Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary has leased land to a local commercial family farm, Ward’s Berry Farm, for years. Discussions began over eleven years ago between the sanctuary and Jim Ward around organic farming. Soon these discussions turned toward talk of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Both felt that this model would be a safe way to experiment with taking a small section of the acreage and applying organic practices to growing some crops.
From those initial meetings, the Moose Hill Community Farm was born. Over the years, there have been a variety of changes:
- From 100 families to just under 400 families involved and connected to us through the CSA.
- From a little over 9 acres to 15 acres preserved and dedicated to organic farming.
- From using organic growing practices to having a certified organic farming operation.
- From distribution under a tent, that on at least one occasion decided to blow away, to a dedicated CSA Barn with a solar array to offset our electrical needs!
- From distributing only the crops we raised to making connections with other local farms to bring our shareholders fresh eggs, fish, and honey.
And yet some things have not changed:
- Shareholders still make time to complete required work hours helping with harvesting, weeding, and distribution of the bounty. Many shareholders have so much fun and choose, when they can, to spend extra time with us on the farm.
- Kids still come with parents and help to harvest or weed in the fields – connecting people of all ages to the food they are eating. There’s nothing like a strawberry warmed by the sun and immediately picked and enjoyed, or a cherry tomato enjoyed the same way.
- People still connect with each other – staff to shareholders, shareholders to staff, shareholders to shareholders – talking about, well, anything under the sun (or rain, or wind).
- Moose Hill Community Farm still commits to working with Ward’s Berry Farm to provide fresh, organic produce for our shareholders and for local food pantries for 18 weeks out of the year.
In the end, we still have challenges – long hours, deer invasion, crop balances (too many, too little, not quite what we wanted), tomato blight, thunder storms, weeding out the good along with the bad, managing pests organically – but that’s the point. We, as a community, continue to grow together and we couldn’t be happier about the success and growth of the Moose Hill Community Farm. Our shareholders truly are a part of this CSA – they share in the risks, the challenges, the bounty, the stories, and the laughter.
As we enter our 11th season, we are delighted that the changes we made to staffing the farm last year where successful. We will continue to be committed to helping to create a place where those interested in pursuing a career in farming might try it out, learn from us, and provide some new ideas to keep up growing. Our Farm Apprentices and Farm Hands were so great at connecting with our shareholders and revitalizing that community that we so value. They provided consistency to the operation and worked alongside shareholders and other volunteers with enthusiasm and efficiency.
With anticipation of another great year for the Moose Hill Community Farm CSA, we can’t wait until the growing season begins!
Registration for the 2016 summer season begins Sunday, January 17. Learn all about our CSA here. We look forward to seeing old friends return, welcoming in new shareholders, introducing more volunteers to the farm, and sharing the bounty once more!