-Camila Loke ’19
No two days at the garden look the same – there are always new issues to attend to as the plants grow and the weather changes. The work keeps us busy and on our toes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get the chance to visit other farms in Madison County. Field trips to other farms are one of my favorite parts of working as a summer intern. This past month the garden team volunteered at Common Thread Farm and visited Heritage Farms, both of which are within fifteen minutes of the garden.
Common Thread Farm has been owned and operated since 2012 by Wendy and Asher Berkhart-Spiegel with the purpose of providing the community with sustainably grown food and opportunities to be more involved with the land. Common Thread operates on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, in which members purchase a share of the farm’s annual harvest prior to the growing season, and pick up their shares weekly at the farm or other designated sites.
Our visit to Common Thread started bright and early at 7 am. We were lucky enough to be there on a harvest day, so we had the opportunity to witness the behind the scenes of a CSA. On this particular morning, we helped harvest Swiss chard, radishes, zucchinis, and beets. It was truly a pleasure to spend the morning with the Common Thread crew, but several parts of the experience stand out to me. One of my favorite things was seeing the organizational systems they have for harvesting vegetables.
There are two crucial components of harvesting at Common Thread: bins and rubber bands. Three different colors of bins – red, blue, and gray – indicate where the vegetables will be sold (such as wholesale or CSA). Then rubber bands are counted and placed into the correct color bin, corresponding to the number of bunches to be sold. From there, the vegetables are harvested, making sure that any damaged or unattractive ones are removed. It was great experiencing what it’s like to work on a big farm – even just for a few hours. Thank you, Wendy and Asher, for letting us help out!
Heritage Farms was established in 1985 and moved to its present location in Bouckville in 1990. It was designed specifically to promote independence and education in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Participants in Heritage Farms’ day and summer habilitation programs learn a variety of skills, including tending gardens, caring for livestock, and woodworking. They are organized in groups depending on independence level, and each group leader works closely with their participants to meet their needs.
After touring the farm, I was impressed with the wide range of skills being taught and with the hard work being done to maintain the grounds in such beautiful condition. We were greeted right away by one of the newest members to Heritage Farms – a baby bunny! The farm has a barn in which rabbits, pigs, goats, miniature ponies, donkeys, chickens, and even a peacock live. Participants help clean the stalls and put out food for the animals, which are used mainly for therapeutic purposes. In addition to the barn, the grounds include a koi pond, wood shop, raised beds, greenhouse, and several buildings for indoor activities. In all, the grounds extend more than 150 acres but the buildings and other structures are concentrated in an easily accessible area off the main road.
In addition to operating as a farm, Heritage Farms provides participants with fun and educational experiences. On the day we visited, for example, participants and group leaders were enjoying a snack of banana boats made over a small fire. I also noticed a few individuals expertly using leaf blowers and weed whackers to help maintain the pathways around the buildings. One participant shared that she fed and cleaned the chickens’ cage that morning, and that her favorite thing to do at the farm is to ride in a big tractor. Overall, Heritage Farms appears to be using very creative and engaging ways to educate and support its participants. It’s definitely worth checking out!