By Shannon Raider-Ginsburg, Farm Manager & Director of Agricultural Program
Common Ground has always had a garden. A 1995 article in the NH register titled “The Little Farm that Could” opens with, “…there’s a tiny farm where schoolchildren work the soil and an overprotective duck rules the barnyard.” Though we’ve grown in many ways since that time, utilizing the farm for everything from growing crops for a mobile market to calculating compost mass in calculus class–our commitment to the farm, and our bossy duck, remain.
Why do we Farm?
This particularly vital question is not just for Common Ground to answer but to continually ask all who engage with the farm. As we discover new opportunities and experience challenges, we seek to make the farm the best it can be for our community.
Broadly, we farm for education, for healthy food, for community connection. These goals overlap and enhance each other and can also be at odds. We must balance between the work of growing an acre of vegetables for market with the several thousand feet walking the rows over the course of a season.
It was recognized early on that getting your hands in the soil and learning the science, culture and aesthetics of growing food is one of the most direct ways to cultivate an ethos of sustainability and stewardship. As our mission deepened, we knew growing food for our cafeteria, for a student targeted CSA, a mobile market and farm stand is a direct way to impact food security and address food justice.
But we know we must dig deeper. What is the impact of the farm? Who benefits? Why do we keep farming? In January, these questions were posed to a group of our staff, teachers, and students with refreshing and energizing results.
The farm touches many people in many ways. The group’s brainstorm included:
- for beauty
- for comradery
- because we love good food
- to demonstrate sustainable food production
- for food equity
- for stewardship and responsibility
- to create an outdoor learning lab
- for the opportunity to teach strong work ethics
The language was rich with words like yummy, opportunity, analyze, grow, leadership, all ages, engagement, sustainability, employment, diversity, justice, share, volunteer, model, demonstration, interaction, connection, and reflection.
As an organization we have recently put our love for our work and desire to deepen our work into a set of organizational values. For more on our values, check out our executive director’s blog post “Walking the Walk.” These values will help us to connect our work internally, and outward to you. It also helps us to answer this important question, why do we farm? I would ask you:
Why do we farm? How does it touch you? Where will we grow next as we continue to farm?
I invite you to answer these questions in the comments below. As a special thank you from the farm, everyone who answers will be entered in a drawing for a carton of farm-fresh eggs!
My son attended after school programs and camp there, and seeing food grown really touched him. One day I bought some green beans at the farm stand, and brought them home. He initially protested, saying, “I don’t like green beans!” “But these are Common Ground green beans,” I told him. “Oh I helped grow those!” he said, and ate them all. He is now much more willing to try new veggies now–he recently requested kale. Thinking about where your food comes from is important for us all.
Having grown up in an organically functioning Alpine village, I very much appreciated to send my daughter to you over the past years. Although it is hard to get a feeling in everyday’s urban life for it, we are all responsible for the food we eat. Starting to farm at an early age makes the children already feel part of the decision what to grow and how to grow produce. Your project is outstanding, as it fruitfully teaches the kids to persevere, to follow a daily routine, to go the long way by picking bugs instead of spraying – or by pairing plants in a way that holds off specific varmints naturally. Experiencing your own influence in good, healthy choices brings up a young community of people willing to invest into change by making an effort – in any respect, but especially when it comes to environment and food. Oh, the places you’ll go!
the girls get so excited wen they see/eat what they help grow and water. I’m hoping this year our carrots survive!
you guys are doing a great thing! Farming is an amazing way to give power and worth back to the people and communities!!! Every person should be able to live and raise their children without worrying about the security or safety of their food!
Thanks for these kind words, Heather!
Common Ground has given me a healthy link to the area, having moved here 3 years ago. I worked at a goat farm in England once a week for 10 years and realized how much I need to be part of a community that values the earth as a gift. Shannon makes me feel needed in the vegetable patch, and I always go away with another piece of garden wisdom. As a grandmother, I enjoy the connection with students, who charm me with their spirit to enjoy themselves while getting their hands dirty. Some need a push from Shannon to work with more focus, and I chuckle, knowing how much we all need our dose of daily positive reinforcement. As an observer, I sense hope for a future that all of us value.
Lisa, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your carrots too, look forward to hearing in the affirmative!
– Kimball, Common Ground
Vera, I think you’ve put your finger on something important here. Connecting young people to the natural world really can make a difference, and more than just for the environment – in creating a young community of people willing to invest in change through their own efforts.
– Kimball, Common Ground