Connecting to the Source: theMOVE

“Sometimes I wish a school bus full of volunteers would pull into the farm and offer to help,”  said one tired family farmer to another.

theMOVE is a new organization with a mission and work that will make just about every farmer I know smile, including the one mentioned above.  theMOVE organizes and leads reflective farm-volunteer workdays for diverse groups throughout the Boston area.  This is “get dirty” volunteer work with a healthy dose of thoughtful conversation about the social and natural systems that sustain us: Conversations about our food system, food deserts, sustainable agriculture and the working conditions and wages of farm workers.

Dave Madan, theMove founder (and Shared Harvest CSAer!) has created an organization that helps eaters and farmers bridge the gap between table and field. Thanks Dave! theMOVE is holding a fundraiser this Saturday. Check it out.

Why Farm?

A friend asked me why I love to farm.

I love farming because it’s hard (physically) and challenging (intellectually) and it’s political and social and fun (except when it’s snowing, and then it’s an adventure). Unlike so many other occupations where compromises must be made, organic farming is totally consistent with my most deeply held values. What’s not to love?

I wonder why other farmers love to farm. An article on the CRAFT web site summarizes a conversation farmers-in-training had about this topic a few years ago. Here’s the link: Why Farm?

Save the date! Spread the word!

What: A CSA Farm Share Fair in Arlington! CSA farmers will be on hand to tell you how their CSA works, what they are growing this year and how you can get a share of their harvest.

When: Thursday, February 25, 6:00-7:30 PM

Where: 50 Paul Revere Road, Arlington, MA at the Park Avenue Congregational Church in Arlington Heights, the Parish Hall.

Who: Over twenty CSA farms have been invited to participate. Most of these farms distribute CSA shares in Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Lexington, parts of Cambridge and Somerville, Medford, Watertown, Winchester, and other nearby towns. Several are community farms and provide educational programming for kids and adults during the growing season.

Why: If you haven’t lined up your CSA share yet, the Farm Share Fair is a great place to learn about what’s available. You will be able to sign up for summer and winter CSA shares at the Fair. For those of you who have already purchased your 2010 CSA share, this is a great opportunity to say hello to your farmer. We are also inviting farmers to bring and sell their produce to the Fair, so you may want to bring your shopping bags!

Want to help? The Farm Share Fair committee is looking for volunteers who want to help make this Fair a success. Contact GrettaAnderson [at] earthlink.net if you’d like to help in any way. A planning meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, January 31.

Stay tuned. I will send out more information, including a list of the farms and organizations who will be attending, in the next week or so.

Nourish

I’ve not yet figured out how to cook for myself as much as I’d like during the growing season. I’m surrounded by all those lovely vegetables day-in and day-out, but just can’t find the time or energy to cook much. It doesn’t help that since I’ve begun farming I’ve become a bit of a food snob. So, not just any restaurant will do.

Big Fresh in Framingham and Kitchen on Common in Belmont are restaurants that I love. They serve good food, locally-sourced when possible and the owners are sincere in their commitment to sustainable agriculture. Big Fresh has been the site of many farmer lunch meetings. Kitchen on Common a place where CSA shareholders have gathered to learn about preparing their seasonal veggies. Both are affordable on a farmer’s income.

I just discovered Nourish, a new restaurant in Lexington. Nourish serves the kind of food I’d cook for myself. The first time I visited Nourish I had the quesdilla appetizer (heavenly) followed by pan-seared tempeh (so good!). Saturday night I had delicious black bean soup, a Caesar salad and a side order of collard greens that were out-of-this-world tasty. Husband had cod cakes that he’s still talking about. Nourish meets my farmer income criteria AND it isn’t even a mile from my house.

So, maybe I don’t need to find more time to cook. Truth be told, I’m not really a very good cook. It’s probably best that I spend my time planting, weeding and harvesting vegetables, preferably while driving some kind of tractor 🙂

And the winners are ….

One hundred and ninety winter shareholders took part in the Belmont CSA’s Winter Ride Share program. These folks walked, biked, car pooled, participated in driving cooperatives or had their CSA share delivered by the New Amsterdam Project. That’s 190 shareholders out of 300 total for a whopping 63% of shareholders. Wow. Everyone — yes, every single shareholder! — did what they could to reduce traffic congestion and make the distribution run smoothly. Rather than having 150 cars pull onto the farm at 10:00 AM on distribution day, we saw approximately 80 cars arrive, pretty evenly spaced, throughout the five hours of each distribution day.

