The Food Project: Youth. Food. Community.

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Upgrading our Farm Equipment

Tim shows off new gear
Tim shows off new gear
Over the last few years, The Food Project's stable of farm equipment has been showing its age. Each season we'd spend more money and staff time on maintenance, and suffer through increasingly inefficient operations. Worse, our equipment's limitations made it difficult to maintain the long-term health of our land.

This all changes with our new gear, selected by Lincoln farmers Tim
Laird and Miriam Stason. Tim and Miriam used their knowledge of the state of the art in small-scale sustainable vegetable growing practices to put together a set of farm machinery that should allow our farmers to improve plant and soil health throughout all phases of the season.

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An Oasis Grows in Lynn, MA

This year, in collaboration with Oasis Development and a great cast of volunteers, The Food Project has started up a new plot of land in Lynn. It's on Munroe Street, right by our North Shore office and directly across from the Lynn commuter rail station. Here's a slideshow of the plot's progression from grassy field to working farm:

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My, what a large pan

selection from tomato field panorama
selection from tomato field panorama
 The Food Project is the lucky recipient of a GigaPan robotic panorama-producing system, generously provided together with training by Fine Outreach for Science. The GigaPan system can produce extremely large, detailed panoramas that can easily be examined through their website -- you can take in the whole scene, or zoom in to inspect which tomatoes are affected by the blight and which are still fine. 

While there was a bit of a learning curve learning how to operate the GigaPan, we succeeded in producing our first panorama worth sharing last month: a scene from the on-farm U Pick tomato fields of our CSA. More to come!

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Late Blight Alert for Tomatoes and Potatoes

Please be on the look out in your home gardens!

If you see signs of late blight on your tomatoes, harvest all tomatoes (both ripened and unripened) and dispose of the plants immediately. Potatoes are also at risk. For more information and pictures of what to look for, see the UMass Extension's late blight alert.

Our Lincoln CSA farmer Kate wrote about what this has meant for our farm earlier this week. For other perspectives, Boston food writer Alison Arnett has a reaction to TFP's blight announcement, and local farmer MK Wyle has a powerful story about the blight's impact on her farm.

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The Blight Upon Us

Food Project Tomatoes in 2008
Food Project Tomatoes in 2008
I badly wanted to write about something upbeat this week. That was not to be. Our farm, like many in the Northeast, has been hit by late blight, an aggressive disease on tomatoes and potatoes spread through moist air by the water-born mold Phytophthora Infestans. Infected plants can blacken and wither within a week, the fruit of tomatoes develops lesions and begins to rot and the tubers of potatoes are can also be infected if immediate action is not taken. Once late blight is present in a field even the most aggressive conventional fungicides have only a small likelihood of preventing its spread.

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An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Dear Michelle Obama,

Congratulations on choosing to plant a food garden on the White House grounds.  Now imagine that mini-farm on the White House grounds being tended by youth from Washington DC!  Give young people the opportunity to contribute purposefully to their community by growing food for the hungry and caring for the land. The Food Project has been doing this for almost 20 years in the Boston area. What a great way to inspire other youth across the USA to literally see that the fruits of their labor can create change in their own communities.

Hire a teenage farmer and challenge all of us to engage in a new way of thinking, acting, and being. Teens from across the district, together as a team, will plant the seeds of cooperation, community and pride as they grow, harvest and distribute the bounty of their shared labor. We believe in the ability to inform a new generation of leaders by placing teens in responsible roles, with deeply meaningful work.

The Food Project has been guided by the belief that community is created by providing common ground - in toiling, harvesting and sharing of the bounty.   We celebrate collaboration, cooperation and the value of a hard day’s work. A White House Garden tended by teens from across the city’s social, racial and economic neighborhoods can inspire a youth movement across the land.

When youth experience the value of labor and service while building a diverse and effective community they discover and develop their talents, make friends and test themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Inviting youth to serve and to take risks offers a chance to see oneself and the world differently and encourages the same in each volunteer, neighbor, and friend.

Thank you.

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Now What? Seven Priorities for the Food Movement in the Age of Obama and Why Young People Will Lead the Way

by Anim Steel

“Is a sustainable food strategy on Obama’s menu?” asked Derrick Jackson in a December 30, 2008 Boston Globe column.  Don’t depend on it, he concluded, despite some pretty encouraging signs from the Obama camp.  The new president will face serious “blowback” from the agribusiness industry, he noted.  That’s a lobby that Michael Pollan described as the second most powerful in DC.

So if Obama doesn’t lead the way, who will?  And even if he proves to be a champion of sustainable food policy, what will bridge the enormous gap between vision and reality? What will force revolutionary change all the way from Capitol Hill to the corner store?

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What do those farmers do in the winter?

onion seedlings
onion seedlings
By Kate Mrozicki, Farm CSA Manager

Yes, we farmers do work some in the winter.  Now it is care for the inanimate object on the farm, not the vegetables, that occupies our time. Coming home from a day of wrenches and repairs I found an old essay by E. B. White that summed up how I was feeling: “farming is about twenty per cent agriculture and eighty per cent mending something that has got busted. Farming is a sort of glorified repair job.“ That is certainly how it seems at this time of year when our hands are more likely to be smeared with tractor grease than creased with soil. Fix-it projects vie for our attention before the season begins- the water hydrant that dribbles when it should gush, the door that swings at an awkward angle, the green house heater that stubbornly refuses to fire up, the tractor tire that goes flat as soon as it awakens from its winter slumber. Fluids need changing and filters need cleaning. We are becoming quite fond of our liquid wrench, sledgehammers and ratchets. Sometimes the problems require a much softer touch. That heater malfunction turned out to be more of a zoning than a mechanical issue. Generations of birds had squeezed through the narrow grate meant to keep them out and taken up residence in the chimney, eventually cutting our heater off from the oxygen supply required for combustion. A tall ladder and a long stick were all it took to evict the tenants and their nests, allowing the heater to rumble to life again. Luckily, just as we were beginning to feel more like mechanics than farmers, seeding time arrived and now the neon green of emergent onions brightens our lives. Once again we have living things to care for, vegetables to cultivate, dinner to grow.

 

by Kate Mrozicki, Farm CSA Manager

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