Big Train Farm

Rhode Island Certified Organic Vegetables Since 2008

Sally

December 7th, 2018

fullsizeoutput_193There is so much to say about Sally Lee.  I’m fortunate to have known her parents so as to understand a little better where she came from.  Her mother, Shiva, was my friend Rusty’s dog and her dad, Dante, was Willa’s.  Shiva had several litters with Dante in a fairly short amount of time.  My friend Marc can verify some of these details (they are a little fuzzy in my mind after thirteen years) but I recall the first litter consisted of eleven puppies.  Each successive litter produced fewer puppies and Shiva took less and less interest in them.  Anyway, not to drag my friends through the mud of being irresponsible pet owners since coincidently this union produced the best friend I have ever had.  Sally was from Shiva’s first litter and had her markings (fawn colored).  I picked her out the day after she was born and named her that day.  Marc reminded me that I used to come over as often as I could to check on her and I pulled the bigger pups off of Shiva so that Sally could nurse.

IMG_4368Sally spent the first year of her life on Simmons Farm, where I used to work.  She had several friends there including Jack, the Simmon’s border collie, and Larry and PeeWee, Mis’s two miniature dachshunds.  Sally then moved up to Providence where she and I lived at different locations until moving to Scituate in 2011.  Starting Big Train Farm in 2008, Sally spent virtually everyday with me on the farm.  Whilst living on the west end we would make visits to a dog park behind Bell Street Chapel.  Through Sally I met Ray Perrault at the park.  He recommended I host my CSA program at Eddy Hall in Bell Street Chapel, which I’ve done since 2009.  Ironically I was guest minister at Bell Street (at Ray’s request) last weekend (Dec 2nd, 2018) where I was able to give Sally a small tribute for bringing BSC into my life.  The next day Mindy and I put her down at Scituate Animal Hospital.

IMG_2132Through her long career with Big Train Farm I always wrote off her expenses on my taxes.  She was a huge help to my farming career in practical support and emotional support.  She was in charge of pest control of which she performed honorably and faithfully.  She was also my Moral Booster in Chief and tasked with welcoming people to the farm and making people feel comfortable there.  I will never be able to live up to or replicate the warmth and generosity that Sally could provide to people so easily.  Her gentle nature and joyful charisma was experienced by so many people who have visited or worked on the farm with us.  These are some of her irreplaceable virtues that we will deeply miss.

IMG_2137Dogs provide a consistency to our lives that I’m not sure any other creature can.  Dogs, although adaptable through training, are who they are and offer a predictability that we can’t expect from people.  Loyalty is a term used to describe dogs and it’s true that many dogs are loyal in the sense that they are attached to their owners.  But dogs are also loyal in their character and, even more profound, so forgiving of our own lack there of.  Sally has seen me at my worst and at my best but she never wavered in her consistency.  I know that kind of character is very special and I concede that despite all the training Sally endured with me she was good already in her heart.

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We put up with a lot together.  After popping two vertebrae in her back she went through major surgery in 2013 which severed the nerves that controlled her bladder and her colon.   It was my duty to squeeze this fifty pound dogs bladder three or four times a day for the last five years.  Bent over the toilet with her tail bobbing a few inches from my face I would lift her up and squeeze below her rib cage to push out as much urine as I could and, if lucky, a few stubborn turds as well.  Luckily Sally was able to regain her mobility after surgery but she was never the same afterwards.  The little dog who used to be able to jump from a standstill into the open window of my Silverado now had to be carried up and down our narrow staircase at our apartment in Scituate.

 

 

IMG_2145With the acquisition of our new property in Chepachet Mindy and I had always looked forward to having a comfortable place for Sally to spend the remaining years of her life.  Having a one-story house allowed us to open the front door and let her out without having to navigate the formidable stairs of our apartment.  At our wedding my friend Jim looked around and said: “It looks like Sally finally made it to the promised land.”  It was really satisfying to be able to have her here, on the new farm, for nearly a whole year.  She got to lounge on the hot days in an air conditioned room that Mindy set up for her, and was always able to check-out whenever she wanted to.

