Interview with Sara Kallock, LCF, Board of Directors

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!

 

 

Littleton Community Farm launches GoFundMe Campaign

Littleton Community Farm (LCF) was founded in 2013 to connect people to the land, food, and each other.  Our mission is to reduce food insecurity in our area, provide farm-based education, and be a place for community connection. Our target population is low to moderate-income households in Nashua Valley and the gateway city of Lowell, MA.  The farm is located in Littleton, MA; the farm leases 3 acres from our generous partner, the New England Forestry Foundation.

Food security for our most vulnerable populations, already a serious concern before COVID-19, has exploded over the past year. Children and the elderly, especially those in our minority communities, are most at risk. In July of 2020, The Department of Unemployment Assistance reported in Middlesex County, 13.7% of households are experiencing food insecurity.  Food pantries are struggling to meet the demand for help and are pleading for healthy, locally grown food to assist those in desperate need.  The COVID-19 crisis has exposed both the fragility of our food system and dramatically increased the number of at-risk and underserved populations.  Having begun a review of our hunger relief and education programs in January, LCF will be expanding efforts to broaden our impact in vulnerable communities with each pound of food we grow. Your gift today will directly increase our capacity to increase the pounds of food grown for others.

COVID-19 has strengthened our resolve to our mission and called us to find new and creative ways to address the food crisis. Given the expected longevity of both unemployment and food insecurity, LCF believes it is imperative to quickly shift production away from our commercial community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and towards existing and new hunger relief programs.  Your support is critical to allowing us to increase pounds of fresh, healthy vegetables grown with best organic practices to families in need this year and into the future. Generous gifts from donors like you are critical to covering the hunger relief program.

We have a strong record of success. Since 2015 we have grown and donated 21,500 lbs. of food for food-insecure families.  LCF is unique in that our sole purpose is to donate produce– donations are not a byproduct of production; rather, the primary purpose of growing. Low-income residents who seek support at food pantries have less access to fresh vegetables and fruit.  Pantries have limited refrigeration and resources. Pantries are heavily weighted with shelf-stable products, many of which are high-calorie, high-sugar foods.  By providing more fresh local grown vegetables to food pantries, LCF increases the amount of healthy food consumed and decreases the need for pantries to spend limited funds on purchasing perishable goods.

Today, your gift will build the organization and the growing operations to distribute increased pounds of food to those who desperately need it the most. LCF is the only nonprofit farm in Nashoba Valley who grows directly for hunger relief.

Please help us today by donating to thru GoFundMe

Donations to Littleton Community Farm are tax-deductible. We are a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. You can write to us at Littleton Community Farm PO. Box 1186, Littleton, MA 01460, or contact us online at LittletonCommunityFarm.org/contact

Job Opening ~ Farm Manager

About Littleton Community Farm  

Littleton Community Farm is a small farm in Littleton, MA whose mission is to reduce food insecurity regionally, provide farm-based education, and be a place for community connection. We aim to inspire through hands-on exposure to agriculture and growing for our entire community.

Job Description

Littleton Community Farm is looking for an experienced and committed candidate to fill the role of Farm Manager. Reporting to our Board of Directors, this person will oversee and run all day-to-day farming operations on our three-acre lot. These include the mission-oriented work of donating food to our hunger-relief partners, a 20-week, approximately 75-member seasonal CSA, annual spring seedling sale, robust stewardship of the soil, and interfacing with the Littleton community. Our produce is grown with best organic practices. The ideal candidate will possess strong experience and knowledge of sustainable production, CSA management, experience managing and working with staff and volunteers, a strong work ethic, and an aptitude for community engagement.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities

