A Vision of Community Farming

This week marked a new beginning for long-time Board of Directors member Ned Rossiter. After almost thirty years of serving the Land’s Sake community, Ned was inducted as our very first Emeritus Board Member. He generously shares his view of how the farm operates today in the short piece below, A Vision of Community Farming

toddlerThe visitor to the farmstand on a still summer morning pauses to take in the blaze of color in a field of well cultivated flowers next to the road. A few parents and children move slowly through the rows cutting stems to take home, perhaps, or to give to someone. In the morning haze before the heat of the day sets in there is a calmness and serenity to the farm which people find compelling. Later a breeze will set in making the shade of the maple tree next to the farmstand cool and pleasant even in the worst heat. The farmstand features a glorious display of tomatoes, greens, carrots, and flowers. Bottles of farm produced honey and maple syrup are displayed and a notice board nearby has information about the farm and postings about how things grow and advertising for other events. People stay to chat about the different varieties of produce or to share recipes or just to catch up.

The stand will be busy all day, and there are always people sitting at the tables under the big maple. Some come with children to watch the hens, the goats or the bee hives; others just to hang out or chat with farm staff, or to cool off after some berry picking in the hot sun. Two board members arrive at the stand to pick up some produce and check in. They chat easily with staff and talk about how the season is going. One of them needs a lot of produce for a dinner event she is catering. Conversation turns to recipes for a potluck supper that staff and board members are pulling together for CSA shareholders. There will be a good turnout.

volunteer for farmThis morning middle school children are arriving for the Greenpower summer farm program. They have their own small garden site on the farm and have grown some very good produce while learning about how things grow. Today they are organizing for a trip to a food bank nearby where they will donate the crops they have grown. Students have learned the names of the varieties of tomatoes and peppers and greens they are selling. They can talk knowingly to customers about sustainable agriculture, soil maintenance and organic principles. The children go home at night and ask their parents why they buy produce grown in Mexico. The answers do not satisfy.

The visitor notices the emphasis on youth at the farm. There are high school and college age students weeding the greens nearby, and the staff at the farmstand organizing their day’s work are for the most part young and eager. Yet they mix easily with older staff some of whom are more elderly volunteers. The farm manager directs the activities for the day. The tractor needs a new belt, the new strawberry plants need irrigation, a couple of fields in town need mowing, and picking needs to be done for the CSA shareholders coming tomorrow afternoon. Late this afternoon the farm manager will attend the brief meeting with the small board farm sub committee to discuss how things are going and to do some low level troubleshooting. The list of things to be done today is daunting, but there is a focus on priorities and soon staff are off to their assigned tasks.

pyo flowersThis morning the manager of the education program is meeting at the farm site with a group from two churches in Mattapan who want to bring children in their summer camp program out to the farm for two days of instruction and activity. The undertaking is funded by a grant. A team of educators from the board and the staff has a curriculum ready for the children all tried and tested by the many school age groups who come to the farm throughout the year.

After a quick trip over to additional fields on the north side of town to check in with the farm crew and to see how things are going, the Executive Director heads over to Town Hall to review some contracts with a member of the Conservation Commission. One has to do with ongoing Town support for produce deliveries to food pantries in Boston, the other concerns funding for the education program. Tonight he will be the keynote speaker at a regional meeting for directors of community farms focused on the challenges of invasive plants and diseases to small farms across all six New England states. It will end up being a twelve-hour day for him.

Later in the day a small group of foundation executives are meeting with board members at the farm to explore financial support for restoration of some historic gardens and orchards nearby. As they pore over old maps and aerial photographs, the conversation turns to the social benefits of the project and the projected costs. Grant money for landscape restoration would greatly expand the educational program opportunities at the farm. The discussions are relaxed, but productive.

So it will be a typical busy summer day on the farm, and the visitor leaves thinking that the small farm stand is indeed the center of many wonderful things in Weston and in the whole Boston area.

–Ned Rossiter,Board of Directors Emeritus