IMG_2131As always I feel very lucky to have a community to share these kind of things with.  So many of you who knew Sally have been inspired by her.  Some of you have sought out dogs that remind you of her.  Some of you have worked with her and some of you have traveled with her.  Many of you have enjoyed pictures posted on the blog or through Mindy’s instagram accounts.  I’m sad to report that she will not be with us for the trials ahead but she will always inspire me to be a better person even though she holds up an unobtainable bar.

Captain Call’s memorial to Joshua Deets:

“Served with me 30 years. Fought in 21 engagements with the Commanche and the Kiowa. Cherful in all weathers, never sherked at task. Splendid behavior”

 

 

 

 

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Big Crossroads Train RI

December 3rd, 2018

IMG_2128This post is intended as a big THANK YOU to our CSA customers who gave a little extra money (and sometimes a lot extra!) on top of their CSA Shares in order to support Crossroads RI.

Crossroads operates their kitchen with a very tight budget that is supplemented with crucial donations.  A typical problem for the cooks is not being able to anticipate what is going to be coming through the door on any given week (as far as ingredients are concerned).  With your donation we were able to communicate with David, the head chef at CRRI, and allow him time to look over, plan, and shop from our produce lists every week like we would with any other restaurant or grocer.  Also, since the product was paid for by CSA members, CRRI received top shelf quality stuff for their clients.

We raised $1,200 and added 10% to each order for a total of $1,320 worth of produce in 2018.

We got a lot of positive feedback from the kitchen and will be excited to try this again next year.  For now, let us just say Thank You for your kind support of this important organization and our farm.

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Seasons Come and Seasons Go…

November 15th, 2018

IMG_1719Writing reflective blog posts can be a little tedious.  In the past farming seasons seemed to fly by me, scorching along at record paces and leaving little time for reflection.  Nowadays, with a more reasonable amount of help in the ordeal I find that I can take in more of the goings on through the calendar.  Also, thanks to Mindy teaching me Mindfulness practices, I am present for at least some of the time.

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Occasionally I have the opportunity to teach.  I some times am invited to speak at Organic Farming or Landscaping Conferences on subjects ranging from “How to Grow Brassicas” to “Understanding the Soil Food Web” and so on.  I also teach a four-class Course of my own design on Soils, Plant Biology, and Organic Farming Methods every spring.  I love teaching in no small part because of it’s ability to bring me totally into the present moment.

IMG_1936When farming I have a To-Do List a mile long.  I have a binder full of scheduled appointments (seeding, marketing, etc) two-inches thick.  When organizing a job for myself and/or members of my crew I have to consider the next job that follows and usually one or two more related tasks to that one we are embarking on in the present.  With a crew of several employees and sometimes as many as a dozen volunteers to manage I often have to make arrangements like this two or three or four times at once.  So if you do the math that can be as many as twelve different steps that have to be considered and anticipated all at the same time.  A memo pad in my back pocket is how I accomplish this.  But, as you might be able to imagine, it can be very distracting to juggle all these things and can lead to a perpetual mindlessness, always a step or two ahead of where you are presently.

IMG_1913Teaching allows for focus on the topic at hand.  The way I like to teach is by a general presentation of the material followed by an insistence on questions.  I often will not move on from a topic until I get one or two questions from the crowd.  This brings both the students (at least the ones interested in the question) fully to the present and forces me to engage with their perspective, bringing me fully to present.  I like this a lot.  It is the most present-minded I can be easily.  Otherwise it takes work.  Anyone who has tried to maintain mindfulness knows how incredibly difficult it is.  A lot can be learned from a mild Psilocybin trip due to the chemicals insistence on your attention to the beauty and majesty of the world around you.  Teaching is a natural way for me to reach this point.n

IMG_1953Being more involved in teaching and learning has been a goal of mine for many years.  I have attempted to bring college students to the farm and compensate them with work-study hours in return for hours spent on farm research projects.  In 2019 I am hoping to go a step further and do something a bit more formal that helps expand my understanding of soil science, plant biology, and organic farming.  We’ll see how well I can balance that with all the demands of the farming season which can get more and more complicated every year.  More emphasis on streamlining will continue as we work towards a simple model that results in vigorous, productive soil and excellent crops for ourselves and our customers.

