Green Power and Farmers Unite!

As I type this, our full time Monday crew (3) is harvesting garlic with volunteers (3), our weeding crew (4), educators (2) and their Green Power teen farmers (10!) That adds up to a very dreamy total of 22 harvesters! When we popped the garlic in the ground last season, we planted 13 beds that measure 275 feet in length. There are three rows planted in each bed, and the are spaced plants at six inches apart in row.  We’d already gotten one bed’s worth out of the earth for our spring garlic harvest, so that left us with approximately 19,800 plants to pull out of the ground.

garlic tables

Doug (our Education Director here at Land’s Sake) and I spent a good amount of time this winter dreaming up different ways to incorporate the Green Power teens into the farm so that the experience would be both helpful to the farm and rewarding for the them.  Land’s Sake’s roots are in growing food with kids, but as the farm and education divisions of this organization grew over the years, they both became more professionalized, and as a result grew to become completely separate endeavors.  The Green Power program eventually even became geographically isolated from the farm and its farmers.

This evolution, while perhaps not always ideal, makes a lot of sense, and is one that happens at many other community farms. Separate gardens for the education program, and separate work projects as well.  Land’s Sake, while a community farm, is also a working farm with a budget to meet.  We are managing 25ish acres, and this year, growing on almost 20 acres, spread around the town of Weston.  There is a lot of work to be done.  Most people think “the more help, the better, right?”, but can actually be quite difficult to occasionally incorporate unskilled labor into a farm operation.

Doug and I came up with a plan.  The first one was that we could have the teens harvest crops that we normally exclusively reserve for pick-your-own, and that the farm would keep half the profit, the kids the other half.  The farm crew doesn’t have quite enough time to pick peas, beans, or cherry tomatoes, but probably about 2/3 of customers that come to the stand would prefer that we have these items pre-picked.  These crops happen to be ones that people LOVE, so they are guaranteed to sell, provided the teens do well with quality control.  Win for the farm, win for the Green Power Farmers, win for customers who don’t have the time or ability to pick-their-own.  So far, it is working really well!  We have sold out of every Green Power harvested crop that we have had on the stand.

The second thing that we agreed upon was that we could have kids occasionally jump in on larger weeding, harvesting and planting projects.  The Green Power crews have done an excellent job so far of weeding the strawberries, for example (keeping the strawberries weeded is an epic battle for us). If the past couple of weeks are any indication, they will be jumping on even more farm projects as the Green Power season continues.  Which brings us back to today’s huge, huge garlic harvest.

The garlic field is the one that Doug chose to leave to the farm last year after deciding to relocate the home base of Education programming to the Wellesley Street location.  We planted the garlic in early November, also around the time that Doug began his planning for this year’s education programming.  It is fitting that nearly eight months later, we find ourselves completing the garlic harvest side by side with the Green Power teens.

I truly am looking forward to completing many more work projects with the Green Power farmers and their educators/leaders.  It’s amazing to be working in partnership with my peers at this organization to foster something that is larger, more engaging, and more compelling than the amazing work that we already do.  The potential seems almost infinite!

Melanie Hardy, Farm Manager at Land’s Sake Farm