Sunday, June 27, 2010

From Farm to Market to Market to Farm Stand

To restate the obvious, farming is hard work. Just ask a farmer. Or they just might tell you without waiting to be asked. Farmers put in long hours in weather conditions that try the souls of men/women. Farmers, be they small and organic, or large and conventional, must have a passion and love for what they do. To be successful farmers need to have an outlook that what they are doing is a reflection of who they are as a person; that farming is not just a job. (To be a farmer also requires a high tolerance for uncertainty and a willingness to take risks. To put it another way, farmers make high stakes poker players look risk aversive.) Planting and then watching as the seeds germinate is a rewarding feeling. (Waiting for the germination is a time of anxiety- will the seeds germinate and provide seedlings that will make it into the fields or is there some problem with the seed/soil mix/watering that will impede germination?) Watching the seedlings survive to be planted in the fields is a rewarding feeling. Watching the plants grow to a size ready to harvest is a rewarding feeling. (Will the deer jump the deer fence and destroy the crops? Will the ground hogs do incalculable damage?) And from that harvest comes the next step, selling the produce. While farming has various esoteric and intrinsic rewards, if there wasn't a financial payoff the farmer wouldn't long be a farmer. Some farmers have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA is where the farmer sells shares to people who pay for a seasons worth of produce up front. The members go the the farm (some farmers have a delivery mechanism) to pick up their share for the week. In the course of the season people will get more for their money than if they paid for their produce on a weekly basis either at a farmers market or at a store. By belonging to a CSA the members are supporting local farmers. The farmer has an assured income and the consumer gets locally grown and fresh produce on a weekly basis. The consumer is making an investment that the farm season will provide them with a bounty of produce. By getting their money up front, CSA farmers are given a buffer in case of bad weather or some other calamity (such as last years Late Blight that attacked tomatoes). Some farmers do a CSA and a farmers' market. A farmers' market, for those who may not know, is where the farmers will participate with other vendors (produce, prepared food, crafts, baked goods, cheese, eggs, and so on) and sell their produce directly to the consumer. Some farmers do a weekly market only, or they may do more. In the case of Farmer David and Z Food Farm, he is doing two markets plus selling from the farm one day a week.

As previously written, David sells his produce at the Lawrenceville (NJ) Farmers' Market on Sundays from 9-1, Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia on Saturdays from 9:30-3:00, and at the farm on Wednesdays from noon-7:00. There have now been four markets at Lawrenceville, three at Rittenhouse Square, and three at the farm. Apart from the need to make enough money to survive and to have some financial security, the markets are where the farmer gets to share their joy and passion for what they are doing. At the Lawrenceville market David has found it enjoyable and rewarding to reconnect with people who have been enjoying the fruits of his labor over the past five years. It has been exciting to tell Lawrenceville friends old and new about David's great adventure of going out on his own. For those who have known David they recognize that his sense of personal satisfaction has increased now that he is his own 'boss'. David is appreciative of the opportunity he had the past three years, but he does have a greater sense of accomplishent, joy, and overall satisfaction in a job well done being on his own.

In adding the market at Rittenhouse Square, David is bringing his produce to a new environment, a big city. The first three weeks have been exciting as David is getting to convey his enthusiasm for farming, and his produce, to a whole new audience. Each week has seen an increase in what David has had available to bring to market. Though a couple of weeks behind where he would like to be, David is catching up to where he would like to be. And more, much more, is on the way.

Things have gotten off to a slow start at the on site farm stand. The word is being spread and there was an improvement fro week one to week two. He is looking forward to better days ahead.

Bits and pieces:
  • Gregg the intern and Oscar the hourly worker continue to work their butts off. They are both great and David is extremely gratified, satisfied, and relieved to have them working at Z Food Farm. For a brief time Gregg had a fellow intern. Paul, finishing his junior year in high school, joined the team a couple of weeks ago. However, this coming week will be Paul's last. He is a water polo player and the practices for his club team are going to significantly increase. Thus his schedule does not allow for a full time farm job and training for water polo. So, to borrow from the Beatles, Paul, hello, goodbye. In addition, Angela, Malaika, Mary Jo, and Frank the bee guy continue to provide invaluable assistance as their schedules allow. Thanks also to Emma and another David for spending some time helping out. Laugh if you choose, but when it comes to farming, it does take a village in order to succeed.
  • As of today Hule has now caught four groundhogs. (She almost got another one on Friday but it reached its hole in time. Darn!) The Have-A-Heart traps have caught none. (A possum was caught, but possums don't pose a threat to a farmer; he was released and living, we assume, a happy and grateful life.) As much as a dog is man's best friend,for a farmer a dog is both a friend and an invaluable member of the teams. The most recent groundhog was caught in the act of wreaking havoc on a bed of lettuce. The lettuce had been previously attacked, much to David's annoyance and frustration.
  • Organic status- David is farming in accordance with all USDA guidlines. He farmed organically while doing his internship at Cherry Grove Organic Farm. At Gravity Hill all standards were honored the first year and certification was attained the last two years David was there. The land on which David is currently farming at Z Food Farm is eligible for certification. The paperwork required for certification is extensive and this has taken something of a backseat to the process of getting the farm up and running. Being officially certified is very important to David, it is the only way he knows how to farm. He is aware that official certification is important to many and it is his full intent to obtain his certification as he goes along. So, to those for whom official certification is important, please be patient and know that all standards are being honored. If you have any questions about this, or anything, please contact him at
In wrapping up David wishes to extend his heartfelt appreciation to 'old' friends who have been supporting him over the years. While it is a new farm, it is the same high quality product. To new friends he would like to say, welcome. While selling quality produce is David's main goal, providing quality service is just as important. He is willing to take whatever time is necessary to answer your questions about anything he is selling. From David and Z Food Farm you get high quality product and high quality service.

Eat local. Eat organic. Eat healthy. Peace, good health, and happy eating to all.

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