IMG_1870Another Summer/Fall CSA season is wrapping up.  We are, as always, incredibly grateful for the support of our CSA members.  Some of you have truly become friends and family.  Many of you have expressed the satisfaction the CSA brings to your lives.  Nothing is more rewarding then hearing about young children being raised on our vegetables, or about how fresh vegetables brought into people’s diets has improved the quality of their lives.  We are so touched to be able to be a part of people’s sustenance and to reunite people with what food is supposed to be.

IMG_1736We are looking forward to serving many of you this Winter and many of you the following Spring/Fall season.  We wish you all a safe, fun, productive and/or restful winter.  Please share your thoughts with us over the off season.  We do much planning in the winter time so if you have any ideas for next year now is the time to let us know.

Endless Thanks,

John

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Winter CSA Season! 2018/2019

September 27th, 2018

2BD19D52-7970-4902-8BDF-3BC97917B3ECWith the arrival of Fall it is time for us to start thinking about the impending Winter.  I know many of you might dread the coming cold months, but we farmers typically see Winter as a reprieve.  With the fields frozen or blanketed with snow we turn to our high tunnels (un-heated greenhouses) for fresh greens and to our storage vegetables for Fall harvested vegetables.  We offer these items in a Winter CSA Share so that you can enjoy farm-fresh vegetables through the cold months of the year.

We have been offering Winter CSA Shares for several years now and we have improved the share every year (in my opinion) offering more variety and more of what people want.  We have also come to understand what crops store well and which don’t under our circumstances so that we are getting you stuff when it is in it’s prime.  This year we will be offering more potatoes, beets, and rutabagas as these have been popular in the past.  We will also be offering more spinach and kale as well as micro green salad mix.

IMG_2924WINTER SHARE DETAILS Abbreviated:

Details: The Winter CSA is a 14-week share that runs through December, February, and March (no pick-up in January)… We condense the weekly shares into one pick-up every other week.  This way you will not have to travel to the pick-up every week but will pick up two weeks worth of vegetables at one pick-up.  The crops we are selling in the winter will last for a long time in your fridge so you don’t have to worry about things spoiling over the two weeks.  We will be pre-bagging the shares, so you will simply come to the pick-up and we will pass over your bags.

What’s Offered? We will be offering winter-harvested greens from our greenhouses every week such as kalespinach, and micro greens as well as onions, potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, leeks, celeriac, fall radishes, turnips, daikon radishes, winter squash and parsnips.  In early December and late March there may be some other hardy vegetables available as well.

Price: A Winter CSA share is $300. (EBT can be accepted for Winter CSA shares)

Where and When?  Pick-up will be at the Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell Street Providence) on Thursdays from 5-7pm (the pick-up window is tighter, please be aware).  If you would prefer to pick-up at the farm we can leave your bags in a cooler.  The dates will be as follows:  Dec.6th, Dec. 20th, Feb. 7th, Feb. 21st, March 7th, March 21st, April 4th.

There is a limit of shares that we can accommodate in the winter so sign-up early!  Payment can be made anytime between now and the first pick-up.  Payment plans are also available.

Sign Up Today by emailing John and say “I want a Winter CSA Share!”

 

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New England Community Supported Agriculture

May 19th, 2018

Prop House May 2018With the quick approaching beginning of the main CSA season I take a deep breath.  So many people have been subjected to my metaphors and analogies that I have to apologize if these two are familiar.  In terms of the seasonality of this business and lifestyle I think about things in these terms:  Spring is the season of promise.  Summer is the season of reality.  Fall is the season of reprieve and taking stock.  And Winter is the season of rest and forward thinking.    With spring rolling out ahead of us I picture a road that runs straight to summer.  Spring is perhaps our most ephemeral season in New England.  Some years it seems like we go from Winter to Summer.  This year it seems to me that we have had something like a definable spring with cold fluctuations (in particular in April, ouch cold!) mixed with warmer, bud-popping days.  The lemon-green spring leafs seem to be lingering a little longer before they push into their fully operational summer sheen of waxy forest green.  My friends Gus and Neil and I went up to Maine so they could pick-up some apple trees.  I on a whim bought an English plum which is just starting to leaf out now.

