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Gabe Kramer packs a lunch for his 70 hour week at a local
dirt plant. The Col­legian | Emma Cummins

In the fall of 2020, Gabe Kramer ’20 woke up every day at 5 a.m., drank his coffee, packed his lunch, and went up the hill to start studying for the day. Now, Kramer wakes up at 5 a.m., drinks his coffee, packs his lunch, and heads to the dirt factory. 

Equipped with his steel-toed boots, gloves, Carhartt belt, hard hat, and safety vest, Kramer works a 70-hour week at a local dirt factory after grad­u­ating early last semester.  

“One time Gabe came home from work and I thought he had been growing some stubble,” his friend and housemate senior Henry Eising said. “Turns out what I had sur­mised was a 5 o’clock shadow was only dirt.” 

After grad­u­ating, Kramer said he didn’t want to leave Hillsdale because it had “turned into home base for him.” So, he decided to look for a manual labor job. 

“I wanted a phys­i­cally demanding job,” Kramer said. “Some­thing where I was going to be working all day and coming home dog tired.” 

Kramer will be attending medical school at the Indiana School of Med­icine in the fall and also getting married in January of 2021. The dirt factory job will help him get a leg up, Kramer said. 

“It’s also great money. Thirty hours of overtime every week,” he said. “I’m just trying to save money to get off on the right foot in mar­riage and medical school.” 

Kramer’s job mostly involves working in a bagging line or stacking massive totes of dif­ferent kinds of dirt. 

“They take all kinds of soil com­po­nents, whether bark or peat or pearlite or fer­tilizer, mix them together, bag them and sell potting soil for retail or to nurs­eries and green­houses as high-end pro­fes­sional level stuff,” he said. “I’m also doing a bunch of their safety paperwork and working as a sub­stitute in their quality lab.” 

Stacking totes, Kramer said, requires more skill than the normal assembly line work. 

“I spend the vast majority of my time stacking them because I do them right. I did it for 12 hours straight today. A machine picks it up, I put the other one in. It’s very dan­gerous,” Kramer said. “It’s kind of geo­metric. You have to have a basic under­standing of the center of gravity, the way mate­rials are going to com­press. That’s why I really like stacking the totes because the other jobs are just pushing buttons. I can always do better, turn it into a com­pe­tition. There’s some kind of mental engagement.” 

Kramer’s work schedule is 12 hours Monday through Friday and 10 hours on Sat­urday. Though Kramer had worked a factory job before, he had never done 70 hours per week. 

“That first day I was so tired when I got home. The first day was espe­cially dif­ficult,” Kramer said. “I’m so much stronger than when I started. I can keep up now. I can keep up very well. Turnover is insane. There’s not many people who work 70 hours week after week, year after year.” 

Seventy hour work weeks tend to isolate people, but Kramer has made an inten­tional effort to spend con­sistent time with his fiancee, senior Clara Beshoar, and practice and sing two arias in the upcoming college per­for­mance of Handel’s ora­torio, “Messiah.”  

“Even when he was still in school, he was com­mitted to a ton of clubs, choir, and taking a ton of credits,” Beshoar said. “He is really good about planning ahead. That’s one thing I really admire about him.” 

Beshoar said spending Sat­urday nights together are essential for the couple. 

“He def­i­nitely is very inten­tional about sched­uling time to be with me. He takes me out on a date every Sat­urday evening. That’s non-nego­tiable time,” she said. 

Kramer’s job has been good prepa­ration for the future for both of them, according to Beshoar.

“It’s turned out to be pretty good practice for us as a couple espe­cially with him going to medical school,” she said. “The free time he has now is going to be similar to medical school. We’re learning how to be as inde­pendent of each other as pos­sible.” 

If asked to describe the factory, Kramer said it’s not the most cheerful environment.

“It’s a little bleak in there,” he said. “There’s not much sun­shine, which is why I like when I can go outside and sample mate­rials. We keep it pretty clean for a dirt factory, but it gets really dusty some­times.” 

However, Kramer said that the time spent in a gray, dust filled factory has made him see the world a little dif­fer­ently. 

“Since I’ve started working there, my rela­tionship with tech­nology is so much better,” Kramer said. “Whenever I walk outside, I notice how blue the sky is. When I’m at the gas station, I think, ‘This is beau­tiful.’ I think it’s because I’m not on my darn phone so much.” 

Kramer said most days when he gets back from work, he greets his house­mates with a, ‘Hello, kids’ like he’s a dad getting back from work.

“I don’t like that,” Eising said while laughing. “We get it Gabe, you grad­uated early.”