Creating an Urban Farm: Part Two

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle teaching farm is moving…but not too far—just across Dover Farm Rd! Farm Manager Fred Baldwin sat down with us to discuss the big move, when the farm will start producing and how it all fits into the mission of hunger relief.

What does the farm have to do with hunger relief?

The main thing is that we grow food here that gets harvested on Friday and distributed for free in mobile markets on Saturday. It doesn’t get any fresher or more nutritious than that.

Fifty percent of the land under cultivation grows food for distribution that provides free produce to food insecure folks. Thirty percent of farm production goes towards selling to restaurants and from our onsite farm stand to help make us sustainable financially. The remaining twenty percent of land is farmed by refugees from the Burmese Karen community, and will be home to educational programs.

We always encourage people to taste, and we inevitably hear “I’ve never had something that tasted this good!” It’s important to teach people where their food comes from and why local produce matters.

Will the farm stand be back?  

The farm stand will open in May on Fridays and Saturdays and we expect it to be a much bigger part of what we do. We are still figuring out all the logistics so we’ll publicize those as we finalize the plan.

What’s your estimated production?

Last year, on just 2 acres we produced 2.5 tons of produce. We are going to use a high-intensity growing strategy here so once we get to full production, I think we’ll be between 10-15 tons a year.

Poundage matters, but what’s more important is the retail value of the food. Three pounds of good heirloom tomatoes are probably $12 in the store. For the people we serve, they don’t care about the poundage, it’s about value: what is affordable and good for their families, Every dollar saved is $1 they can put to rent, clothes, or other basic needs.

The goats and the chickens are everyone’s favorite part of the farm. Where are they going? Do they get new and improved digs?

Actually they do! We are building the new goat paddock now. We’ve got a whole lot more pasture for them to be on – both the goats and the chickens.

The goats and the chickens will always be a part of the farm. The goats more than anything are big ol’ pets. The idea is that we use them to clear brush, and they are happy to do that, but really people just love to interact with the goats.

The beginnings of the new goat paddock on the farm!

The beginnings of the new goat paddock on the farm!

Why should someone get involved and become a farm volunteer?

Volunteers who have spent 2-4 hours on the farm go away exhausted but with very big smiles, having had a thoroughly rewarding time here. There is something magic about grubbing around in the dirt knowing that someone is going to benefit from your efforts.