union… I feel a great sense of pride when I get to see the finished product, knowing I played a big role helping build it.” -Ashley O’Grady

Operating Engineers / Crafted in CarharttAshley was interested in the trades because she knew she could be successful and make good wages without going to college. If she had known how much she’d love the work, she would have joined even sooner. The long hours have been the most trying part of the job, but the sense of brother/sisterhood, along with great health care, benefits, and a pension make it all worth it.

“I feel like construction workers have a bad stigma sometimes. I wish people actually knew how serious skilled trades are and how successful you can be.” 
-Ashley O’Grady

Ashley hopes to expand her skill set, continuing to learn different equipment. There are endless opportunities and paths you can take as an operator. She wants to be as versatile and experienced as she possibly can.

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt
Danielle Athey

Danielle Athey’s interest in the trades soared when she discovered she could travel through work and start her career while training, all without taking out loans for school. She currently works on the pipeline and has one more year left of her apprenticeship. Danielle’s been busy, particularly this past winter, taking class after class, making sure she is as educated as she can be.

“In one year, I see myself getting close to graduating the apprenticeship and eventually becoming a journeyman. In five years, I see myself traveling the country with my work. In ten years, I hope by then I have my own house and property…

My advice is don’t be afraid of anything. Have confidence and don’t ever think you can’t ask for help. The support from my coworkers helped me more than anything.” -Danielle Athey

Operating Engineers / Crafted in Carhartt
Elizabeth Kavanagh

“Being in a union is a good thing. They will have your back. Also, I joined when I was 20, so I started getting benefits and started my pension before most people my age. Sometimes it is hard work, but it can be very rewarding in the future.” -Elizabeth Kavanagh

Operating Engineers / Crafted in CarharttOperating Engineers / Crafted in CarharttTo find out more about joining Operating Engineers 324, click here.
To shop  favorite Carhartt gear, now available in hardworking new sizes from XS to 3X, click here.

The Women of Keep Growing Detroit

In the middle of downtown Detroit, just a a few blocks from the city’s lively Eastern Market, sits The Keep Growing Detroit Farm. It’s a hotspot of workshops for growers of all ages and the birthplace of the popular Motown Music garlic seed.

Keep Growing Detroit is a nonprofit devoted to the city’s food sovereignty, helping the community cultivate their own healthy produce in a sustainable way. Their Garden Resource Program, now over 15 years old, has woven a connection across thousands of local gardens, providing resources and tools to the area.

Nikolette Barnes (pictured above), a Detroit native, has been growing food since 2008. For many years, she worked alongside her dad, the farm manager of D-Town Farm. Using the skills her father taught her, she took a summer job supervising kids who were learning how to grow their own food. Nikolette bonded with them deeply and discovered her passion to teach young people about food sovereignty. Her mission is to expose her hometown to the Food Justice Movement. Through that, she hopes to see a shift in how consumers utilize their spending power, making better food choices overall.

“My title is Early Childhood Garden Development and Family Engagement Specialist. I am responsible for all facets–garden and farm to table education–in the early childhood centers. I do everything from training teachers and parents on basic gardening skills to installing garden beds at schools…Our programs provide gardeners with seeds, plants, education, and technical resources to grow and sell sustainable produce in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

Urban Agriculture institutions like Keep Growing Detroit are vital for communities because of the need for access to tangible resources for growing food. It’s also important that Detroiters living in low-income communities are provided with accessible and affordable options for healthy food. KGD helps to foster an environment for thousands of growers to help fill that need.

The best part of my work is being surrounded by the next generation of food revolutionaries! I absolutely am blessed to be able to teach the babies how to grow, cook, and love the food that they grew for themselves. I also love completely transforming the mindset of someone who didn’t think they could grow food or enjoy fresh vegetables. It’s pretty rewarding.

The most challenging part of my work is dispelling the myths and breaking down the walls that result from misinformation about healthy eating and agriculture. It’s also very difficult to do this work while actively fighting against the system of oppression that creates tangible barriers to families having access to fresh locally grown food.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttMolly Hubbell (pictured below) is the Farm Operations Coordinator for Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in plant and soil science. She’s spent many years farming, working in different positions and various situations. When she’s not at work, she’s on her own farm, in north Detroit.

