Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's Not a Vacant Lot!

There are many exciting things happening at and around the farm!  And I'm not just talking about the fluctuations between blistering hot and frosty cold.  Last week I made a trip over to the coast to visit a friend and on the way I stopped over in Providence, RI to a collection of urban farms and community gardens that has been building there for the last thirty years.  And yet, even though there is a strong presence of urban agriculture and gardening, life can be tough for an urban farmer.

The day before I was set to drive to Rhode Island, I was looking at Facebook (my morning routine/guilty pleasure) and noticed a post from Front Step Farm, the farm I was about to visit.  Without his knowledge, the landowner of his leased lot had sold the land from under his feet.  The new owners gave him an ultimatum - get out or else.  The afternoon I arrived, Than (the farmer at Front Step Farm), was just getting out of a meeting with the new owners.  It had not gone well.  They referred to land as a "vacant lot," negating three years of hard work on Than's part, and the business he had created around his soil and vegetables.  What followed was a drizzly dash through Providence and tours of its many, many gardens, each with their own story of peril and triumph.  Angry neighbors, helpful landowners, falling trees, leaded soils, generous artists, Kickstarter campaigns, each of these participate in the crazy world that is the South Side urban ag landscape.
Front Step Farm, about the same size as South Pine Street City Farm

Than behind raspberries.
Hopefully Than can take his soil with him, he worked hard for it!

Laura at Sidewalk Ends Farm watering the pea shoots.

Providence has a six-chicken rule.  The colorful coop was built during a workshop.
She's proud of her compost!  Those bags next to Laura are the hulls from coffee beans, apparently they make a great brown addition to compost.

Than and Rich at City Farm, "the original."  City Farm is part of South Side Land Trust and has been growing for just over 30 years.  Rich has been the farmer there for ten.  To this day he is making improvements and expanding the growing area.

 What amazes me about the Providence is the shear number of urban farms and community gardens.  At least six farmed lots with more at the periphery.  And so much dedication from each grower to their little piece of earth.  If only we could replicate that number in Kingston!  But if there is a lesson to be learned, it is that proper paperwork is key.  Whether it be leases, insurance, agreements, what have you, get it in writing and make sure everyone understands the implications of what they are signing.  Otherwise you might just find yourself hurriedly moving all of the plants you just transplanted into your backyard.  The other lesson is that a lack of buildings does not a vacant lot make, urban ag is making a comeback and we will not be silenced!

Many many thanks to Than, Jenna and the other housemates for putting me up for the night.  We shall return the favor if ever you get to come to Kingston.  But beware, I am sure to visit Providence again!

So what about SPSCF?  Thanks to the efforts of three trusty volunteers (Steve, Ed and Shiloh - yay!) and my dear Daniel the farm was well taken care of in my absence.  By the time I got back, the seedlings were just begging to be put in the ground or into larger pots.  So I indulged them.  And plants were popping up everywhere, including some self-sown lovelies.

Self seeded cilantro (say that five times fast), right by the entrance.  Makes for excellent lunch tacos.

The garlic is really going now, will it be done before July?

Self seeded cheerful johnny jump ups.  It's funny, they are so hard to start indoors, but they are practically weeds once they get established.

I had a lot of requests for head lettuce last year, so here it is .  Green and red romaine.  Little red radishes in the back.  Good job volunteers, you kept the seeds watered and they came up nicely!

Chives, ready to flower.  It's so nice to have the perennial herbs established this year!
Initially thrown by Summer in March, the lovage (one of my favorite herbs) has come back to life.

Various nightshades (aka tomatoes and eggplants) waiting to be potted up.  I've been really pleased with their germination this season.  They can be tricky sometimes.
 Please note: I will be starting up the farm stand on Wednesday, May 2nd from 4pm-7pm.  Normal hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 4pm-7pm.  Just a quick stop after work and you'll be set for dinner.  This spring I am happy to also offer eggs from Old Ford Farm in New Paltz.  They are from pastured hens and are some of the best eggs I've ever had.  There's a mix of white and brown eggs in each dozen, but no worries, the quality comes from the diet, not from the color of the eggshell.

See you at the farm!

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