The Community Circuit
This year, a variety of organizations have reached out to the Gaining Ground farmers to learn more about their farming systems and to include them in various activities. They have participated in publications, podcasts, farm tours and even community cooking contests!
In March, Gaining Ground was included in the UMass Extension Vegetable Notes with a photograph of its low-till high tunnel seeded with greens. This was an exciting “first” to be on the front page of a key resource for farmers in the region.
In April, Farm Manager Doug Wolcik was featured in NOFA/Mass podcast episode 3, “All about Community!” Doug spoke with NOFA education director, Caro Roszell about the many levels of community in farming at Gaining Ground. The interview covered a lot of territory including beneficial micro-communities in the soil, growing level of food insecurity in Massachusetts, the benefits of healthy produce for this hungry population and effective coordination of community volunteers. The section specific to Gaining Ground is from minutes 19:23 to 46:09.
Amidst winter planning and spring planting, Gaining Ground farmers welcomed visitors from Salt Box Farm in Concord, Powisett Farm in Dover, Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester and Twin Villages Farm in Damariscotta, ME. Like Gaining Ground, Salt Box has been improving its soil by balancing minerals for healthier plants. Their farmers enjoyed seeing our fields while comparing results and suggestions. The Powisett Farm farmers were interested in comparing their more traditional methods cultivating with tractors to our no-till farming practices. The wet spring had impeded tractor access into their fields and therefore delayed their planting, while we were already rolling out our crops into our prepared no-till beds.
Board members and staff from Wright-Locke Farm wanted to learn more about how we integrate 2,500 volunteers and education into our no-till farming activities throughout the season. Twin Villages Farm has a hunger relief mission similar to Gaining Ground and its farmers were curious about our crop assortment and volunteer coordination. The cross-pollination from such visits is inspirational for all involved.
In April, Gaining Ground farmers participated in a fundraising event hosted by one of our recipient partners. Kim Schmidt, Jared Kimler and Doug Wolcik teamed up to create the winning dish in a fast-paced cooking challenge at Open Table’s Chopped for Charity fundraiser. Their daily practice of preparing lunches together throughout the season paid off. For first prize, they received a much appreciated tour and delicious dinner at Forge and Vine in Groton.
Going forward, we are excited to be hosting a NOFA Soil Health Field Day at Gaining Ground on Sunday, July 14 as a follow up to the first workshop in June in Connecticut. (See related blog article.) Later in the month on Wednesday, July 31, we will lead a farm tour and discussion about pest management strategies oriented toward apprentices and farmers as part of the Eastern Massachusetts Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (eMass CRAFT).
We are inspired and honored to be considered a meaningful resource for other local hunger relief and farming communities.