Getting to Know Gaining Ground’s New Farm Manager, Anna Kelchlin

Images of Anna packing up greens and washing winter carrots.

What drew you to farming? When and how did you start farming? 

Initially, what drew me to farming was the fact that I didn’t really understand where my food came from and I was curious about our food system, which I have come to learn is in a sense our healthcare system. In 2012, I took a field crew position at Waltham Fields Community Farm and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I was planning to work a year and then dive deeper into farm-based education, but I felt a shift happen within my being, and my heart told me that I needed to spend more time learning about growing food. I love the relationship I develop year after year with our natural world, it is ever-changing, and there is always a new wonder to discover. It is dynamic! I feel alive when I spend my days outside, under the sun, in the soil, breathing fresh air, smelling fresh tomato seedlings, tasting the first cut of baby kale. I like how farming ties me to the land—it forces one to fully surrender in the sense of letting go. I feel productive and satisfied. I like the people farms attract and I like the collaboration and team-oriented nature of working on a farm. I like the diversity of work and I like its intensity. I believe in how local, fresh, nutritious food can regenerate life and connect people and in turn connect us to the earth—the very being that sustains us. I like working toward something greater, fostering growth in others that is fulfilling and healthy. I like feeding people and knowing that it is connecting all of us together. We are interdependent and through this work I am reminded of this daily. And of course I LOVE eating all the food and dreaming up all the possibilities of dishes. I find it important to revisit the question of why I farm as regularly as the seasons shift.  

What about Gaining Ground’s regenerative, no-till farming practices appeal to you? Do you have new initiatives you are looking to implement or things you’re looking forward to in 2021?

The reason why Gaining Ground’s practices appeal to me is because they are working toward creating a more balanced, diverse ecosystem that aligns itself with nature as much as possible in a colonized agricultural system. I appreciate the fact that the farm aims to disturb the soil as little as possible and strives to diversify the life here.  

I hope to incorporate more native plants throughout our hedgerows, plant more cover crops, and use more natural mulches, such as leaves and sea salt marsh hay (with less tarping). I would like to do more intercropping, and try things like installing bluebird houses and a bat house. I also hope to create more intentional, focused volunteer experiences centered around food access issues and racial equity, and gratitude practice. And, later down the road, it would be amazing to utilize our own compost. 

And, for 2021, I’m looking forward to the crew! The group of farmers who are coming on this season have an amazing amount of experiences both on and off the farm. 

There can be a lot of challenges and roadblocks for women working in what have traditionally been male-dominated fields. In your personal experience, have you found that this also exists in the farming community? 

Yes, this definitely exists and is real in the farming community. The entire industry is male-dominated, which affects every aspect of farming from how tractors are designed down to the workwear. Many of the voices within the no-till community are white and male, which can be frustrating to see since this approach to farming was pioneered and practiced by indigenous communities long before colonization began. However, I will say in the Northeast there is a large female farmer population, and the other farm I worked on was mostly run by women so I have had a unique experience in that sense.  

When you aren’t farming what do you like to do?

I love to spend my time hiking mountains, doing yoga, surfing and swimming, cooking, baking things like English muffins and peach cobblers, reading nonfiction, and traveling the globe, especially to Spanish-speaking countries.