In an effort to learn from other groups who work for community food security, the staff of Just Roots has been gathering information about like-minded organizations throughout New England. One organization that piqued our interest is The Community Farm of Simsbury (CFS).
We were intrigued by some of the parallels between CFS and Just Roots. In addition to increasing low-income access to healthy local food, CFS emphasizes education and operates on the Town’s former poor farm. So, last Friday, five of us from Just Roots layered up and took a morning road trip down to CFS to meet with Tim Goodwin (Farm Director) and Anne Patrie (Garden Manager), who graciously answered our many questions.
One thing made immediately clear was that CFS is education-driven, rather than farm-driven like the Greenfield Community Farm. Collaborating with schools in the Hartford Metro area, CFS finds the gaps in curriculum and crafts relevant classes in response to those gaps. Classes take place on the farm where, as Tim explained, urban and suburban kids can meet on “neutral ground”. In addition to school-year curriculum, CFS holds several weeks of farm camp in the summer, where kids–from toddlers to teenagers–learn about ecology, farming, and food.
Although some produce grown on the farm is sold through a small stand and/or used in programming, the vast majority is donated to local food service organizations. Donating produce keeps the spirit of the original poor farm’s deed, which states that any work done on the land should serve the poor. This allows CFS to serve a unique function within the regional community–that is, supplying local, organic produce to those communities with the least access to it, while in turn garnering community and financial support for its work.
In an effort to assist aspiring farmers who lack access to land, CFS recently began a farmer incubator program, wherein 3-5 farmers can hone their skills by renting up to an acre of the farm’s certified organic land. There has been a lot of discussion around the Just Roots table about incubator strategies at the Greenfield Community Farm, so it was wonderful to get some insight into how CFS does it.
While eating our lunch on a sunny picnic table, the five of us reflected on the similarities and differences between the Simsbury and Greenfield community farm efforts. We thought about how the unique “constraint” of CFS—namely, that in terms of the deed, the land should benefit the poor—allowed them to develop a unique model that becomes more fine-tuned year to year.
Heading back to Greenfield, we felt grateful to know more about the good work being done regionally, and excited that there is already so much support for and interest in the Greenfield Community Farm.
If you want to learn more about the Community Farm of Simsbury, check out their website at http://communityfarmofsimsbury.org/