We climb out of the humid red dragon, and are immediately greeted with the faint fishy odor of Neptune’s Harvest fertilizer. Glenn, the owner of Willow Pond Farm, quickly leads us over to Willow Pond. Dozens of tadpoles lay still in the shallow murky water, even as you approach the surface. The pond and the farm get its name from the willow trees that hang over the water.
Glenn begins to tell us of the benefits of a local community supported agriculture (C.S.A.). He wears shin-high muck-boots caked in mud and dust. His dark khaki workpants and matching long-sleeved shirt protect his skin from the sun he has to endure, working outside for hours each day. His beaded necklace and patchy beard create a relaxed environment when he speaks to us. “Right on,” he says.
C.S.A.’s are farms where members of the community buy in annually, then are allowed to take food from the farm for their own use. This system allows the farmer to work without the constant demand of needing to sell product as soon as it is harvested, as Glenn knows that his members will come to pick up groceries each week; and the community is able to gather around delicious, organic, and fresh food while supporting a small business. At Willow Pond Farm, members can chose to either pay $500 a year for weekly groceries during harvest season, or can pay $400 and work on the farm for 12 hours.
Today we are working on the farm. After giving us an introduction to C.S.A.’s Glenn brings us over to the greenhouse where he hands us two pots of onion stalks. Our task for the day is to plant as many onion plants as possible.
Glenn walks us over to the row where we will be planting our onions, and hands out piles of “Red Long” onion stems. Each crop row at the farm is about two feet wide, and Glenn uses a Water Wheel Transplanter connected to his tractor to plow each row and burrow hundreds of small holes in the fertilizer for each plant. The holes are three inches deep before hitting really dense wet soil where we are to individually place each onion. On the average day this would take Glenn over an hour, but today with our group of 11, we project to be finished within 20 minutes.
We spread out an immediately begin planting our onions. The noon sun beams down on us as it does to Glenn every day. As we plant, we talk about the positive effects of C.S.A.’s, our summer plans, and some of us even eat a few of the pungent onion stems. Dust from the loose soil coats us, and we lose our initial reservations about getting dirty. We rest on our hands and knees, flinging powdery dirt at each other, while fingering the soil delicately to make room for our next onion.
As projected, we finish a row within about 20 minutes, but we have a little time left, and each of us in the group is beginning to develop our own special method of planting as efficiently as possible. We ask Glenn if we can use the Water Wheel Transplanter to plow us another planting row. He enthusiastically runs over to the tractor and lines it up with the next row. The engine roars and screeches, and his machine slowly pushes forward. At about two miles per hour, his tractor looks like the collage of tools that it is: a blue cab, a green water wheel transplanter, yellow jugs of water, a red plow, and a while hood. When he reaches the end of the row, he hops out and tells that we’re ready to get going again. We hop into position, and recommence planting just as we did with the first row. We talk, and laugh, and joke, and take pictures under the hot sun. We enjoy the manual labor together, and finally understand just how Community Supported Agricultural can really bring people together.