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 :: Sunday, August 17 :: 1:19pm
Farming is full of intangible satisfactions. There are a million reasons to do this work that are impossible to quantify. The specifics of sunlight and soil, the seemingly never-ending miracle of photosynthesis, the deeply felt gratitude of knowing my food intimately. There’s a fullness that I feel after a good day on the farm, an unequivocal knowledge that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, MA is probably not the most beautiful place on the planet, but on a bright August evening after a bountiful CSA pickup, sunlight glinting on rows of beets and carrots and celeriac, the fields still and peaceful, the farm is the most beautiful place I can imagine. Whatever that feeling is—gratitude, vocation, happiness—it’s not easily quantified by numbers and spreadsheets and yield data.
But some of farming is quantifiable, and that’s another reason that I love it. For example: this season, so far, we’ve harvested 3,222 pounds of cucumbers, 3,208 pounds of squash, 1,641 pounds of eggplant, and 611 pounds of beans. That’s 3.8 tons of food from those four crops alone. When I think about all the other food we’ve harvested this season—the hundreds of heads of lettuce and cabbage, the bins and bins of kale and chard, the enormous wall of garlic hanging in the barn, hundreds of pounds of beets and radishes and carrots—the sheer volume of food that we produce on 4 acres is astounding.
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they tell an important one. All those pounds of cucumbers and squash translate into more tangibles—food distributed, meals cooked and shared, people fed. A pound of cucumbers turns into a jar of pickles, a refreshing salad, a cool raita. A pound of roasted green beans, mixed with a pound of chopped tomatoes and roasted potatoes is dinner for a family.
Sheer poundage isn’t the only thing that matters, of course. Food is basic and essential, and yet our relationship with it is complicated, often fraught. There is so little access to good food for so many people; there is so much food grown in ways that are detrimental to the soil, the land, and the people using their brains and muscles to produce it. I know that producing 3,222 pounds of cucumbers in one glorious month isn’t going to fix our broken food system. But those pounds matter. Those pounds provide literal sustenance for many people. I believe that small farms matter, that connections between people and land matter, that knowing your farmer matters, that cooking and eating and celebrating with your family and your community matters. But none of that is possible without the poundage. Yield matters, too.
I don’t know the exact breakdown of where all those pounds of cucumbers have gone. Our 176 CSA families have surely consumed hundreds of pounds. (Forgive us, delightful CSA members, for giving out four pounds of cucumbers a week, but what else are we supposed to do with this glorious, overwhelming bounty?) We’ve donated hundreds more pounds to Rosie’s Place in Boston and Open Table in Concord, two incredible organizations that provide meals for folks who need them. Our two fantastic apprentices have taken home their fair share, and we’ve probably eaten a hundred pounds ourselves (pickles make an almost-daily appearance at farm lunch). Here is another story told in tangibles: thousands of pounds of cucumbers, hundreds of people fed. It’s a start.
On Saturday afternoon, we dug up our first potatoes of the season—250 bed feet of beautiful, red-skinned French fingerlings. We used our new tractor-mounted undercutter to loosen the soil under the plants, which made digging them an effortless, joyful treasure hunt. From those 250 feet, we harvested 515 pounds of potatoes—a yield of over 2 pounds per foot, by far our best yet in four years of growing potatoes.
What I truly love about farming are those moments when the tangibles and the intangibles meet. Saturday afternoon was perfect. The sun was out, the air was sweet and cool, the dirt was soft under my hands, and we couldn’t stop smiling, joking, laughing. We were pulling plants out of the ground that were literally dripping with potatoes—sometimes 20 or 25 per plant. As I filled bucket after bucket, I couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer amount of food we were harvesting; I couldn’t wait to add up the total weight and calculate the yield. But it wasn’t just the success of the crop that kept me smiling as I sifted through dirt for edible treasure. It was also the satisfaction of hard work rewarded, the sun on my skin, the pleasing roundness of each potato, the shared joy of growing food with people I care about, for people I care about. A hundred intangible details and 515 tangible pounds of food combined to make that moment perfect.
There’s a line I love from William Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey, one that I can’t seem to get out of my head these days, surrounded by all this August bounty: “While here I stand, not only with the sense/Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts/That in this moment there is life and food/For future years.”
If this isn’t the definition of abundance, I don’t know what is.
Posted by Benny Taylor :: Monday, July 21 :: 1:01pm
I come to First Root from a lot of years burrowing into the woods and mountains. As such, I have the soundtrack from Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim’s musical adaptation and amalgamation of fairy tales, pretty well burned into my brain.
While I am particularly fond of The Witch, it is The Wolf that has been haunting me on the farm. Don’t worry, girls in little red capes and everyone’s grandmothers are safe.
It’s the vegetables who should be worried.
In Sondheim’s musical, The Wolf comes upon Little Red (who is kind of a snotty brat) as she walks the narrow path to her granny’s cottage. The Wolf’s song—“Hello, Little Girl”—to Little Red is hypnotically seductive and chillingly sensual. (Thankfully, the effect is more Julia Child than Lolita.)
Simply, The Wolf is beside himself with mouth-watering desire for good food—“There’s no possible way/to describe what you feel/when you’re talking to your meal...”
I cannot look at the fields of beets and potatoes and peppers and tomatoes and squash without feeling something like that.
It feels like a hopeful contentment, like being at the top of the roller coaster, just before the big drops and the corkscrews. The best—the meals, presumably—may be yet to come, but the present moment is heavy with its own sweetness, aside from the so-close-you-can-taste-it anticipation. It is a half-step, a moment of patience to enjoy what is, rather than only focusing on what will be. What is, then, is several acres of commitment—the farmers to the work, the CSA to the gamble of the share system. All of our hard work and best intentions are rooted into the soil and spread out in the sun and rain, any bed of which is worth something beyond price or words, I think. That is what is almost impossible to describe. For all the promises of social media and GPS apps, for all the wandering and traveling I’ve done, nothing makes me feel interconnected with the wider world as this little farm has.
You see, to be perfectly honest, I am a terrible cook for one person. I cannot ever shake the feeling that food is meant to be shared—I enjoy every food I know how to make more if I can share the cooking and eating of it with people I care about. Eating farm food, though, I automatically feel less like I am alone in my cooking and eating. But, even better, one of the most exciting, enticing parts of looking at the fields of food is being unable to grasp how many meals will be made of this bed of carrots, that row of cabbage. When I get my wolfish shivers looking at the flourishing farm, part of my delight is in knowing how many other peoples’ meals I am working for, pulling up the weeds from, squeezing beetles off of, tying guiding stakes and strings to, tractoring between the rows of, and all the other various tasks it takes to get from seed to snack.
People thank us for the work we do. And that is never out of style, although it always seems strange to be thanked for doing something so honestly fun. What we should say, more often, is thank you for the pleasure of growing your food.
There is no complete way to describe what I feel when I’m laboring on what will become your meal. Thank you.