Here’s how the Ride Share program works. Shareholders agree to have their address and contact information placed on a private (ie, available to shareholders only) map. A link to the map is sent to shareholders and they are encouraged to contact neighboring shareholders and arrange to have more than one CSA share travel home in a car. Help was provided: Shareholders Allison Goodwin and Kristin Bray answered questions about the Ride Share program. They also helped connect shareholders who had difficulty finding a Ride Share partner. Enticements were offered: Ride Sharers were entered into a raffle for prizes like gift certificates to Stone Hearth Pizza, Kitchen on Common, Formaggio Kitchen, and Wool Cycles potholders. Subliminal suggestions to Ride Share were embedded in seemingly innocuous emails. Enthusiastic praise was showered on each Ride Sharer when they arrived at the farm by a cheerleading squad who delivered a special farm cheer. (Okay, those last two things aren’t true:-)

Initially, I developed the Ride Share program because of concerns about traffic in the neighborhood. The farm is in a very residential location. The influx of 150 cars over the 5 hour winter distribution period could easily upset the peaceful character of the neighborhood and make it difficult to continue offering Winter Shares. Of course there were other reasons for the Ride Share program. Reduction of the carbon footprint associated with the CSA appealed me. I also equated less traffic with a reduced risk of car accidents.

Shareholders have highlighted two benefits I had never considered.

First, many shareholders appreciated having their CSA share delivered to them or dropped off in their neighborhood. I like to think that the folks waiting at home for their share were especially appreciative when the wind chill factor was high or when it was raining.

Second, people met their neighbors, and in many cases, were pleased to get to know them. In some cases, fabulous potluck dinners resulted. In other instances, neighbors were able to deliver shares to neighbors who because of urgent business, religious observance or over-scheduled lives, just couldn’t make it to the farm on the distribution day.

So, who won the raffle prizes? The winners, drawn at random from among all the shareholders who participated in the Ride Share program are:
Wool Cycles Potholders: Meg Muckenhoupt; Matthew Bronski & Erin Graham
Kitchen on Common gift certificates: Aaron Kagan; Diane & Russell Barrios
Formaggio Kitchen gift certificate: Gale Pryor
Stone Hearth Pizza gift certificate: Jennifer Nahn

Everyone got a little thank you in the form of a bumper sticker from CISA (this is a fabulous organization that really knows how to support local agriculure) that reads, Be a Local Hero, buy locally grown.

I love other people’s garbage

You know those wooden boxes that grapes are shipped in? The boxes that are the perfect size for displaying CSA veggies? The boxes that, when spiffed up a bit, make really nice containers for tomatoes sold to high end retail shops? Well, I was driving home from the farm tonight and spotted at least 75 of these sweet little boxes. They had been left on the curb for the garbage guys to pick up tomorrow. And the back of my truck was completely empty. It isn’t now 🙂

Getting good stuff for free makes me almost as happy as eating a good tomato.

Recommended Summer Reading

Every week I read two farm newsletters, those of Waltham Fields Community Farm and Brookfield Farm. The essays written by farmers Amanda Cather (Waltham) and Dan Kaplan (Brookfield) are inspiring and educational. I also like to visit the Boston Localvore site to see what they’re up to.

With some trepidation, I read Veggie Notes, the UMass Extension weekly newsletter. It contains valuable information for farmers in Massachusetts. I’m always a bit on edge for a day or two after I read Veggie Notes. It’s not one of those ‘feel-good’, inspirational newsletters. It carries reports about the appearance and migration of various vegetable pests and diseases. The damage they do is documented in graphic photos. (Best to not eat breakfast while reading this newsletter!) Estimates are given about when the latest pestilence will arrive in eastern Massachusetts. Advice is given to conventional farmers about which fungicide or pesticide to apply. With alarming frequency they tell us, organic growers have few options. Ha! They didn’t read Dan Kaplan’s latest newsletter in which he asks shareholders to pray for lots of sun, heat and no rain for a few days. In Amanda’s newsletter #8, she writes about cabbage root maggot and offers a nice example of another kind of option that organic growers have – understanding and working with nature.

Waltham Fields newsletters,
http://www.communityfarms.org/2008/2008_issue8.htm

Brookfield Farm newsletters,
http://www.brookfieldfarm.org/shoptalk.html

Boston Localvores blog,
http://www.bostonlocalvores.org/

Veggie Notes,
http://www.umassvegetable.org/