Category Archives: Farming

Teaching Small Ones About Our World

I had the pleasure of walking around Small Ones Farm and interviewing Sally Fitz about her early childhood farm education summer camp. Located in Amherst, Ma, Small Ones Farm is probably the most adorable farm you’ve seen in a while, because it’s geared towards five and six year olds, everything is tiny.

Sally was a psychology professor before starting Small Ones Farm with her husband Bob and that is extremely apparent in the layout and management of the camp. Since the students are five and six years old, big open spaces, like a farm, can be incredibly overwhelming to them. Kids need clear boundaries and limits in order to feel safe and comfortable and receptive to information. The camp area is a small mini-farm with a wooden fence around it, this doesn’t cage the kids in, it allows them to see the bigger, working farm surrounding them, the beautiful fields and orchard, but also makes them feel safe.

Literally everything in the mini-farm is thought out and geared towards teaching kids how to nurture the world around them and see that they are a part of it. There is a “sunflower house”, sunflowers planted that grow tall and create a space for kids to go sit and be entirely surrounded by plants. There’s also a bean tunnel, where children get a different perspective of plants growing and also makes harvesting an adventure. Kids in the camp also learn about compost and plant cycles, and see firsthand that nurturing plants helps them grow.

Another aspect of Small Ones Farm program that I really liked is that it runs alongside a working farm so kids get to see what a farm looks like, what a farmer looks like (Sally mentioned that all the farmers make it a point to come eat snack with the kids). Also incorporated is a weekly visit from a scientist that comes to teach the kids about natural science in ways that are accessible to them.

          

Small Ones Farm is a beautiful, loving place. Not only do Bob and Sally have a CSA, they also sell honey, apple cider, pies, and apples at their roadside stand. It was really great to see that even in this time of economic uncertainty, there are still wonderful people out there following their passion and doing the good work that needs to be done.

Many Thanks to Sally for the adorable pictures of the camp when it’s up and running and for taking the time to talk!

Jennifer Hartley-Grow Food Northampton

 

Jennifer Hartley and her daughter, Lily

Jennifer Hartley, a Northampton resident, is one of the founding    board members of the non-profit group Grow Food Northampton. Jennifer’s interest in the project grew from her interest in food and the power of community agriculture in bringing people together, as well as her concern for food shortages and the state of modern commercial farming.

In 2010, GFN, driven by the commitment and energy of its fanatic members, waged a grassroots campaign to purchase 121 acres in Florence (formerly the Bean and Allard Farms) and start a community farm. The group set out to educate Northampton residents about their cause to rally support and raise funds, eventually reaching their goal and purchasing the land. The project was funded primarily by individual donations and received grant funding as well.  The City of Northampton pre-paid a 198-year-lease for the Florence Organic Community Garden portion of the site, which enabled that parcel to be purchased.

In the community garden, which will have its first growing season in spring 2012, individuals will pay a reasonable fee for a small plot of farm land.  GFN will not only supply this land for public use, but also will work to educate individuals on how to successfully manage their plot.

GFN leases land to community-minded organic farmers on long term leases. These long leases allow new farmers to make substantial investments in the land, making them feel truly connected to the land and promoting the development of operations that are accessible and educational to the public.

Grow Food Northampton is working to break down the barriers between consumers and farmers. Their commitment and values have driven them so far as a young organization, and with no sign of slowing efforts, GFN should prove to be a staple in the Pioneer Valley’s community food movement well into the future.

 

Lots of New Farmers in Massachusetts

The Boston Globe reported that after decades of decline, farming is resurging again in Massachusetts. New farmers are graduates fresh out of college, immigrants with farming backgrounds, or former professionals starting new careers.  From 2002 to 2007, the number of farms in Massachusetts jumped by about 27 percent.  That’s a reversal from the previous five years, when there was a 20 percent drop in the number of farms.  The start-up farms are smaller than the enterprises of the past.  For more….read the article here.