When I think about access I think about not only who gets to enter, but who is invited.
Before I arrived at Farm School, I was already pretty sure that I was interested in learning about the physical barriers to access on farms, or more specifically, how to get rid of/work around them. I was initially only thinking about large animal farming – access to barns, access to handling livestock, milking, etc. I wanted to learn how to build ramps out of wood, concrete, how to walk into a space and see what needed to be changed and know how to go about it. Pretty quickly after I arrived at Maggie’s, my focus in farming and my focus around access shifted substantially – there was a problem that couldn’t be solved with concrete, one without a map – how do we create access to agricultural soils? It is that question that sparked the idea for Access to Agriculture – a project that is at the heart of my farming adventure at First Root Farm.
The soils we grow on are special. As farmers who care about sustainability, soil is our greatest resource – we spend time, money and sweat trying to boost our soil quality to produce the most delicious, bountiful harvest this year and for the years to follow. Soil is an incredible living organism, and we need to be very careful with how we treat it.
As an educator, I think that getting people into the soil, involved with it, is a fabulous and fun way to teach about food and the earth and farming – it’s definitely my favorite way. Educational farms and farms that boast pick-your-own crops are engaging and great learning tools, but once you get to a farm, who can get onto a field and who gets left out?
I am interested in all effective ways to get folks into fields with specific attention to sustaining and nurturing the soil. But I also care about finding options that work for small farmers – cost effective, low-maintenance options – access that can be built and used for years to come. Access that works for everyone.
The concept of universal access was not new to me when I arrived at Farm School, but as I dreamt about a nation of u-picks with 3 foot wide lanes between beds, I knew that it might be a hard sell. Tons of people already go to u-picks, how could I ask farmers to devote more of their precious soil to access rather than crops? What would work? Who would it work for?
I’ve got my own answers to some of these questions, but I’m not yet a soil scientist, a wheelchair user, an access expert, or a long-time farmer. I’m one person with one person’s worth of experiences and a lot of energy. What I can do is try to create community to brainstorm, experiment and find answers to some of these questions because I know I can’t do it alone. I am so excited to bring people into this project.
In that spirit, I am starting an Access to Agriculture working group for all interested parties.
Do you have soil? Do you know a lot about soil? Do you want to get into the soil? Do you care about access – for everyone, to food, to outdoor adventures? Do you care about disability rights, building a world without barriers? Do you like to get dirty? Do you like to work hard? Do you social network like no one’s business? Do you like to put up fliers, write grant proposals and problem solve?
Email email@example.com – let’s forge an awesome new future for pick-your-own and educational farms in New England and beyond.