IMG_1762Another analogy I like to use to help me contextualize my life and explain the seasons in terms of farming is the Roller Coaster story.   In the winter and the spring we (being farmers) are building the roller coaster.  You do your best to make sure you have all your tracks in place, all your hardware tightened down.  Every nut has it’s washer and every hydraulic line has it’s gasket.  Every thing is in place and the safety equipment is functional and the people you hired to maintain the equipment are competent.  Then you ride it.  You spend the rest of the year riding the roller coaster you built in the spring.  Hopefully it stays together because it’s difficult to work on the track while you’re riding in the car.  When winter comes and the train finally comes to that jaulting halt at the end you hopefully can look back and see the tracks all still standing and (even better!) in a stronger position to build upon next year.

IMG_1777So we roll into summer happy and hopeful that we have our ship tacked together well enough to carry us smoothly.  Farming, when the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed can be smooth and consistent.  When things are not tended they quickly devolve into frustration and disappointment.  I am so excited about all the goals we are working towards this year on the farm from installing perennial raised beds for all our vegetables to building a new tool shed and lunch room and high tunnel to planting some of our first perennial crops (asparagus, strawberries, horseradish, elderberries!).  We have expanded some of our vegetable crops to include more variety and longer seasons for certain crops as well as put in more long-term storage crops to include in our Winter CSA.

It’s amazing to think that this time last year we had no power, basically no water, no functional buildings, and barely functional fields.  Now we are living on the farm, do our own seed propagation on site, have two new out buildings, have irrigation access to all corners of the farm, and have the opportunity to plant long-term crops.  Our fields are being managed to accommodate the farms high spring water table and our soil fertility is improving with each successive crop.  When I look back at the wild ride that was 2017 I wonder how we managed not to go flying off the roller coaster track.  This year the promise of spring is a promise of consistency, more growth as people and place and lots of nourishing food for our friends and neighbors.  Here’s to hope and to the unexpected.  Good luck Everyone in 2018!  – John

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April!

April 6th, 2018

IMG_3001Spring is trying to break out of Winter’s rugged grip!  We are still having very cold days and there is even more snow in the forecast today (April 6th).  But Winter has no choice in the matter, it must relent.  The sun is slowly creeping higher and higher into the southern sky.  Snow can fall by the buckets but it can’t resist the stronger angle of the sun and the, soon anyway, warmer temperatures.  So we farm on and get ready for the planting blitz that will soon erupt as our fields dry out and become accepting of tractor tires and muck boots.

Our propagation greenhouse is stuffed to the gills once again as we wait for spring to break loose.  Normally we would feel comfortable bringing trays of hardy stuff outside to harden off before planting but not this year… still too cold.  Instead we are finding corners of the greenhouse we didn’t know existed to stick eager plants.  Tomatoes are filling their plug cells and will soon be moving into the high tunnels where they will be until October.  Basil and spinach await to be buddy-planted with them.  The first plantings of head lettuce, mesclun lettuce, beets, radishes, and greens are almost ready for their voyage into the fields and high tunnels.   Young carrots are popping up and the garlic has emerged from it’s Winter slumber.  The rhubarb, parsnips and burdock also are starting to demand attention.

IMG_2956Plants and people are eager to get busy this time of year.  We have our crew all hired up and ready for business.  Work-shares are starting to join and re-join our CSA program for 2018.  Having our weekly visits from our Work-Share members is one of the highlights of the farming season.  So many people are eager and happy to be outside and take part in growing some of their own food.   We’re looking forward to getting back together with our long-term volunteers and getting acquainted with our new folks.

We are really excited to move forward with some of our goals in 2018.  In particular we are trying to get some traction in regards to a project that will link organic farms with local shelters and soup kitchens in order to supply top-shelf, consistent deliveries of farm fresh produce while also compensating the grower.  We are trying to build a Community Advisory Board of farmers and homeless advocates in order to higher someone to manage funding for such a project.  Have something to offer in this regard?  Get in touch with us for more information!

