Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ariel at the Farm School

On Monday I made a trip up to the Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts- about an hour drive northeast of Northampton. The Farm School runs several different programs including a year long apprenticeship, a middle-school called Chicken Coop School, and a program where middle-schoolers can come and work on the farm for a few days.

This is Ariel, an out queer and trans farm apprentice at the Farm School. The apprenticeship, formerly known as the Practical Training Program at Maggie's Farm is a year long apprenticeship geared toward giving student farmers direct farming experience and practical skills that will empower and prepare them for establishing their own farming endeavors. Ariel is no stranger to the farming life- he grew up spending his summers working on a horse farm in rural Maryland. Here he is, picking beans. 
The Farm School has 160 beautiful acres of diverse veggies, fruit, pasture, and forest. Here is some baby lettuce. 
I filled my belly with these perfectly ripe raspberries. 

                            Cows giving me the stare down. 
I think this lone sheep was having an identity crisis. 
Beautiful draft horses. 
Apprentices get to grow the food that they eat in this garden, located right beside the farmhouse. As part of the program, apprentices are encouraged experiment and to take on independent study projects. Ariel is focusing on learning about and working on building accessible gardens and pick-your own sites. I thought this was seriously cool, and much needed. Keep up the good work Ariel! You can also follow his blog here

And some shots from the road: 
Farmland Forever!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Montview Neighborhood Farm

Welcome to Montview Neighborhood Farm in Northampton, Massachusetts. This 3-acre hand cultivated organic farm is located on city conservation land which is about a 5 minute walk from downtown and is situated within city limits hilariously next to a flood dike. Northampton is notorious for being a friendly place for lesbians and queers of all kinds so it wasn't a huge surprise to find a farm run by queers here. The farm is run by Lisa, Molly, and Paige. 
  This is Paige, one of the farmers. She showed me around and gave an excellent scything demonstration.
This is Lisa D., another Montview farmer taking care of chickens. 
The farm has been around for 4 years and produces a diverse array of veggies which they sell through their sliding scale CSA program. They have CSA pickups at their farm stand twice a week, as you can see here. This farm is an outstanding model of a truly local food system- most of their CSA members live in the surrounding neighborhood and literally walk to the farm to pick up their shares. I was at the farm stand interviewing Lisa, one of the farmers, and was delighted to see that as folks came by to get their veggies they had real conversations about the food and other things. It's clear that the Montview CSA members know their farmers.  One of the members was using Montview produce for baby food and had used it as dog food in the past too!

Montview looking good. 

Here is a shot of some of their perennial beds. While they focus on 
growing vegetables and herbs for their CSA, they have a spectacular 
array of perennials planted on their land. They use
permaculture, or the practice of designing agricultural systems to 
mimic relationships found in nature. Or, as Paige quoted Bill Mollison
one of Permaculture's founders, "It's a rational mans
approach to not shitting in his bed." Well said, Bill. Dave Jacke, who 
wrote the book Edible Forest Gardens (a permaculture bible to some)
also manages a few of the perennial beds at Montview.

A lovely asian pear tree that will be incorporated into the CSA.

The farmers and I talked about how the farm reflected the queerness of the people who were creating the space-many of the beds are not perfectly shaped nor in straight lines, they work collectively and at a pace that feels human to them, they aren't out on the farm every day. In short, they don't represent what one might think of as a typical farm or what farming has meant historically. Montview is also located on land contiguous with another small organic farm that from my bird's eye view appeared physically very traditional. It was an interesting juxtaposition to see the two farms next to each other.

                           Kale with Boc Choi understory. 

        Chickens in the old strawberry patch, offering fertilization. 
                         Onions ready to pop. 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Justin and Jackie redefining farming in Northampton

Meet Justin (left) and Jackie (right), two lovely queers and friends of mine that are serious about growing their own food. While they don't have what you might think of as a stereotypical farm, they grow an amazing garden at their home as well as 4 plots at the Northampton Community Garden in Northampton, Massachusetts. This project has really made me question what it means to be a farmer- if you are growing most of your food but you don't have land are you still a farmer? If  your are maintaining your food sovereignty by growing the majority of what you consume in a community garden or in your own back yard, does this mean you aren't a farmer? Jackie and Justin are two self-identified queer farmers that are clearly challenging the stereotypes around what farmers look and act like, as well as where and how they grow food. 

They showed me around the Northampton Community Garden, which was one of the most beautiful that I have ever been to. There were people growing all kinds of fun things, like grapes, and brussel sprouts, and these amazing dark red and orange Zinnia's I had never seen before. 


Here's Jackie at one of their plots with a giant hops plant in the background. 

Egyptian Walking onions.  

Justin and Jackie harvesting some herbs. 

Justin and Jackie are partners and co-conspirators that have always been inspirations to me- living in Western Massachusetts where the growing season is short, they take full advantage of the few months they have and pump out a seriously large amount of food. They do a lot of food preservation- and have a whole pantry stock full (still in July!) of food that they grew and canned. Justin said that they have at least one thing that they grew with every meal, year round.

Some photos from the garden.

Oh, and check out these wild looking cabbages I spotted at the Northampton Farmers' Market! 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Queer Bike Farmin' in Vermont

This is Rebecca Lay of 10 Speed Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont. We met up on Friday morning as she was harvesting turnips and salad greens for restaurant deliveries. Here she is cutting greens. 

                                     Baby kale for the salad.

More seedlings just coming up....

Rebecca rents the land for 10 Speed Farm at a former dairy farm up in the hills of Brattleboro. Rebecca has been farming on this land for one year, and this is her first season farming full time organic diverse veggies and herbs. She relies mostly on hand cultivation and has a rototiller, but because of the heavy rain in the Northeast this year she hasn't used it. 

Rebecca runs a modified CSA- every Monday she sends out a list to her members of what she has available on the farm that week and they let her know by Wednesday morning which is pick up day what they want. 

Washing veggies.

She also sells to local restaurants in town and delivers by bicycle.  Here she is about to head down the hill to town to make a delivery. 

These white egg turnips were spicy!

Go eggplant go!

The first cherries of the season- cool weather and lots of rain have held back the tomato harvest this year.

 There were some beautiful old structures on the land from the old dairy farm days.

The farm across the way.