Friday, October 30, 2009

Farm News: Gossip

This summer at the farms in the Valley there were two marriages and a
baby born in one of the worst seasons for blight and bad weather we've
seen in a long time. Although that might sound like a Natalie Merchant
song, with the dust from wagon wheels coming up next, it is all true.
Ryan Voilard and Sarah Ingraham of Red Fire Farm got married at their
barn in Granby as did Meaghan Arquin and Rob Lynch, up at Riverland
Farm in Sunderland. Last month, at The Kitchen Garden, Caroline Pam
gave birth to Oliver, her second child. These young farmers run
membership driven farms, also known as CSA's (Community Sponsored
Agriculture) and for several years now are making a go of it despite
inconsistent weather and economic patterns. The Food Bank Farm of
Hadley has hung in there since 1991 as one of the first CSAs in the
country. Things have changed since shareholders were invited to share
the ups and downs of a farm by investing in it at the beginning of the
season in return for a share of the harvest in good times and in bad.
Now farmers are tracking fickle weather patterns with a Blackberries
strapped to their jeans and the number of CSAs in the region has gone
from two in '91 to a total of 17.

A press release issued last month from The Food Bank of Western Mass
announced that The Food Bank Farm would be no more. The reasons are
more complicated than 'it was a tough couple of years for the harvest'
because this farm is unlike the others in the area or the country. The
way Food Bank Farm works is like a typical CSA in that shareholder
dollars shelled out at the beginning of the season, pay for the
operation of the farm. The exception with Food Bank Farm is that food
is grown not only for shareholders but for the Food Bank of Western
Mass in Hatfield to distribute to agencies--200,000 pounds of it this
year. In a deal struck with Docter back in 1991, The Food Bank of
Western Mass in Hatfield bought a 32 acre farm in Hadley. Docter could
farm it and realize his dream of providing fresh produce to the hungry
but it was up to him to pay all expenses, including the lease. The
money would come from shareholder dollars. This unique model has been
operating for almost twenty years. In Hadley, Docter has been both a
fixture, driving all manner of farm machinery on Bay Road, and the
future.