greenhorns feature: resilient farming in a changing new england

posted February 22, 2017

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by Bonnie Rubrecht

Concord, Massachusetts might be known primarily for its ties to the Revolutionary War, but today it’s a thriving and affluent Boston suburb of a population of nearly 20,000. In the midst of historic mansions and some of the most valuable property outside of Boston, Hutchins Farm has been cultivating 65 acres of organic fruit and vegetables since the early 1970s. Greenhorns had the opportunity to talk to Liza Bemis, the great-great granddaughter of Charles Hutchins, who originally purchased the land that became Hutchins Farm in 1895 for his New England dairy. Liza didn’t envision herself working on the farm she grew up on, but after six years working in an office, she was ready for a change.

“The bigger question,” Liza explained, “is how do we deal with more severe weather events? Whether it’s plant breeding, cover cropping to keep the soil in place … just this past year we had a tornado [in Concord]. What does that mean for us?”

When Liza returned to Hutchins, she began helping out with farmer’s markets and now manages all of the farm’s sales, overseeing select wholesale accounts with local restaurants, dealing with their accounting and managing their farm stand on Monument Street. Family-owned for five generations, Hutchins was originally a dairy called Punkatasset Farm. “But in our grandparents’ era, dairy in New England was dying,” Liza explained. “More than half of the land was sold off, leaving just the original homestead—about 65 acres.” The remaining land was leased out to other farmers, or used for growing hay.

Despite his parents prodding to go into a different career, Liza’s father, Gordon Bemis, was smitten with farming.
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need more acres: great farm name, sweet video

posted May 3, 2016

Need More Acres farm owners Nathan and Michelle discuss the necessity of diversified vegetable farms and increasing food access. This is a beautiful and heart-felt little video about a family passionate about the work that they do: providing a multi-farm CSA to 35 families; organizing a community market to make more food available in their region; and engaging in the slow, sometimes tedious, but ultimately critical work of reforming our food system from the roots up.


GOOD DIRT premier @ BAM, april 10

posted March 13, 2016

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GOOD DIRT is a multimedia performance based on real stories from six diverse farm families in the Hudson Valley. Written by Jeremy Davidson and directed by Mary Stuart Masterson of Storyhorse Documentary Theater, GOOD DIRT illustrates the fragility of our agricultural heritage and inspires the audience to rebuild what’s been lost. 

APRIL 10, 2016 // PREMIER
Show starts at 4pm // at the BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)
Cocktail reception at 6pm // at BAM Lepercq Space, 30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

The proceeds from this event go to support the work of our good friends at the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Buy tickets here!


hydroelectric damn threatens farmland in BC

posted January 10, 2016

peace river flats Don Hoffman

Impact of Site C Dam on B.C. Farmland Far More Dire Than Reported, Local Farmers Show

By Sarah Cox • Thursday, January 7, 2016 – 12:43
Reposted from DESMOG CANADA

“Clay and Katy Peck are just the type of young farming family that B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says his government wants to support to ensure “a reliable food source for years to come.”

The Pecks own a 65-hectare farm in the Agricultural Land Reserve overlooking the Peace River, and are preparing for organic certification of a fruit and vegetable business to serve the northern area around Fort St. John.

The couple’s farm is high enough above the Peace River that it is not included in BC Hydro’s tally of 6,469 hectares of farmland — an area larger than all the farmland in Richmond — that will be destroyed by the Site C dam and its vast reservoir.

But the Pecks, along with other Peace Valley farmers, stand to lose significant amounts of farmland and crops to Site C in previously uncounted ways. The likely impact of Site C on agricultural land has been routinely underreported and will be far more dire than widely expected, according to scientists and information found in BC Hydro reports.

Work on the $8.8 billion dam project began in August and continues around the clock despite three on-going court cases by First Nations, missing federal government permits, and BC Hydro’s continuing failure to demonstrate the need for Site C electricity.

In addition to the agricultural land BC Hydro counts as permanently lost to Site C, another 5,900 hectares of farmland falls within what BC Hydro calls a “stability impact zone” and is at risk of destruction. BC Hydro insists a further 1,125 hectares of farmland — an area about the size of four Stanley Parks — will be lost only on a “temporary” basis during the next 10 years, but farmers and a soil scientist question whether topsoil on the land can ever be replaced.

The list of agricultural land lost temporarily to Site C includes 203 hectares of agricultural land in a Flood Impact Zone that may experience “crop losses when flooding occurs,” according to BC Hydro. Collapsing Peace River banks will create a landslide-generated wave that will sweep over an additional 174 hectares of prime farmland. Since water will not remain on the fields forever, BC Hydro does not include these areas in its tally of permanently lost farmland, even though flooding and waves can cause soil erosion and leave behind debris.

“In my view this is a permanent loss,” says Vancouver soil scientist Eveline Wolterson. “It’s like a tsunami. Essentially what it does is it eats away at topsoil. It will all get washed into the reservoir. They’ll never be able to restore those soils.””

Read the whole article on DESMOGCANADA!


practice, humor, creativity, stamina and guts

posted December 2, 2010

Finding a Future in Agriculture: An Apprentice’s Journey

By Amber Reed

Before the Quivira Conference in Albuquerque last fall, I had read only a little by Aldo Leopold. At the beginning of A Sand County Almanac I read: “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” A man ahead of his time, Leopold nailed our modern psyche.
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