IMG_2954We thank you for your support of our farm, either through our CSA program, our accounts, or simply by reading this blog.  Spring is a time of great anticipation and promise.  We hope that your goals and aspirations for 2018 come true and you have great success in your endeavors.  Good luck in 2018 Everyone!

 

 

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Farm Fable

March 7th, 2018

IMG_1639Here is a fable that I made up on Monday while seeding.  It is probably some distortion of Aesop, but I wasn’t familiar with it.  Here it goes:

A farmer was seeding trays of mustard, arduously rolling each tiny little seed into her trays.  She had three trays of mustard.  One was red, one was green, and one was purple.  She had all three tags written out and placed in the trays accordingly.  Then she realized that “Oh No!” she had accidentally seeded the green mustard seeds into the purple mustard seed tray and the purple mustard seeds into the green mustard seed trays.  She hastily began pulling out the thousand tiny seeds from each tray, laid them aside, then replaced them into their appropriate trays.  She had a lot to do that day, so she hustled and figured that she probably missed a dozen or so seeds from each tray.  When she was finally done she stepped back and looked at her work.  Slapping herself on the forehead she cried out “I should have switched the tags!”  Moral – Work smarter, not harder…

That is a lesson that I always have struggled to actualize.  My new mantra is “switch the tags”.  Making things easier on themselves should be every farmers priority.  But with all the big and little things to do it’s easy to barge ahead like a rhinoceros.

IMG_1663The first wave of seeding has begun.  My good pal Jeffrey came out during his winter break from teaching to help me shlep pallets in the mud.  Now all of those pallets are covered with seedling trays.  Onions, leeks, celery root, parsley, celery, beets, lettuce, micro greens, salad mix, tomatoes, and flowers are all settled into spring potting mix.  Next week we will seed our first planting of spinach and watch as our first planting of carrots germinates in our high tunnels.  From this point we will be seeding in the greenhouse until Oct, making a constant succession of vegetables for our customers and ourselves.

IMG_1693We have so many exciting projects to look forward to in 2018 it’s actually hard to know where to begin.  Our biggest projects for the spring include building another 96’x30′ high tunnel, a tool shed, and a lunch shed.  We have to clear about a 1/4 acre of woods to expand our chicken and compost yard.   We’ve got piles of brush to burn and workshops to prepare for.  Our seventh annual Soil, Plant, and Farm Methods course is coming up as well (always a lot of fun).  When the ground drys up we will be preparing raised beds over the whole farm for our annuals and also be putting in some of our first perennial crops (strawberries, rhubarb, elderberry and asparagus).  It’s an exiting time, with lots of promise.  The seasons operate like this in my mind:  the promise of Spring, the reality of Summer, the glory of Fall, and the relief of Winter.  Spring is the time to lock down your plans for the year, arrange your ducks, and start movement in the right direction.  As the pace picks up you have to sometimes remember to, simply, move the tags.

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Crossroads RI and Big Train Farm

January 11th, 2018

146.crossroads_2In 2017 we began a conversation with Don Liberte and David Rocheleau from Crossroads about how to get high quality, organic produce to the neediest people in our community.  How can an organic farm directly impact homelessness in Rhode Island?  Establishments that serve homeless and persons in need are in a unique position to provide nourishment.  Cafeterias and kitchens that serve these populations often rely on donations and/or small budgets.  Under these circumstances the best quality food is often overlooked in order to simply provide volume.  As we all know local, organic produce is not affordable for everyone.

We are attempting to raise $4,000 this winter and spring to support a weekly delivery of Big Train Farm produce to the Crossroads RI kitchen and possibly Food 4 Good food truck as well.  The produce will be delivered fresh every week during the main growing season (June-Nov) and, if more funds are made available, we would like to continue providing produce through the winter and into the spring.

Clover coming in nicely! Mindy Walls 2016

Clover coming in nicely!
Mindy Walls 2016

We are asking for our CSA members to contribute a donation, either big or small, to this cause.  We believe that we need to make healthy food available to everyone and we think you probably do too.  Farm Fresh RI has pledged to support us in this effort as well.  Please make a donation when you sign up for your CSA membership in 2018.

