Who We Are
First Root is a little vegetable farm with a big heart. We are young farmers who grow food with love. We love to eat, we love to cook, we love working outside, and we love sharing it all with so many wonderful folks.
Founded in 2009 by two enthusiastic, dedicated young farmers, First Root has grown into a thriving community farm. We grow vegetables and flowers on 4 acres of historic farmland in Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, MA. We run a 120 member summer CSA, a smaller winter CSA, attend local farmers markets, and sell to several neighboring restaurants.
We use organic and sustainable growing practices because we want this land to be fertile and healthy for generations to come. We host monthly community work days and farm potlucks because we believe connecting folks to each other and the land and the food we all eat is what makes farming so much fun.
As a successful start-up farm, we hope to inspire other farmers (young and old) to take the plunge and make their own farm dreams come true.
The farmers, Nina & Laura, do American Gothic.
Posted by Laura :: Tuesday, April 15 :: 7:24pm
Most of our fields are still to wet to till. Having exceptionally wet fields is often a blessing in July—it’s how we scrape by without irrigation. But every spring, waiting and waiting and waiting for the fields to dry out, I can’t help wishing for dry, sandy soil. After such a long winter, my muscles are aching for work. Every day that we can’t get onto the fields feels like an eternity.
This year we’ve had to wait longer than ever before for dry fields. There was historic flooding in 2010, but we still managed to get on the main field by the first week in April. This year, things are not going our way. The cold winter and late snowmelt, a hefty rainstorm in early April, cold nights and cloudy days—it’s all adding up to April 15th and no plants in the ground.
Usually, at the very least, we have our peas in by now.
After ten years of farming, I’ve finally learned that you can’t control the weather. Every season, I get better and better at not worrying about it. But it’s hard to completely let go of weather-related anxiety. I can feel spring in my bones—the chattering birds, the peepers, the lengthening days and strengthening sun, the greenhouse exploding with growth, the smell of fresh spring evenings. All of it means one thing: I want to be out in my fields, hands in the dirt, planting, seeding, happy tired muscles, all day long.
I’m ready, but the weather has other plans. So I'm waiting.
I love winter. I love cold wind on my skin, the quiet of snow, the black silhouettes of naked trees, the early darkness and concentrated light. This winter was long and snowy and cold, and it reminded me again how lucky I am to love the cold and the dark. For me, summer without winter is a dreary proposition—and so is winter without spring. I love winter for its closeness. It is easy to curl up in and hibernate. I love spring for its immediacy, its sense of urgency. Everything in the world seems to reawaken all at once, and I can feel my heartbeat quicken.
But there’s nothing urgent about waiting. We seeded early greens in two new hoophouses we’re leasing from a neighbor down the road.
Our new tractor arrived. We used it to unload our new disc.
The greenhouse is full to bursting. We cleaned the barn, ordered the fertilizer, oiled and sharpened the hoes. We haven’t been idle. We’re poised and ready. But spring is about action, and being ready isn’t the same as doing. We’re still waiting for the thing I’m craving most: planting, planting, planting.
Yesterday, in a beautiful window of perfect spring sunshine, Nina got on our new tractor and disced up a section of our biggest field. Cheryl built six pea beds in the main field (still too wet for a tractor) with our trusty BCS. I left the farm feeling like spring had arrived at last, unable to contain my excitement at what felt like a monumental victory—we disced, and the tractor didn’t sink in the mud!
Today it rained again. Hard, cold, driving rain, water pooling in the wet corners of our fields.
Here’s one thing I know, although it’s hard to remember as I sit here listening to the rain pound against the windows: this spring, too, will come. I don’t know when we’ll be able to get a tractor on the fields again, but we’re planting our peas this week, come rain, snow, sleet, or hail. We have enough field space to plant our brassicas next week, even if we can’t disc it all again (as we would in an ideal world). The fields will dry out when they dry out. The consequences are not dire: if the CSA starts a week late, if the chard is ready ten days later than usual, if we have to push back our first direct seeding of beets—it’s not going to be a catastrophe. It’s just part of the job.
I’m ready for the season, and waiting feels impossible. But I know that the waiting will end, that the fields will dry out and the plants will go in the ground. It will all happen so fast: the trees in full leaf and the fields an explosion of food, the first pink radishes and the curly garlic scapes, the beautiful, tumbling, unstoppable rush and rhythm of a new farm season.
