Thursday, May 7, 2020

Vermont Carrot

Agrarian Trust Launches the Agrarian Commons A National Model for Community-Centered Farm Ownership





Today Agrarian Trust announces the launch of a transformative new model for community-centered farm and ranch ownership and tenure, the Agrarian Commons, in 10 states across the country (CA, ME, MN, MT, NH, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV).

After several years of development and collaborative input, the Agrarian Commons launches in 10 states across the country with 12 founding farms that total 2,400 acres of diversified agriculture serving foodsheds and communities. Diversified agriculture is proven to regenerate soils, sequester carbon, and support healthy ecosystems.

The model decommodifies land through locally governed Agrarian Commons, newly formed legal entities that support farmland access for dispossessed farmers and farmers of color, rebuild human relationships to the land, and return natural capital to land.

Founding boards of the 10 Agrarian Commons are 58 percent women, 63 percent farmers, and 85 percent local to the regions the Agrarian Commons serves. The Agrarian Commons addresses two primary barriers for beginning and exiting farmers: the high cost of land and high debt burden of modern agriculture.

Human disconnection from land, the climate crisis, and the catastrophic loss of habitat and species directly impact food security and the health of farms, humans, community, and the earth. The consolidation of industrial agriculture imperils our farms and food systems: Every day, 37 mid-sized farms close across the country.

At the foundation of land injustice is the dispossession and theft of land from Indigenous peoples, Black farmers, and other communities of color. More than 60 percent of farmworkers are people of color, yet people of color own less than 2 percent of all farmland in the United States. Underlying all of this is the reality that we are in the midst of 400 million acres of U.S. farmland changing hands as a generation of farmers and ranchers retire. The time for transformation in how land is owned, accessed, valued, and used is now.

The West Virginia Agrarian Commons is building a community to value and sustain interconnected agricultural enterprises, creating equitable ownership, and an agrarian economy that restores the health of the land and its communities after centuries of exploitation.

The Southeast Minnesota Agrarian Commons is focused on small scale farm enterprises that provide new opportunities to rural Latinx immigrants and communities, and build economic resilience and community well-being.

Somali Bantu communities resettling the exploited and neglected mill cities of Lewiston-Auburn, Maine are founding the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons to hold community farms focused on local food production. 
The May 1st, 2020 founding of the Agrarian Commons is a step toward transforming our relationship to land. Agrarian Trust is working to raise $10 million over the next two years for Agrarian Commons to acquire farms, fund land transaction costs and organizational capacity, and invest in farm viability and ecological health.

Visit: www.agrariantrust.org/agrariancommons Subscribe for updates: agrariantrust.org/subscribe | Follow: @agrariantrust | #agrariancommons
Lake Champlain, VT


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Masked Heroes of the Berkshires

Masked heroes of the Berkshires



By  Sunday, Apr 26, 2020 Life In the Berkshires

Josh Pacheco, ER Physician, Fairview Hospital, Great Barrington. Photo Mary Nelen

At hospitals across the country... N95 masks are in short supply. Peter Tsai, a material scientist and engineer who developed the N95 mask with virus-blocking technology, is emerging from retirement to help figure out how to disinfect the single-use masks for reuse.
For non-medical individuals, hospital masks are impossible to find or order. Since Governor Baker ordered the wearing of a mask whenever people venture out of the home, a flurry of mask making has taken place in the Berkshires. 
Last week Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount, announced that five yards of the toile fabric used in Edith Wharton’s bedroom will be produced by the French textile manufacturer and donated for use in masks, as part of an initiative spearheaded by Kate Louzon, Berkshire County Coronavirus Community Assistance coordinator. All over the Berkshires, individuals are making masks on sewing machines, sharing patterns made available by news sources, or putting them together with the most humble of materials, such as a bandanna folded in two or some basic fabric held together by two rubber bands.
No matter what form they take, masks must be worn, and a cross section of area mask wearers who face the public on a daily basis reveal the sources of their masks for this photo essay.
What can be said to these masked heroes, braving molecules with good cheer and full hearts, often for minimum wage and, on rare occasions, hazard pay?  Because of them, there is a respirator and a professional who knows how to use it, a clear signal on the Internet, a dark roast coffee at a window in the middle of a snow storm, a bottle of what is required, a slice of hot pizza, fresh baked sourdough bread, sensitive ministrations for quarantined souls unsure of this new reality, and finally, a chief of police waiting to take your call.
If you run into any of these folks, say thanks.

Marc Portieri, Police Chief, West Stockbridge, mask provided by South Berkshire Emergency Planning Committee.
Photo Mary A. Nelen



Amanda Bates, Front-of-House, The Lantern Bar and Grill, Pittsfield, mask made by Jenna Lanphear. Photo: Mary A. Nelen


Ben Conesew, Cheese Monger, Rubiner’s, Great Barrington, mask custom-made by Frank Muytjes of Kenmore Hall in Richmond. Photo: Mary A. Nelen


Aryonah Buffoni, Waitress, Betty’s Pizza Shack, Lenox, mask provided by employer. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Elmer Lainez, Line Clearing, National Grid, mask issued by ARS Corporation. Photo: Mary A. Nelen


Fred, Cashier, Nejaime’s Liquor Store, Stockbridge, mask made by wife Shirley. Photo by Mary A. Nelen


Rosalynn Frederick, Quality and Training Manager Stanton Home, Great Barrington, mask provided by employer. Photo courtesy of Stanton Home.


