Dear veggie lovers,
Happy New Year!
The ground is frozen and the new year is upon us. I hope that you all had a restful and festive holiday season. It was a marathon for me, travelling to Pennsylvania, community meetings and preparations for moving to a new home.
Reflecting back, this past season was by far the most rewarding one. Each year, I’ve become acquainted with new members and farm volunteers, tried new crops and organizational strategies, expanded our CSA membership base, and faced new challenges like drought, pests and disease. There are plenty of challenges to go around, but also so many blessings along the way that have made it all worth it and have ultimately provided the bounty that has kept members coming back each year, inviting new ones along the way.
These past seven years has been an incredible, rewarding experience of learning and community for me, as well as for many volunteers and members.
As many of you may have learned, the 2017 season is going to look very different at Nuestro Huerto’s Southgate Street urban farm site. As Founder, Director, Farm Manager, Crew Leader, Field Manager, etc., etc. I have found that the urban farm program does not have enough of the right kinds of support needed to continue as it has without taking a toll on me personally. I chose to operate a CSA on the property, selecting a wide array of vegetables and herbs to satisfy the needs of families and friend groups because of the security offered to the farm, as well as the big community that is created in the process. This was instead of solely focusing on income generation, likely leading us to specialize in certain crops, increase spending for both the farm and costs for clientele, and reduce our contact with the community. This never felt like a good direction for me as a person, farmer, and community member. What this meant, however is dramatically less income than was potentially available-BUT it also meant that SO many of us enjoyed the farm and its bounty together as a team. And that is what I have found to be most valuable about Nuestro Huerto’s urban farm The lines between organization and Director were blurred for many years, as board members and volunteers came and went, and my capacity to serve as an administrator did not keep up with the demands.
In the last few years, I have found that my personal desires and interests have changed over time. I have a yearning for growing vegetables and herbs outside of the city where it is quieter, though my desire to work with all of you has never diminished, and I have wished and worked toward a happy medium-I have not yet found a way to reconcile that need with running an urban farm! I have also found that I’d like to do more learning from experienced growers-and also thoroughly assess if running a farm full time is what I want to continue to do. I have also discovered the desire to create a family-and that has led my partner and I to consider adoption. That goal has set a few things in motion-including moving to a new home-to get started on the long, sometimes arduous process. We shall see what becomes of it!
My original intention with the urban farm, however short-sighted, was for it to become a resource for the neighborhoods surrounding the property. Though there may be indirect benefits from living near an urban farm, I have found that the entry point for participation in our little community has been out of reach. Whether it’s the capacity of time or energy to serve as a volunteer, or a lack of cultural context for a seemlingly new and hip concept of urban farming, or perhaps the model of the CSA being less free-form than a farm stand or other sales model-I have failed to reach the goals I had set out to do reach. I had doubts about the feasibility of this goal from the outset, and never really lost it. What I realize now, after having weathered two seasons as an organizer and founder of a new community garden, located a few blocks away on Camp Street, though not necessarily conclusive evidence of a failed urban farming project, but of another more successful format in terms of neighborhood access and involvement. The community garden allows people to come and go as they please, to choose what they grow, and to reap the benefits directly. While I don’t doubt the value of the CSA for myself and others that have participated-I see now it’s limitations.
So this brings me to a new goal: to share the resources with others who have a real need and a desire to grow their own food close to their homes. This is a work in progress-and there are no guarantees at this point-there is hope and progress in terms of working with our host, the House of Prayer Church, and Ascentria’s (formerly Lutheran Social Services) New Lands Farm program. With the approval of the church body, we will be able to formally three new families, each with an experienced gardener or farmer, space to grow their own food at the farm. Access to land in any city is limited-contamination, cost, security and access to water are all challenges that many gardeners and urban farmers face. This property has worked for us in so many ways over the last seven seasons-and the farmers New Lands has connected me with are excited about the possibility of growing there-so that’s a great start. I will meet with the church this month-and we’ll discuss what this new-multi farmer arrangement might look like, but for now, the farm will continue to rest, but never the minds of a farmer!
In terms of Nuestro Huerto the organization-there is still the Community Garden and the Summer Youth Program to sustain-and that will take time and energy by both myself and our Garden Coordinator, as well as (hopefully) the help of other willing volunteers. There is a need to source the cash to pay educators for the summer program and that takes grant writing, so that will keep me busy!
I look forward to updating you very soon with news about the coming season. If you live in the neighborhood of the farm-please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to participate in the Camp Street Community Garden next season. I will share with you a few resources for where to get your veggies next year in the next post.
Thank you all for the endless opportunities for learning and loving that you have all shared with me over the past seven seasons!