Wednesday, May 12, 2010
My First Crop Mob
Posted by Diana Renata
I went on my first Crop Mob this last weekend. What a fantastic experience! I had a blast and can't wait to do it again.
Crop mob is a phenomenal idea. It helps local family farms not only survive, but thrive. It brings members of the community together under a common interest, and it's great exercise! Mobbing is a great learning experience for young farmers-to-be, those of us who love farming but haven't got enough land of our own, and is a way for experienced farmers to pass on their wisdom to future generations.
My first crop mob was at Kestral Perch Berry Farm in Ithaca, NY. Ithaca is approximately an hour drive from my house, but it's such a wonderful little hippy city, I can't help falling in love with it. I've found myself making the trip at least a couple times a month to enjoy the variety of shops, restaurants, the fine farmers market, the co-op market, and now the crop mob. To make the trip to Ithaca and get to the mob on time, it meant getting up at dawn, and leaving the house no later than 7:30. I didn't quite make it out the door on time, but I was close.
It was a long, sleepy drive, but I had my coffee to keep me company. So what if it was decaff? It was turning out to be a pretty nice morning, not as rainy and cold as expected. I got into town and started following my directions to the farm, only to find the road was closed and there was a detour. In the midst of it, I managed to get myself lost, and found again with the help of my VZ Navigator. Somehow I managed to actually show up on time
I pulled up on the side of the gravel road behind the line of other small sedans. I was already fitting in. A rather hippy-looking bunch of people began to gather inside the fence where the berry patches were located. I promptly took up my hand tools and gloves, and joined them. Introductions were somewhat brief. We all signed in and donned name tags- our names crudely written on blue duct tape. A group of six of us were assigned to retreive the frost netting from the far fence so that we could begin covering the strawberry plants to protect them from the expected frost. That task went extremely quickly, a dozen or more mobbers covered the whole patch in less than 10 minutes. We were all quite impressed with ourselves.
Then the big project of the day- weeding and terracing the blackberry bushes. After a brief history of these bushes, and why they needed the extra care we were about to give them, we were set to work. Four at a time on each row, two on each side, starting at opposite ends and working towards the middle. Some mobbers took up wheelborrows to collect the weeds and haul them to the compost area. The dandelions were gigantic, and with my love of fritters it was a shame to be digging them out. The thought of starting a dandelion crop such as this on purpose crossed my mind. We ripped, we pulled, we cut and dug. Some of those weeds were brutal!
As we finished weeding our rows it was time to start terracing (covering exposed roots with dirt to make them more stable in the wind.) We simply dug trenches down one side of the row, then the other, moving the dirt to the center to cover the roots. Most of us rotated duties, giving each other a chance to rest between weeding rows. Weed, shovel, weed, shovel.
Of course there was a great deal of gabbing during our labor- sharing stories, introductions, our mutual admiration for the little town of Ithaca. I found myself endlessly entertained by one group of mobbers, at least one who is Romanian, talking about the differences between Romania and the United States. One particular store featured some sort of game or contest, the prize being a live rabbit! I could like living in Romania, at least when it comes to winning live food animals. Occasionally a child that was with one mobber would chime in with "Look! A snail!" and she would trot him (or her) safely out to the fence.
One o'clock rolled around and we finished up what we could, finding a good place to stop. The weeds were piled high in the wheelborrows, and dragged off to the compost pile. We gathered our tools, dusted ourselves off, and stretched our aching legs and backs. The wind was picking up at this point, threatening to rain, but it was ok now. It would have been a welcome shower. Up to Eco-Village for lunch.
Eco-Village is a fantastic organization of houses and people. According to their website, they are "Comprising an intentional community and a non-profit educational organization, the project is developing an alternative model for suburban living which provides a satisfying, healthy, socially rich lifestyle, while minimizing ecological impacts."
We ate in the common house, which had an amazing, large kitchen and several mismatched tables, chairs, and dinnerware. We washed our hands and set in to setting up our much deserved meal. Everything was homemade, organic and fresh. Rolls, hummus, vegetable soup, apples and seltzer water with raspberry syrup made from the previous year's berries. With my dietary choices, I limited myself to 2 servings of soup and 2 apples, and plain seltzer water. It was a very satsifying meal, in spite of lacking fat and protein. I wonder what they would have thought if I'd brought my own pemmican or jerky.
What an experience it was, working side by side with virtual strangers, then sitting side by side at a meal prepared just for us. The whole day felt wholesome and good. I felt wonderfully at home at Eco-Village with these new friends. Most of us have very different backgrounds and goals, political ideals and religious ideologies, and yet we're all there together to accomplish one thing, even if it's nothing more than giving up a few hours on a Saturday morning to lend a helping hand.
If you'd like more information about Crop Mob, or starting one in your area, please check out CropMob.Org