by Laura Rodley
If you want to farm, the nonprofit Grow Food Northampton can help. Right now, the nonprofit oversees three farms on some 120 acres. The three leasable spots are on Crimson and Clover, Sawmill Farm and Slow Tractor Farm.
“We’re full,” said Clem Clay, the Executive Director of Grow Food. Currently, 103 acres are already leased, seven acres are designated as organic and all 275 garden plot areas are taken.
Clay was instrumental in helping Grow Food buy the acres of farmland in Florence, MA. Grow Food raised over $670,000 to purchase the land in 2011 and when the founding director Lilly Lombard decided to move on in 2014, Clay took over the position — overseeing the land’s lease deals, a set of access projects to make sure food is available to low income residents and working with farmers.
To do this, “There are volunteers growing food. We deliver surplus produce from the farms to the Survival Program (Northampton Survival Center), and subsidize CSA shares for low income people,” and elders; they pay half of the cost of farm shares for Crimson and Clover shareholders that use SNAP benefits. To help make this happen, he wears his fundraising hat.
“We’re as committed to making people have access to the food as we are that farms can grow local food. There’s a very strong social justice component,” said Clay.
Currently, Slow Tractor Farm’s lease is expiring and two more farming proposals are being considered.
Susan Pincus, owner of Sawmill Farm, answered when the Board of Directors of Grow Food put out a call for farming proposals, three years ago. “I was looking for land and I applied and interviewed.” She now grows medicinal and culinary herbs on two and half acres as a leaseholder on Grow Food’s land. Pincus has also joined the Grow Food’s Board of Directors.
Crimson and Clover Farm is owned by Nate Frigard and Jen Smith, leaseholders of 90 acres from Grow Foods for the last five years. They have 15 acres in production, and sell CSA shares; 400 regular shares and 130 late season shares, now offering onions, carrots, kale, greens and lettuce grown in their hoop house further down the hill. Frigard said, “I love the community and support from all our customers. We feel connected with them,” as customers visit when they arrive weekly at the farm to pick up their food shares.
His partner Jen Smith echoes, “I love working outside, working with a lot of people. Just by having share holds, I know so many of our neighbors.” They also sell produce at Saturday and Tuesday Northampton Farmers’ Market.
Grow Food sponsored the 2015 Community Farm Fest fundraiser on Oct. 25, hosted by Crimson and Clover Farm. More than 250 people visited the farm — enjoying horse-drawn hayrides, a community garden tour, live music and even a chance to see large black pigs.
As it was a family friendly event, highlights included a veggie slingshot, where sling shooters gave a ticket to shoot cut-up turnip hunks as far as they could go. The veggie slingshot proved itself popular at Grow Fest’s two previous Farm Fests in 2011 and 2012.
The five goats in attendance for the event were part of an educational herd for the Farm Education Collaborative, part of the Farm Camp at Hampshire College. Hope Guardenier of Belchertown, a member of the board, stood by making sure only five people at a time, mostly children and their parents, pet or brushed the goats.
Grow Food Northampton~ promoting sustainable community farming
by Laura Rodley