The faces behind the food
Young farmers weigh in on the challenges and rewards of managing local CSAs
Regional farmers are young, hip, educated and driven. They raise pigs, plant asparagus, fix fencing, get dirt under their nails, and can pickles the same way farmers have been for centuries. But, these farmers aren’t choosing the profession because their parents or grandparents did, they are choosing farming because it represents a lifestyle. They call themselves farmers because of what they do and even more importantly because of what they believe in.
Cloverly Farm, Greenfield
Terra Fletcher, 23, Greenfield
In 2011, Terra Fletcher was in her sophomore year of college and met Dan Legnard, a recent graduate of St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.,, and the two decided they wanted to do something “meaningful.” So, they moved to Greenfield, where Fletcher’s family owned a historic dairy farm called Cloverly Farm, and started a CSA.
Community Supported Agriculture is a meaningful enterprise because it “strengthens local food systems and keeps money local,” said Fletcher.
“You can shake hands with the farmer and see where your food is grown, instead of having to read labels,” she said.
The first year Cloverly was open, Fletcher said, went very well. However, in an effort to finish her degree, Cloverly Farm went on hiatus for two years.
Now, they are back.
“A lot of people my grandparents age look at me like I’m crazy when I say I want to farm, because that’s what they were trying to get away from,” said Fletcher. “But, I think nowadays people my age are trying to find a way to make [farming] a rewarding lifestyle choice.”
The daily routine of farming, Fletcher continued, “is just something you are always doing. It becomes a part of your life, like brushing your teeth.”
Cloverly Farm focuses on heirloom varieties of over 30 different vegetables, as well as education. They will be selling produce at Delay’s Harvester Market in Greenfield, as well as at the Peterborough Farmers Markets and Fresh Chicks Marketplace in Peterborough. Fletcher said that a portion of the harvest will be donated to the Peterborough Food Pantry, and Cloverly will also be participating in the Grow-a-Row program in collaboration with the Cornucopia Project and the ConVal School District.
Cloverly Farm offers “tea time” every Saturday at 2 p.m., during which visitors can visit and discuss gardening, growing and food. Eventually, Fletcher said, she hopes to offer workshops on topics, such as canning or wild edibles, that will be included in the price of the CSA, but open to non-members as well for a minimal cost.
This year, Fletcher said, Cloverly will offer 25 CSA shares. Shares cost between $325 to 525.
43 Fletcher Farm Rd., Greenfield
Farmer John’s Plot, Dublin
Jasen Woodworth, 25, Peterborough
Five years ago, Jasen Woodworth was getting his Master’s Degree from Antioch University New England in Environmental Studies. One of the requirements of the degree is to take part in an internship. “I thought I’d try my hand at gardening, so I applied to be an intern at Farm John’s Plot,” Woodworth said.
The experience was life-changing. “I wanted the experience of getting my hands dirty and knowing where my food comes from. I found it made me a heathier person, a happier person,” Woodworth said.
Eventually Woodworth graduated from Antioch and moved with his fiance to Millinocket, Maine. While in Maine, Woodworth started a farm for the River Drivers Restaurant. He grew organic vegetables and herbs, and raised pigs for meat.
Then, a year later, when his fiance, Sarah Dube, was offered a teaching position in Peterborough, Woodworth reconnected with John Sandri, founder of Farmer John’s Plot. “I knew I was coming back to the area, so I thought I’d see where those guys were at and see if they needed any additional help.”
They did. Woodworth was immediately hired full-time. “Farming is always something different everyday, so it’s exciting,” Woodworth said. “It’s really a lifestyle because you live by the weather. It’s a challenge mentally and physically. You have to fight pests, organize crops, and plan for rotating them,” he said. Woodworth said he is excited because he has seen a lot of young people moving towards farming. “A whole generation forgot what food was. Now young people are interested in it again, and they are becoming more savvy and rediscovering techniques that were lost,” he said.
Farmer John’s Plot features traditional CSA shares, ranging in price from $344 to 688. In addition to their own eggs, pickles, meat and non-certified organic produce, visitors can purchase local products, such as maple syrup, honey, soap, meats, cheese, raw milk, ice cream and baked goods, at the Farmer John’s Plot Farmstand.
Farmer John’s Plot
26 Chesham Rd., Dublin, open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Walkabout Farm, Peterborough
Robin Cherof, 27, of Peterborough
Robin Cherof was a professional dancer in New York City with no history of farming. Then, two years ago when her boyfriend, Tod Horner, started the Walkabout Farm CSA as a joint venture with the Nubanusit Neighborhood and The Well School, she moved to the area and got “sucked in.”
“It was really the amazing energy of what was happening and the realization that there was so much to do, and the work felt so good,” Cherof said.
“A farm,” she added laughing, “has a way of giving you work.”
To support Todd and the two paid interns at Walkabout Farm Cherof began helping with advertising, marketing, photography, and food preparation.
“Todd and I are the ying and the yang. He knows so much about farming — I’m learning, but I find it’s more useful for me to help with the other aspects, especially with what to do with the food after it’s harvested. Todd’s done all this work getting the food in the ground and out of the ground and he’s it’s so healthy and beautiful, I want to make sure nothing rots on the vine or goes to waste.”
Cherof has been focusing her talents on lacto-fermented pickles, which she hopes to have available for sale in the fall.
Walkabout Farm has a moveable vegetable cart they bring to sites and events like Greenerboro and to Cornucopia Project events. The Farm produces 80 shares, ranging in price from $17 a week to $650 for the season.
“This is not a job in the traditional sense. It’s definitely a lifestyle — something Todd and I do everyday.”
15D Callies Common, Peterborough