Big Train Farm will match 10% of your donation with extra produce each week to the Crossroads’ kitchen.

And Thank You!

Big Train Farm

check out Crossroad’s blog here

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2018 CSA Season, Open

January 11th, 2018

IMG_1321Hello and let us welcome you back (or for the first time) to Big Train Farm’s 11th Three-Season CSA program.  We are extremely excited to be starting our first full season at our new property in Chepachet, RI.  For the past three years we have been transitioning off of the farm we called home for ten years.  After three years of preparation we are finally making the move complete.  In 2018 we will be living and growing on the Snake Hill property.  After all we have been through to make this happen it is a huge thrill to be taking these last steps to independence.  We will greatly miss our friends and colleagues at Urban Edge Farm and Southside Community Land Trust.

Our outlook for 2018 is pretty positive.  We are transitioning all of our annual vegetable fields to permanent raised beds this year in order to realize a long-held goal of growing our produce “no-till”.  In order to manage a soil to produce the most excellent crop we believe this is necessary.  Although a difficult system to implement (and we’ve tried many approaches) we are optimistic that we have the equipment and the know-how to make a complete transition to no-till organic vegetables this year.  To read more about our methods check out this page of our web-site.  Let us know what you think.

IMG_1392We’re going to have awesome produce again for you this year, and a lot of it.  After 2-3 years of prepping the very raw soil we purchased at Snake Hill we are starting to see the benefits.  Fertility and composition of the soil is becoming more uniform and crops are healthier and more reliable.  It takes time to renovate land to organic annual vegetable production and we have made the investment.  In 2018 we expect the land to pay some handsome dividends.

This will of course will contribute to an outstanding CSA season we hope.  In 2017, if you are a returning member, you will remember how difficult the spring weather was for farmers in the northeast USA.  The spring rains severally effected some of our most important crops.  Despite this difficulty we were very pleased to have so many satisfied customers with our CSA.  We are confident that with last years extra remediating of our soil and with our raised bed system we will have the integrity built into our land to be more resilient when difficult weather presents itself in the future.

IMG_1173Another greenhouse on the property will help our season extension into the Fall and Winter.  We are going to expand our offerings with different varieties of cucumbers, beets, basil, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, winter squash, and others.  We also will be planting some perennials in 2018 and perhaps some fruiting plants like strawberries and blueberries which will be ready in 2019.

Economic realities have influenced us to raise our prices in the CSA a little.  By adding less than $2 per week to a half share and less than $4 per week to a full share we will be able to meet our economic obligations to our employees, our mortgages, and the farm itself.  We have also decided that if these prices are too difficult for our lower income customers we can negotiate a share price for the season on an ad hoc basis.  We want to be clear that we are not charging our customers more for the same amount of food.  Rather we are adding a small amount each week to your share.

November CarrotsWe are so thankful for the people who support Big Train Farm year after year.  We hope you will join us again for another trip around the New England agricultural calendar.

Best Regards,

John and Big Train Crew

 

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Ten Years

December 29th, 2017

Farm Fresh Rhode Island Farmer's Market in downtown Providence, RI, 10/8/2010. Photos by Scott Kingsley for SharecanvasThis year we celebrate ten years in business as Big Train Farm.  I have to admit that at this juncture it’s difficult to know what to address.  So much time, money, people, fun, heartache, and work has passed into history.  Physically the farm has changed almost completely, relocating from one location to another over the past three years.  Mindy’s graduating class address was given by a woman who referred to the Argo, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts, being completely destroyed and then rebuilt again, nothing original remaining.  I find that to be mostly accurate in our case as well.  Nearly everything I’ve believed about work and farming has changed over the past ten years, from method to intent.  I’ve had the opportunity to reexamine my past in all my roles: a student, a teacher, a boss, a boyfriend, a husband, a writer, a musician, a farmer.  Now, looking back at the past ten years I’m struck by how much I still recognize myself even though my ship is nearly fully renovated.IMG_2467

