Sunday, August 10, 2008

Visiting my CSA farm

While I have been trying to deal with my weekly influx of vegetables and herbs from my CSA share, I have also been wondering what the farm looks like, how big his operation is and how he got started farming organically. Seeing my farmer's plot was of special interest to me for two reasons: 1) to compare and contrast with the traditional farm where I grew up and 2) to get ideas for my own future gardening endeavors. One part of the CSA experience is touring the farm so I asked my farmer if I could see his place and he gladly set aside some time for me.

Farmer K. welcomed my curiosity and was happy to show me around his farm. The first time I met him, he completely disrupted my expectations. I thought I would meet a farmer, older than me. Turns out K. is younger than me, nearly a decade younger. Oddly, that made me more interested in finding out why he farms organically. Not many younger people are thinking "Hm, I want to farm" as a career option.

The farm was small and quaint. The some of the buildings were original to the farm, which was established in the late 1800s. K. was quite proud of his farm's history even if he was a new farmer. (This was his second year farming.) However, he had worked on other organic farms in the area so had some idea what was involved with organic farming and the issues (and promises) of certified organic produce. One thing I can say: organic or traditional farming, there are many regulations involved especially if the organic farmer wants to be certified!

Farmer K. farms about one acre, tucked along one side of his property perpendicular to the road with a large hoop house right next to the farmed land,and a second section next to and behind the hill barn and shed. This back part was previously used by cows and horses so it had some decent fertility. Other parts needed more compost to supplement the soil. I was amazed by all the plants he fit in the space and by all the trellising for the tomatoes. He ran twine between tall metal posts and then down to each tomato plant. I would rather have tomato cages seeing the length of string or twine needed, but less storage space required for the twine certainly. He was planning for his fall plantings with some space cleared out for winter squash as well as second planting of broccoli, lettuce and root vegetables. He was also growing many things I had never encountered like fennel and chocolate peppers.

Farmer K. was very friendly and did not mind all questions I asked. When asked why organic farming, he said he was raised with mindfulness of food and how it was grown, and enjoyed cooking. He was raised in a less traditional fashion, homeschooled, then attended college for breadth of classwork (he mentioned no degree but focused on biology) before starting a coop in the town I currently live, buying food in bulk for its members. He worked on a local organic farm before striking out on his own. Farmer K. also discussed his plans for the future, namely being certified organic for the area CSA organization, getting into the big (and well-attended) farmer's market in the state, expanding his operation to at least 10 more acres (with additional employees), and renovating the hill barn for a store to directly sell to customers. One thing you can say about my CSA farmer: he does not lack ambition.

I was glad to see a larger scale organic farm in action. Since I only deal with ~100 square feet, anything is larger to me. His farm was a quiet country retreat and a nice place to raise children. (He has a two-year-old daughter.) I have a better appreciation for the space in which my CSA produce is grown and the producer that brings it to me. With his energy, enthusiasm and drive, I am sure Farmer K. will be doing well for years. He is forming connections in his immediate community as well in the community of certified organic farmers. I appreciated the time he took to give me the tour as well as answering all my questions.

Will you visit your CSA farm?

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