Monica Havill, Drive-Thru Window Server, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lee, mask provided by employer. Photo by Mary A. Nelen


Dr. Michael Kaplan, Community Health Programs, Lee Family Practice, mask provided by medical suppliers and federal and state emergency preparedness teams. Photo courtesy of Community Health Programs.


Thomas Lampiasi, Baker, Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Housatonic, mask provided by employer. Photo by Mary A. Nelen


Matthew Rubiner, Owner, Rubiner’s, Great Barrington, mask made from fabric donated by Sandra Boyton, made by a friend. Photo: Mary A. Nelen


Josh Pacheco, Emergency Room Physician, Fairview Hospital, mask issued by employer. Photo by Mary A. Nelen


Alifia Panina, Volunteer, Stanton Home, Great Barrington, mask provided by employer. Photo courtesy of Stanton Home

WeiWei Shi, Manager, Shiro Kitchen and Asian Market, Great Barrington,mask purchased at CVS.
Photo: May A. Nelen

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Trip to the Interior, Route 47 North

Trip to the Interior

Route 47 North


The farmer texted us, "Meet me in Montague..." 

My nephew and I stood there in a parking lot not far from the highway. Kyle said let's go. 

We drove north along Route 47 chasing an order of arugula, mixed greens, carrots and shallotOnce past the honey pot, where the river gives the soil a good embrace, the houses gave way to fields.

O​nce ensconced in our meeting place, we waited next to a barn with a loading dock and a generous row​ of something under white crop cover material. The day was glorious, blue sky, birds communicating, with us, perhaps, in spite of ourselves and, instructed us to look again at the white crop cover material where we discovered a lone strawberry plant. 




Photo by Mary A. Nelen



“Hello there!”

We looked up to see Sarah Voi​land​, ​a tall, wiry​, wood sprite of a​ woman ​in ​muck boots and jeans​. ​ 


“That’s Everbearing!” she said ​of the strawberry plant which she explained will bear fruit all summer long. 



Like one who might be on speaking terms with Mother Nature, she radiated confidence. ​She invited us to tour more life, this time in the hoop house.



In unseasonal warmth, we trudged through the field, ​she shared current ​farm ​logistics ​in light recent restrictions on social interaction. 

“We are juggling,” she said explaining this week’s shift from selling at three separate farmers markets to going to the same locations with a truck to fill pre-orders made by email. 



We joined Sarah on her commute from home to the hoop house as about 100 steps across hard soil, row after row.


“I wake before dawn and jog when I have to clear my mind,” she said with a shrug as we trod the earth.."

Inside which was like walking onto a football field sized garden of light and tiny plants. 

Photo by Mary A. Nelen

It’s not tender things time,” Sarah said of the thousands seeds sprouting before us. Beginning with the most voluminous of the seedlings were the onions of which there were thousands. Also growing before our eyes were early tomatoes, English cucumbers, ​S​wiss ​C​hard and edible pansies.

By “tender things time” Sarah meant that it was too soon to start seeds outdoors.    

Photo by Mary A. Nelen

Some seedlings were bound for the great outdoors where they would finish their gestation and others, such as the tomatoes, would finish growing in a greenhouse in Granby where they would be ready for sale by June and hopefully at the Red Fire Farm Tomato Festival, but that, like everything else on the planet, is uncertain but the plants were proof of something good to come.

The three of us fell quiet in the sunlight. A yellow and black barn cat entered the greenhouse and wound around my legs.  Sarah introduced her as “Pecan” or “Boss Mamma.”

The cat hung around while Sarah explained this week’s food distribution challenge for the farm.

 “This time of year we are at three farmers’ markets on a Saturday but they’re all closed,” said Sarah.  

“We alerted customers, took orders and went to the locations sell off the truck.”

Typically Red Fire brings about $10,000 from Northampton, Springfield and Somerville. A fourth market in Wayland moved outdoors but the time frame was reduced to three hours.

 “The call for people to order in bulk on Wednesday for a Saturday pick-up brought in $4,000 from all four markets,” said Sarah who has two children.

With respect to people working in restaurants and those temporarily out of work, she looked down at the ground and shook her head.

“I jus don’t know how they’re gonna survive this,” she said.

Red Fire Farm announced they will be doing home deliveries starting next week, in an email from Sarah reminding us that we “own our interiors” and pictured wearing a T-Shirt with the legend,

“Hard Times Ain’t Gonna Rule My Mind No More,” a song by Gillian Welch to remind customers and friends that we own the interior.

Not sure if she means the interior meaning the land or the interior of our bodies but either way, it’s a comfort knowing food from Red Fire and other farms will continue to grow in these loamy soils.