Those of you who have been members of our CSA for the last several years know we have been transitioning to a new property. Big Train Farm has called a some what run-down old turkey and pig farm in western Cranston home for the past nine years. This lovable, shabby, old amalgam of social experiments is called Urban Edge Farm. It has been home to many start-up agricultural businesses since 2002 when it first came on line thanks to the efforts of many people both in the private and public sectors. Ken Ayers from DEM, Pat McNiff and Kathryn Brown from Southside Community Land Trust were the original trailblazers of the dream that became the most important place in my adult life.
The history of the project deserves it’s own telling, and several attempts have been made to condense the UEF story into newspaper and publication articles. The most recent appeared in The Natural Farmer last spring. Inevitably the rich, wormy material of the lives of the farmers, the relationships and projects that have been fostered on the property are impossible to tie down succinctly, and every farmer has a long and entertaining story to tell. Big Train is no different. Since our first seasons on the property we have loved UEF and tried to help it grow. Through different farmers, executive directors, farm stewards, liaisons, directions, and refutations the farm has maintained. Urban Edge still remains and will still remain for the foreseeable future thanks to all our efforts as a team.
Urban Edge has provided advantages to the growers who have held leases there. An array of equipment has been available to rent from walk-behind tillers to 75hp tractors, wheel-hoes and manure spreaders, shovels and reference books. Irrigation water is pumped around nearly the entire property with high-pressure hydrants available to growers. Propagation green houses, facilities for washing and packing, walk-in coolers, electricity. All of these things have been maintained and built upon by the growers who have been there, investing their own time and money to help the farm grow and go, and by SCLT as part of their mission. The citation that is often missing (and is probably the most important asset UEF has going for it) is the fact that there is a community of professional growers intermingling there, sharing ideas, learning how to solve problems, assisting with marketing, and socializing.
But it’s time for us to go. We are ready now, after two years of working both properties simultaneously, to move off of UEF and concentrate our efforts at our own property we call Snake Hill (not to be confused with Snake Den). By the end of 2017 we hope not only to be farming full-time at Snake Hill but also to be living there. We have already built three and a half greenhouses, put in a well, put up deer fencing, prepped 4 acres of land for crops (with another acre or so to go), and are about to start building a barn and small house.
We have a tremendous amount of costs that we are trying to manage this year. Although we haven’t gotten ourselves into anything that we don’t think we can handle we could use some help. We are looking for donations from our CSA member community this year to help with some of the bigger start-up costs that we will need to cover. These include the following: wiring a propagation greenhouse for spring heating (of 2018), constructing a wash-station and packing room, purchasing new irrigation lines (about 1000′ or so), putting in a slab for our barn, and more. Oh, did I mention we’re getting married too?
So if you are able to make a donation to these efforts when you sign-up for the CSA this year we would be so grateful. If you are not able to put extra money down there are other ways you could help us out: Do you have any of the following things lying around? lumber, hardware, old washing machines (we can use them for drying greens like spinach and lettuce), cabinets, metal shelves, tool boxes, so on and so forth. Let us know and we can come pick them up.