“I started working in nurseries 16 years ago, and have been a gardener/farmer my whole life. My mom is an avid gardener (Master Gardener), and my father passed on his appreciation for the natural world…Farmers don’t have superpowers, we rely on intuition. That intuition comes with time and patience, and can be learned by anyone willing to put the time in.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit

“My back has been sore for 16 years. Totally worth it.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Lindsay Pielack

Lindsay Pielack is a Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in Resource Ecology and Management, with a B.S. from University of Michigan. She played an influential role in the Garden Resource Program, helping it grow from 70 gardens to almost 1,500 gardens in just 8 years. Lindsay has lived in Detroit her entire life, and works hard to keep the community links strong.

“On a regular basis, I am supporting residents to start gardens and for those without a green thumb, I always encourage them to start by putting their hands into the soil and grow something! Once they do, the fire will be lit with the excitement of growing their own food and from there, I would say that every year is an opportunity to get better at it! One season at a time!

I would recommend that everyone, young or old, try their hand at growing something. You don’t have to commit to growing all your own food, just get connected to where your food comes from. There are lots of ways to do this, as simply as starting a container of herbs in your window or volunteering at a garden or farm near you.” -Lindsay Pielack of Keep Growing Detroit

Anita Singh (pictured above) is the Youth Programs Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit.
Drawing from her background as a high school science teacher, she runs the farm education program. Anita has developed youth programs in many different cities, including Cartegena, Columbia.

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt

Imani S. Foster (pictured above) is the Farmers’ Market Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She is a native Detroiter who found her way into farming unexpectedly as a Crew Leader with the Student Conservation Association. Her role has expanded from vacant lot reclamation to Farmers’ Market Coordinator.

“The food a person sustainably grows is so much better than what’s bought in the supermarkets. Placing your hands in the soil is healing. A person can reestablish relations with family and friends by working together…

One of the best parts of my work is helping the small gardener earn capital. Of course, I love that our customer base continues to grow. There is something so exciting about folks coming to the table and sharing how glad they are that we are back for the season. I know that the work I’m doing as the Grown in Detroit Market coordinator is retooling the culture that this is their (the gardeners’) business to grow.” -Imani Foster of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg, Molly Hubbell, Imani Foster, and Anita Singh

Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg (pictured below) is the Community Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She’s a Detroit native and a proud graduate of The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. It was during her senior year at Kalamazoo College she realized her passion for growing food. She graduated from Kalamazoo with a BA in Human Development and Social Relations and then returned to Detroit.

“Farming makes me feel hopeful. It’s a privilege to be connected to a community of people in the city who know how to grow food, enjoy doing so, and are cultivating and growing their communities.” -Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt“As a single mother and female farmer, I struggle with having enough time to spend with my son while also being very active in the urban agriculture community. I hope to pass on the tangible knowledge of how to grow his own food on a small or large scale. Currently he is enrolled in a program called Food Warriors (housed by Detroit Black Community Food Security Network) where he is growing food as well as exploring food justice on a local and global level. We garden at my home and two community gardens. He is in charge of watering the plants at home! I also hope to pass on the importance of being an active and contributing member of the community that you live in. ” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Nikolette Barnes

“I wish people knew how therapeutic farming can be. There is so much healing when you put your hands in the soil and grow something that will nourish your body. I also wish people knew how easy it is grow food at your home. People often feel like growing food is something only those with a green thumb can achieve. That is a huge myth, especially as it relates to growing on a small scale. There are so many resources for new gardeners to learn basic gardening skills..

I definitely do not have superpowers when it comes to growing food. I am still learning so much about how to problem solve as it’s related to my crops or soil quality. Farming makes me feel powerful…It’s not a walk in the park or romantic. Sometimes you will experience seasons where nothing grows abundantly or someone steals all of your melons. Stay the course.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit

If you’d like to find out more about the work these outstanding women are doing in Detroit, click here.

Like Father Like Daughter

For the Cabanas, hunting goes right in line with family time. Kylie follows in her father’s footsteps, slowly replicating his movements. She’s inherited his steady hand and determined spirit. Hours can fly right by as you’re in the deer stand. Baited breath of father and daughter evaporate in the air. To a hunter, a successful day doesn’t always mean you get the buck. Sometimes the company alone is enough to keep you going.

