by Jules White I’ve spent the past five autumns in New England, but the reds…
As part of Grow Food Northampton’s mission, we lease land to farmers who use sustainable farming practices. Starting in 2011, Nate Frigard, owner of Crimson & Clover Farm signed a 99 year lease with Grow Food. On the 50 acres of land, 20 is used for vegetable farming, where Nate and his crew produces fresh produce for the local community.
Our Summer Intern Charlie interviewed Nate to learn more about Crimson & Clover Farm and their connection to Grow Food Northampton. Below you can read excerpts from their conversation.
What was your first farming experience prior to starting this farm?
Immediately prior, I was the farm manager at the Farm School for 4 seasons, from 2006-2010. Before that I farmed in eastern MA, California, and Virginia.
What is the mission of your farm?
The mission of our farm is that we want to grow sustainable food for the community. Locally, our goal is to connect people with the land that grows their food. We want people to feel connected and like this is their farm. We have always said we wanted a community based farm, and what that means to use is having people be on the farm, see where their food comes from, to have events periodically on the farm. Just generally be something the community sees as a resource.
What are your main types of customers and how do you interact with them?
Our main types of customers are families. Lots of people with children. We offer a playground, a big open safe place to run around and play. Our CSA program operates locally has about 350 members and we have also around 200 CSA members in Boston. CSA for us an important business model. It’s a way for us to be connected and communicate with our customers and be honest about our expenses and needs and how we pay for things with their investment in the farm.
How does your relationship with your customers affect what you grow and how much you grow?
We solicit feedback from our members each year through a survey. We ask them what they would like more of or less of and we are very responsive to those requests. For our local shares we have a mix-and-match so folks can take a whatever mix of vegetables they want. We don’t want people to feel forced to take a bunch of stuff they don’t want to use.
How many people spend (approximately) how much time working on the farm each year?
We have 8-10 people working here during the year.
As part of your lease with Grow Food Northampton, you agree to use sustainable farming practices. What practices do you use to maintain this agreement?
We do cover cropping, we rotate our crops, we use organic fertilizer, and any of the pesticides we use are certified organic. We are trying to build the soil over the long term. I envision us over the next 10 years reducing the amount of agricultural plastic we use and also reduce tillage.
In what ways do you interact with Grow Food Northampton’s education and food access programs, or use your farm to promote similar goals?
Grow Food runs field trips that come here and we post field trips every fall. We collaborate very intently with Grow Food with our senior shares we offer to the local community as well as SNAP shares here. Also, with the Neighborhood Markets shares and the senior shares we do in Holyoke. It feels good and it’s important to use to make food accessible, and our relationship with Grow Food Northampton makes that easier for us.
Do you have any areas of growth or special projects for 2019 you’d like to share with us?
Over the past year we’ve been expanding more into Boston, which is exciting. Locally on the farm we have expanded our pick-your-own to make the experience more fun and engaging for everyone that comes.
Does Crimson & Clover Farm have any goals for the coming years?
Continuing to find ways to engage the local community and try to foster and encourage a deeper connection between the farm. Not just through membership but everyone in the community.
To learn more about Crimson & Clover Farm, check out their website here!
Interview has been edited for length and/or clarity.