Posted by Laura :: Sunday, April 6 :: 5:08pm
When people find out I’m a farmer, there are two standard reactions: “wow, that much be so much work!” and “wow, farming is so important, it’s so great you’re doing that!” The truth is I didn’t become a farmer because I wanted to change the world. I started farming (and I’m still doing it ten years later) because I love being outside, I love eating vegetables, and I love the tactile details: sunlight on tomato plants, the smell of freshly tilled dirt, the sound of wind through a field of buckwheat cover crop.
But people aren’t entirely wrong about the meaningful work bit. I am compelled toward work that has a positive impact on the world. People fight for places they care about. Neighborhoods, parks, tracts of woods, rivers, buildings, farms. People invest in and contribute to and put work into beloved places, places that are home. That’s part of why I love farming so much. Running a farm is an inherently long-term commitment to place. You can’t succeed as a farmer if you don’t care about the land. And once a farm has been around for a little while, the folks who are a part of it—CSA members, farmers, apprentices, volunteers, neighbors, customers—start to feel a sense of ownership toward it. The farm becomes a vital part of the town. People are willing to fight to protect it. That’s the small beginning of positive social and environmental change.
That fierce ownership, that sense of responsibility, that desire to protect and enrich and invest in a place—that’s how I feel about First Root. That’s how I feel about Concord.
There are a lot of things I love about being a CSA farmer: hearing kids call First Root "their farm", trading recipes with members, playing in the dirt with my nephews and little cousins at community day. But my absolute favorite part of being a CSA farmer is something much more mundane than all of that. My favorite thing is running into CSA members around town.
It happens all the time. At the library, in line at the post office, walking down Main Street, in the grocery store. These days, it feels like I can't go into one of my favorite Concord businesses (shout out to Haute Coffee, Reasons To Be Cheerful, and Nashoba Brook!) without running into someone I know--most often a CSA member. Concord has a population of roughly 17,000, but it's got that unmistakable small town vibe.
This might seem like a boring, unimportant phenomenon. But there is something uniquely satisfying about running into people I know. It means that this is my place, my home, my neighborhood. It means that I belong here, and it means that First Root is a part of this town. There’s a reason we only sell produce to restaurants down the road, that we don’t box up our CSA and drop it off in ten locations around Boston. It’s because this is my neighborhood, too. This is where my car mechanic is, and my favorite bakery, and the library where all my interlibrary loan requests come in. I don’t want to use up resources here to grow food for folks fifty miles away. I want to be a part of this place; an active participant in what goes on here. Bumping into CSA members and neighbors everywhere I go is proof that I am.
Somebody approached First Root recently about selling boxed CSA shares to Clover. Clover is an awesome restaurant with a great business model, and supporting local farms is part of what they do. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in providing shares for a CSA distribution at their Burlington restaurant. Clover would do all the marketing and wouldn’t even take a cut; all we’d have to do is provide the veggies. It would be easy money, which is tempting, in the saturated Boston CSA market.
I had a visceral reaction to this request: to run as far as possible in the other direction. I thought about packing those boxes and sending them off into the world. I thought about never meeting those CSA members, never chatting with them face to face, never running into them on a Sunday morning at Nashoba Brook, or at the Post Office or Walden Pond. I don't ever want to grow food and send it off somewhere else. I want to grow food and then bump into the people who eat it.
Community is a word so overused that most of its meaning has been stripped away. For me, community is about the folks you can’t avoid. It’s about who you run into at the bank. It’s about being a regular somewhere. It’s about seeing a truck stopped at the other side of the intersection, and knowing immediately what farmer is in that truck, and what field they’re going to. It’s about selling produce to Haute Coffee and then spending hours there crop planning on winter afternoons, fueled by their incredible hot chocolate.
All these little interactions, these tiny ways of being known—they make the world a little smaller, a little more welcoming. They make me want to stake my claim in this town, to give back to this community of folks, to contribute to this very local economy, to keep this specific land fertile and healthy. More than anything else, it is the boring, everyday logistics of community that make me want to stick around.
Starting a business is a commitment. Running a farm is a commitment. I’ve only been living in this town for 4 ½ years, which isn’t a long time in the scheme of things, but it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult. I never thought I’d fall in love with Concord, but I have. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I finally realized that eventually, you’ve just got to commit: commit to the town, the neighborhood, the river, the farm—imperfections and all. Eventually you’ve just got to say: okay, this is the place.
Then you celebrate everything you love about the place, and you work hard to change its imperfections for the better. That’s what I’m hoping to do for the next many, many years.
p.s. Hey, Somerville—we love you, too! Davis Square is my home away from home, and you can bet I run into CSA members all over town—at the winter farmers’ market, on the bike path, on the T, at Dave’s....