Deer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in CarharttDeer Hunting / Crafted in Carhartt

Hunting Mom Holly Cabana

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In the Cabana family, crisp fall mornings are highly anticipated. Once deer season begins, Holly and her daughters, Kylie and Kendall, set off for an adventure of their own.

“Our kids absolutely love Covenant Ranch. They love spending quality time with immediate and extended family, and enjoy the freedom the land provides. We hunt, fish, ride 4 wheelers and snowmobiles, play family games, go for walks – just run around in nature. It’s pure freedom and time away from busy life.

Some people think of hunting as just cruel slaughtering of animals. But we hunt with the utmost of respect to the animals, and harvest our food in a humane way – putting in the time and energy and effort to make one perfect shot every time.

I am so proud of my kids. I feel like all of their hard work has paid off and they are successful in their goals. Most grown adults haven’t shot bucks that my kids have in only their first couple of years in hunting.

Really – get involved – don’t let it be up to your husband only or you’ll miss out on special family time and he and the kids will be gone a bunch because it takes an immense amount of time, energy, commitment and learning proper, effective methods of hunting.” -Holly Cabana

Hunt Your Legacy

The Cabanas have been hunting on their property in Hudson, Michigan for the past 11 years. It’s a real family affair. The house is packed, young and old anxiously awaiting dawn. All rise before the sun, donning their warmest hunting gear, ready to settle into their stands. The ashes are still smouldering in the fire place from the night before. Quiet conversations hum in the kitchen as everyone scarfs down breakfast. And they’re off.

The morning is filled with nods and whispered instructions. The sun slowly pours over the edge of the horizon. All eyes are searching. Once a deer is spotted, the real work begins.

From generation to generation, hunters pass down their knowledge. It’s about quality time, enjoying the freedom the land has to offer, and respecting each animal and ounce of nature. If you have a hunting story like the Cabana family, share it with us at craftedincarhartt(at)

Hunt Your Legacy / Crafted in Carhartt


Building a Studio

For metal artist, Kate Silvio, the best part of her job is the idea that someone would want to wake up everyday and look at something that she’s created. What a motivation! That drive and hustle have to live somewhere. After the birth of her second daughter, Kate is setting up a home studio. She’ll now be able to pop in and out, keep her creative thought process rolling, and tackle the rest of the day with greater ease.

As Kate is designing her creative work space, she’s “found it crucial to figure out how you are most productive and happy. There is no ‘a shop is supposed to look this way’…shops look however you want them to look.” Metal working is a particularly expensive art form to pull off in a home studio. Keeping that in mind, she’ll slowly build her stock of tools and equipment. The key is determining which items are indispensable and higher up on the ‘to buy’ list.

Metal Worker Kate Silvio / Crafted in Carhartt

Women in the Workshop / Crafted in Carhartt

Metal Worker Kate Silvio / Crafted in Carhartt


Painter Molly Manor

Flipping through the pages of a book about color as a child, little Molly was fascinated by the magic of making your own colors. You add a bit of this hue to that hue, and you’ve created one all your own. For that precise reason, Molly has formed a passion for painting over any other medium. As the color wheel spins, so does the inspiration.

Now she finds painting to be therapeutic, to sit in the studio and work from sunrise to sunset as if no time has passed. Molly draws from real life. The natural world with its ever morphing organic shapes and perfectly placed patterns and colors bring her a vision and mood to aspire towards. With every new season, a new palate. With every new hour, a new shade.

Molly has a bit of advice for beginning painters out there:

“Don’t be afraid to copy. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve taught myself or learned just by trying to emulate someone else’s work. I think the biggest hurdle for a lot of people have is that they don’t feel “creative enough.” Or they stare at a blank page, not knowing where to start. Pull up a piece of your favorite art or something that caught you eye on the internet, and make your own version. When you’re done, you’ll realize you have your own style and your own perspective. Also, don’t worry if your expectations are not matching what you’re making. I’ve learned that’s a good thing! It keeps you working toward.”