I realize now that, even as an employee working for other farmers, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to comprehend the intimacy of farming for a living when you are solely responsible for your land, your employees, and your customers.  When farmers say that what they do is a lifestyle, they mean it.  The farm holds you in a way that is difficult to explain.  Yes, farming is hard work, but when words like menial or drudgery start floating around your daily vocabulary it’s time to re-assess your practices.  Farming is a joy.  Nature is a joy because it offers an example everyday of reality in all it’s beauty, power, love, cruelty, and inexplicably.  When you revel in a rainstorm, a blizzard, a hundred degree afternoon, or a cold spring morning you experience a sublime joy.  A sensibility like this is something I liken to grief or love:  It has the power to destroy you or make you a better, deeper person.  So perhaps you have to be tough, but you also have to be receptive.  Work on the farm offers this to a high degree.  Farming has offered this to me and I’ve tried my best to appreciate it, deserve it, and share it with others.

IMG_0245A farmer I respect spoke about the state of the nation.  He said that only two percent of Americans are farming these days.  He then said “I’m not sure what the other 98% are doing , but they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves very much.”  This is a bit hyperbolic of course, but it resonated with everyone in the room in kind of a tribal way.  Those of us lucky enough, privileged enough, to do what we do revel in it.  Yes, we are not motivated by simple pleasures.  We are motivated by deep commitments to things and we try to actualized them for ourselves and for our customers, friends, and neighbors.  I don’t believe that the rest of the country is not enjoying their lives and ought to be farming in order to do so.  I also don’t believe that the sublime connection to nature I refer to is only enjoyed by people standing out in their fields in a hail storm.  However it is clear to see that we have a problem in this country in regards to how we treat ourselves and our landscapes.  Agriculture needs a place in our communities because farms foster purpose in our landscapes that transcend simple needs like gasoline, burgers, cheap mattresses, or hiking boots.  Green places offer solace, calmness, confidence in our lives simply by being there.  The term chlorophila is one that people need to think about more.  It means love of green (or literally : love of chlorophyll).  We all have an innate love of green hardwired in us.  Our society has simply ignored this basic need in designing our food system, our suburbs, our cities, and many of our rural areas everywhere except our most affluent communities.  This is obvious to anyone when you simply think of a green place you’ve counted on being there suddenly disappearing to development or some other disturbance.  Nature offers one of the only solid reprieves in our lives and should be highly valued and integrated into our societal fabric.

IMG_1398So, ten years.  Is it even very long?  It seems like both yes and no, and is all relative I guess.  Some instances seem so very far away, others so naturally familiar.  What to do with it all?  I always gravitate to the philosophy that you should go into the world half-baked rather than not at all.  Meaning even if you haven’t sorted everything out on a subject dive in anyway and get dirty.  I haven’t been shy about getting dirty these last ten years but maybe I have been too reserved on some issues.  This New Year requires more than a New Year’s resolution.  It requires a Ten Year Resolution!  What will be the goal of the farm and of myself over the next decade?  So much of the first ten years was just trying to hold it together!  To make a living on two acres of marginal farm land in Cranston took some intrepidness and plenty of focus.  Three years of moving my business from one place to another did as well.  But now things are a little more streamlined, a bit more organized, even a little dialed in.  Despite a horrendously difficult growing season to be transitioning from one farm to another we managed to hold it together and accomplish many of our goals for 2017.  For that I am not only thankful but feel unbelievably blessed.

IMG_0903I have a lot of hopes.  I want success for everyone who is involved with Big Train Farm and Urban Edge Farm.  I want something in people’s lives to be owed to the farm, hopefully a bright spark of some kind.  I want my wife to be strong and happy and I want my friends and my dog and cat to thrive.   For myself I want a better understanding of how farms and farmers can benefit, make more money, support their communities and propagate more growers.  I want to take all I’ve learned over the past ten years and flesh it out, research farming methods and grasp the healthiest, most efficient ways to grow food, sequester carbon, and provide profit to farmers.  I also want to bridge the gap between the best food in our communities and the neediest people in our communities.  I hope that whether you are a friend or customer (or both) you and I can work it all out and check in again in 2028.

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Lots of love and respect to everyone who made it possible.

You know who you are.

John

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