  1. Oversee and manage:
    • All produce and production on the 3-acre farm, with strong attention to nutrient management and conservation goals, and in keeping with best organic practices. Duties and expectations include:
      • Planning a budget in consultation with the Board of Directors, for which the Farm Manager will be primarily responsible.
      • Planning and managing a 20-week (June-October), approximately 75-member CSA, including coordinating customer communications, in conjunction with other staff and volunteers.
      • Planning production and budget to meet food donation objectives and coordinate distribution to local partners.
      • Planning and managing an annual spring seedling sale.
    • Mowing and maintaining fields adjacent to farm fields, including a newly added lot intended for educational use.
    • Maintaining an inventory of farm equipment, and storing materials and equipment with a view towards safety, general tidiness, and creating spaces appropriate for community engagement.
    • Farm maintenance, including machinery, cropping, and pest management systems, as well as basic maintenance, such as plumbing, electrical, and light construction work as needed.
    • Using and maintaining irrigation systems, including creating and managing a watering schedule for greenhouse, hoo- house, and production fields (this includes hand-watering as needed).
    • Maintain a system of record-keeping of operations management, such as past crop-plans.
  2. Managing staff and volunteers, interfacing with the community, and reporting to the board.
    • Hiring and managing an additional farm staff.
    • Coordinating volunteer staff.
    • Reporting to and supporting the work of the Board of Directors on a monthly basis.
    • Acting as an ambassador of the farm to visitors, passersby, local organizations, and partners at all times.
  3. Support LCF’s annual funding and execution, specifically regarding grant-raising for farm operations.

Required qualifications and experiences:

 

  1. A minimum of 3 years of farm/greenhouse management or 5 years of farm work experience. Community-farm experience a plus.
  2. Excellent communication, collaboration, and leadership skills, including a proven track record of managing personnel.
  3. Demonstrated record of planning and organization for agricultural production.
  4. Ability to work well with a variety of customers and community members.
  5. Experience with operating, maintaining, and conducting basic repairs on machinery and power equipment.
  6. Knowledge of the principles of using cover crops, soil biology, low-till crop production, permaculture, growing perennials, utilizing living mulches, composting, soil testing, and/or other ecological/organic growing methods.
  7. A willingness and ability to work outdoors in all types of weather, under potentially strenuous conditions.
  8. Timely and proper etiquette in email communications.
  9. A detail-oriented approach, with considerable attention to order, cleanliness, and an ongoing commitment to improving systems and practices.
  10. A desire to grow, process, and distribute produce of the highest nutritional, culinary, and food-safety quality.

 

Desired qualifications and experiences:

 

  1. A bachelor’s or associate’s degree in agricultural or environmental science, or a related field.
  2. Community farm experience and/or non-profit experience.
  3. Experience in identifying and pursuing public and/or private funding opportunities pertaining to farm operations.
  4. Experience working with local and state regulatory bodies on issues relating to conservation, food safety, organic practice, and food policy.
  5. Connections to and/or knowledge of regional agricultural associations, such as NOFA (LCF will pay for membership), and/or the wider agricultural community in this region.
  6. Building/construction experience.
  7. Knowledge of Box, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  8. Interest in developing skills pertaining to non-profit development and fundraising.
  9. Experience working with culturally diverse communities and/or speaking languages other than English is a plus.

 

Other Requirements

  1. A valid driving license.
  2. Ability to lift a minimum of 50 pounds.
  3. Cell phone communication.
  4. Reliable transportation.
  5. Satisfactory CORI and reference checks.

 

TIME REQUIREMENTS

 

This is a full-time regular job. Hours will follow a grower’s schedule, with longer hours in the growing season and shorter hours in the off-season. Some evenings and weekends are required during the growing season, occasional board meetings, and for special events.

 

SALARY AND BENEFITS

  1. This is a salaried position that will provide a competitive salary based on the market and the applicant’s experience, among other factors. Typically, an annual evaluation will be conducted, at which time compensation levels are reviewed.
  2. A stipend towards MassHealth.
  3. Two weeks paid vacation, paid holidays, and 40 hours a year paid sick time.
  4. Access to 1 share of vegetables and flowers grown on the farm.
  5. In consultation with the Board of Directors Personal, professional development opportunities, including opportunities to develop skills in agricultural production (such as paid time to attend the annual NOFA conference), non-profit development, and farm-based education.

To apply, please email a one-page cover letter and max-two-page CV with contact information of three references to sarak@littletoncommunityfarm.org by 5 PM on November 5. Please also forward any questions or concern to Sara Kallock at this this same address.