The piece Molly painted in the photos below is truly inspired by nature, as you can see. Sure she may have had to trudge through the snow with painting supplies in tow, but what better way to find your peace and translate an authentic winter scene? This piece is available for sale on Molly’s Etsy page. Take a look for yourself here.

Molly is wearing: The Amoret Jacket, Series 1889 Slim Double Front, & Watch Hat.

Michigan Painter Molly Manor / Crafted in CarharttMichigan Painter Molly Manor / Crafted in CarharttMichigan Painter Molly Manor / Crafted in CarharttMichigan Painter Molly Manor / Crafted in CarharttMichigan Painter Molly Manor / Crafted in CarharttMOLLYpainting1Michigan Painter Molly Manor / Crafted in Carhartt


Michigan Jewelry Designer, Kristine Bolhuis

Jewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttJewelry Designer Krtistine Bolhuis / Crafted in CarharttMichigan Jewelry Designer, Kristine Bolhuis, works out of her home studio. The walls are papered with snippets of inspiration and her children’s hand painted masterpieces. There is a methodical delicateness to her work. These lightweight metal constructions have a flexible nature to them, begging you to try out each moving part. Take a closer look at all of her creations here, each one is a tiny piece of wearble sculpture. They’d make a great last minute Christmas gift, don’t you think?

Kristine’s wearing: Jena Nailhead T-Shirt & Series 1889 Slim Double Front Denim Dungaree

A Cold Glass of Kale

Here are a few more shots of Carhartt’s favorite Detroit sisters from DROUGHT while harvesting organic kale at Frog Holler Farm. Kale is an important ingredient in many of their cold-pressed juices. Like the Green #1, made of chard, cabbage, apple, celery, kale, and lemon. Or the Green #3, made of apple, kale, celery, lemon, and ginger.

Take a look at their menu and see what other organic goodness goes into their products.

DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt
Julie is wearing the newest version of the Carhartt Women’s Signature T-Shirt, available next spring. If you can’t wait until then, check this out.
DROUGHTDROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt  / Crafted in Carhartt
DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt
Caitlin is also wearing the Signature Tee and Sandstone Overalls, available next spring. If you want to get your hands on a similar pair now, take a look at this.
DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt
Jenny is wearing the Carhartt Women’s Relaxed-Fit Sandstone Kane Dungaree. Grab a pair for yourself here.
30 EasDROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt t Hubbard  Chicago  Illinois  60611  USA DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt
Jessie is wearing Carhartt Women’s Force Performance Quarter-Zip Shirt, capable of wicking sweat and fighting stains and odor. See more like it here.
DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt DROUGHT / Crafted in Carhartt
And don’t forget, good food comes from good places and good people.

DROUGHT in the Rain

Cold-pressed juice masters, the James sisters of DROUGHT, are one Carhartt’s favorite families. The Crafted in Carhartt darlings know what it means to put your heart and soul into work and reap some major results.

Three to five pounds of fresh organic produce go into every bottle. Nothing but the best fruits and veggies comprise their unique recipes— that means no added sugar or water, just straight up real food.

Last week, Jenny, Jessie, Julie, and Caitlin got to take the Carhartt 2016 Spring Line out for a spin while picking vegetables at Frog Holler Farm. Come rain or shine, there’s work to be done.
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Jessie is wearing the Force Equator Jacket. It is constructed from Storm Defender material, which means you’re gonna stay dry in even the heaviest of rain. To top it off, the Force Equator Jacket has been bonded with FastDry, a quick wicking technology, so you can finish the job with protection from the elements and sweat. (The island blue color Jessie is wearing will be available next spring.) 
DROUGHT in the Rain / Crafted in Carhartt
DROUGHT in the Rain / Crafted in Carhartt
Julie is wearing the Rockford Windbreaker. It is also outfitted with Rain Defender. This jacket has a lighter feel to it, great for a windy but temperate day on the job. (The burnt coral color Julie is wearing will be available next spring.)
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Jenny is wearing the Mountrail Jacket. Its waterproof breathable membrane is made of Storm. You’ll feel snug in the complete coverage with adjustable cuffs and fully taped seams. DROUGHT in the Rain / Crafted in CarharttDROUGHT in the Rain / Crafted in CarharttDROUGHT in the Rain / Crafted in Carhartt