40 years of Farm-Based Education

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We dug this video out of the archives and I immediately wanted to share this with others.  This great clip is now over 20 years old and stands as a tribute to the importance of our educational mission that we continue to uphold.

Suggested Pre-Spring Reading and a Great Granola Recipe.

We have seeds pouring in from Johnny’s and Fedco and soil bags stacked high outside of the greenhouse.  We are slated to start our onion seeding next week.  The warmth of the sugar shack is helping Steph and I wake ourselves up for the farm season.  But, oh, there is still time and energy to read!  And time and energy to do other things too, like stay up late and make large batches of granola and then write about it!

Eskdale Farm, by Michael Atkin. Used with permission from the artist.

Books

Joseph is an energetic and enthusiastic employee who is returning to the farm this season as a new Assistant Grower, and he also happens to be a neighbor of mine.  We ran into each other on our snow-cluttered city street a few weeks ago and agreed that we should meet to discuss schedules, and perhaps some pre-season reading.  Before we met, I had a short list of books and articles in mind that I would suggest to him.  All of them were technical.  About soil health, weed management, nutrient cycling.  This should get him up to speed, as much as can be expected, I thought.

It occurred to me, as we sat together, that Joseph needed to read something that would get him fired up for his return.  He needed to reawaken what made him want to rejoin our crew and farm again, to get some momentum going to pull him through the first few weeks of the season.

Though most farmers I know do love to get nerdy about the many small details that come together to make a farm work, that isn’t what draws people to, and then anchors them at, small operations like Land’s Sake.  And this goes for farmers and their customers alike.  The draws are broader, more general: the hope for better health for ourselves, our families, our communities and the land; the opportunity for deeper connection with an agricultural landscape and the people one might meet there; food access issues and food ethics; the rare opportunity to directly support or interact with a business that creates their product, from start to finish, right there; to participate in production and stewardship; to simply breathe in fresh air and feel some stillness.  That bigger picture is what inspires us.

In my own experience, it wasn’t until my body was accustomed to the rhythm (and sometimes pain) of the work, and my eyes became tools of observation, sharpened by familiarity with a place, or a particular crop, that I really started to come into a space where I could read a UMASS Cooperative Extension article and make any useful sense of it.  In my first two full seasons as a farmhand, I relied a lot on more philosophical, big-picture readings to pull me through the days of physically and sometimes emotionally hard work that I knew I loved, but did not always understand the why of.

My chat with Joseph, and the reading that I suggested to him, reminded me that maybe it was time to get my own nose out of the more detailed how-to books and websites, and time to dive into reasons-why-we-do-this books to fuel up for spring.  There is lots of writing that goes beyond Michael Pollen or Barbara Kingsolver and that is worth checking out if you are passionate about sustainable food issues.

Here are some books that are recent and thought-provoking, my new faves, or that are just easy reads.  These books aren’t exclusively about farming—they are about food, food ethics, community, place and/or nature.  Click on the links for descriptions from the good people at The Harvard Bookstore, who were kind enough to employ me in the winter of ’08-’09, and who have publisher’s descriptions posted, which are much more graceful than my own would be.

Wendell Berry

Berry gets his very own section because he is a writer of poetry, agrarian essays, children’s books AND fiction (try Jayber Crow!) and I at the very least really like everything of his that I have read.  His philosophical essays can be a bit dense if you read them back to back, but they are well worth checking out if you have the time or inclination.  His novels are beautiful, and by reading them, you can get a good idea of what Berry is all about without ever touching his essays.  His storytelling is skillful and his tone is gentle.

I just finished reading Hannah Coulter, and it was incredible.

Non-Fiction

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love, by Kristin Kimball.

Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel. This is the one book on this list I have not read yet, but I’ve had my eye on it for some time.  My friend Elizabeth, upon reading this post, said “Stuffed and Starved is one of the most integrated, important food books I have read in years.”   I have it on hold at the Boston Public Library right now.

Eating Animals, by Jonathon Safran Foer. I’m not a vegetarian (anymore) because I love meat and now (mostly) eat meat that was humanely raised.  I go back and forth on my commitment to eating responsibly and thoughtfully, as has Foer.  I was intrigued after hearing Foer in an interview about this book, and I love his fiction, so I had to check it out.  Not everyone has access to the sources of humanely raised and healthy meat, or the knowledge of how to acquire it, or even the means to get their hands on it, as it can be quite expensive.  Our current industrialized meat production system is what the majority of people rely on for their animal protein, and there are some harsh realities that some along with all of that cheap meat.  I can’t say that I absolutely loved everything about this book, but there isn’t much in the way of contemporary (it was published in late 2009, I think), popular writing that addresses these issues in such depth.  Worth a read if you question your own meat eating ways.

Fiction

All Over Creation, by Ruth Ozecki.

The Milagro Beanfield War, by John Nichols

Granola

A photo from David Lebovitz's website, where I found this amazing granola recipe!

Also, as promised, a super delicious recipe for granola, shared by food writer David Lebovitz on his blog. I made an extra huge batch of it, and we stashed it in three large gallon-sized canning jars to maintain it’s freshness.  We have been working our way through it for almost three weeks, still have a lot more to go, and I am still really excited to eat it.  Another great thing to make with kids–how cool is it to make your own (shh, don’t tell them it’s pretty healthy) cereal?

Thanks for reading!

Melanie Hardy, Farm Manager, Land’s Sake Farm

Building Communities with the Foundation for MetroWest


We are excited to announce that the Foundation for MetroWest has awarded Land’s Sake with a $5000 grant as part of their 2010 grant cycle. At the reception and presentation ceremony held in Framingham at Garden in the Woods over $100K was distributed to organizations throughout the MetroWest Region.  Land’s Sake will use these funds to develop new relationships with local communities and build partnerships with local organizations who are committed to providing meaningful environmental education experiences for youth in the area.

“The Foundation for MetroWest believes it is incredibly important to support organizations that are improving the quality of life in the region, such as Weston’s Land’s Sake,” said Judith Salerno, executive director of Foundation for MetroWest.  “With the challenging economic climate continuing to persist we are glad that in a small, but targeted way we can help these organizations fulfill their mission to serve their community.”

In 2010 the Foundation for MetroWest distributed $500K throughout the region and has distributed more than $6.5M since its inception in 1995.  For more information visit www.FoundationforMetroWest.org


The Joys of Winter Planning

The days seem cold and short, but for Land’s Sake it is time to do the heavy planning that make our programs great.  At this point in the season the farm has slowed down enough so that our farm managers, educators, and board members can all sit down together and put our heads together.  We are taking some time now to look back on the past season and reflect on the strides and follies we can learn from.  Our trusted mentor, Pat Gray, of The Food Project, continues to lend us her vast experience and passion. She has provided a structure for the Education Branch to define our goals and take actions toward achieving them.  We have all been inspired by this collaboration. Spring is just around the corner and will come all too soon, I personally can’t wait to put our thoughtful plans into action.

See you on the farm,
Doug