What originally brought you to farming?
My neighbor always had a very vegetable plot next to my backyard, and as kids we loved to gather and eat the raspberries he grew. His father was a farmer and he used to teach us about the vegetables and the animals that lived in and around the garden. I knew most farmers were men, but he always made me feel like it’s something a woman could do.
Where else have you farmed?
When I lived in the UK I helped manage a one acre community garden space of raised beds, where I had two plots and cultivated in the common and neglected areas. I also grew at my home and on my windowsills! Here in the US, I worked as the farmhand at LCF in 2017 and worked for The Food Project on their 33-acre Baker’s Bridge farm in Lincoln MA.
Why work and volunteer with a community farm?
I believe that our food system essentially alienates us from our food. We are a society addicted to food that comes processed, packaged in plastic, cultivated and harvested by people who we never know and who are no doubt very exploited. Learning to grow food, whether by coming to learn at the farm or growing your own garden, overcomes that alienation. At the farm and in your garden, you can see the ecological processes of your food, and when you harvest and consume it you know for sure its story. When you support a community farm like LCF, you create meaningful jobs in your community and know that the food you eat comes from the very same place you live. I think this is powerful.
What is the hardest thing about farming and greatest reward?
I had to tackle many learning curves this year, but the biggest puzzle is balancing the production of food with effective stewardship of the soil. This year, John Bailey and I worked hard to cover crop our fields to enrich the soil, and nothing has pleased me more than looking up the farm and seeing a healthy cover crop growing this fall.
What value does a community farm have in agricultural community?
Littleton is a right-to-farm community, and while I believe people can and should do much at their own homes to grow food and raise livestock, the amount of food that can be sustainably grown on local farms is a huge part of creating a productive and just food system. The greatest threat to our food system in New England is the development of agricultural lands into estates of single-family homes. It’s something I’ve seen in my own hometown on the North Shore, as small farms I grew up around were bought up and developed. What many don’t realize is that these homes are now sitting on (and likely polluting) valuable agricultural soil in a world where arable soil is quickly depleting. Reserving these lands for responsible and sustainable agriculture is not just important to for look and feel of a town, but to the health of our local ecosystems and the strength of our food-system.
Given the pandemic what are the biggest challenges to micro farming?
LCF relies so much on volunteers who come to the farm to help with our cultivation. While farms are open-air spaces where people can technically physically distance, the reality is that much farm work is done in close quarters. Wearing masks in the summer heat is also certainly no fun, but we developed protocols and worked hard to stick to them. This year our volunteers gave more than their time and energy; they came willing to take risks during a global pandemic to help get food to the communities where its needed. We had to think carefully about our practices, and are happy to say that no one got sick coming to the farm this year.
Given the pandemic why are local farms critical to the food supply?
I’m sure we can all recall the empty shelves and aisles in our grocery stores last spring. While much of this was due to short-lived panic-buying, the first weeks of lockdown witnessed significant disruptions in our food supply-chains. Farm workers are essential workers, but this meant many were going to work (for very low wages) and exposing themselves to the virus. The irony of all this is that as commerce slowed, many farmers were left with viable crops but nowhere to send them, leading to mass crop destruction even as lines at food pantries around the country lengthened. What many may not realize is that the value of crops are often tied up in complicated financialized securities, such that stock-market crashes like we experienced resulted in harvests becoming negatively valued. All this shows the inadequacy of an over-stretched, fragmented food system. It’s designed to make profits, not feed people. Local food-systems are not only more responsive to economic disruption, they can get crops to where they’ll be eaten and stimulate local economies by creating commerce and jobs.
How can people help support non profit and for-profit farms?
I think there are two key ways you can support local agriculture. First, as a consumer, you can buy, eat, and donate to local agriculture. But the second thing you can—and should do!—is hold our local politicians accountable for resourcing farms, protecting arable land, and making food accessible to all.
What is your favorite vegetable?
Hands-down the eggplant, a.k.a. (for my UK mates) the aubergine. I love its nuttiness and it’s a wonderful versatile veg to cook with. There are also many different varieties—including a white variety, which I’ve never grown but intend to try one day!