Ok, a bit of background before I deliver my message - A few months ago, Marc woke me up on a beautiful Sunday morning and told me to get dressed because we were heading to church. Knowing that Marc is an atheist, my immediate reaction was, "who are you and what did you do to my husband?" It had been more than 15 years since I'd attended church regularly. I was raised by a rather strict Roman Catholic father and attended Catholic school up until I went off to college. Plaid uniforms, scary old nuns, holiday processions - I will admit that I truly enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, if the Catholic church wasn't so opposed to my "lifestyle", I would consider sending Jonathan to Catholic school...but I digress. Despite this, I still reacted to Marc's request with a pound of skepticism and a dash of sarcasm.
Anyway, Marc told me that it was not "that" kind of church service - and so began our current (yet slow) journey towards Unitarian Universalism. Whether or not we'll ever fully get there is still up in the air but we like what we've experienced so far. (I'll save the church stories for another time.) Ok...ANYWAY, one of the best things to come about from this journey is that we met fellow church-goer Kate, who along with her husband have quickly become our good friends. They even have a son Jonathan's age and they get along like two peas in a pod. Kate, like myself is really into growing food, learning artisanal skills, eating responsibly - locally - ethically and basically all things having to do with sustainable living. When you're passionate about something, you instinctively want to share it with others and learn from others as well. I'm grateful everyday for my readers and blogging buddies. Without you guys, growing my lonely little plot wouldn't be nearly as fun, which is why there are times I wish I had a plot at a community garden. Kate is the first local person I've befriended who shares my same passion.
Recently, Kate and I came up with the idea of starting a local group of farming/vegetable gardening/animal husbandry/urban homesteading/sustainable living enthusiasts (we haven't come up with a formal name yet). Currently it's just a group of two (LOL!) but we would like to reach out to our fellow MA residents and invite all who might be interested in joining.
Our mission is pretty simple at this point - Kate and I want to learn as much as we can about small-scale farming, market gardening, animal husbandry, artisanal crafts (like cheese making, craft brewing, etc.) and some good old fashion country skills. Both of us have always wanted to intern at a farm but because of our careers and life commitments have never been able to do so. We are interested in learning real skills and practical knowledge - those that we can apply to our own gardens (and potentially our future farming/homesteading endeavors).
In a nutshell, this is what we had in mind:
To start, we would like to organize a series of farm tours several times a year. Our idea is to reach out to our local small-scale farmers and ask if they would be willing to offer our group a nuts and bolts look into their farming operations. These tours are meant to be instructional (and open to adults only). As the tour progresses, our group will be able to ask questions and seek advise on all things having to do with the running of the farm from the big picture (like soil fertility, animal health, etc.) to the mundane (state regulations, equipment maintenance). We are hoping that these tours will greatly expand our current knowledge and offer us a realistic glimpse into small-scale farming as a skill/career/lifestyle. In the end, we think that these tours will appeal to the artisan, veggie gardener, prospective farmer or urban/suburban homesteader in each of us. For the farmer, it would mean a small fee for their time and an opportunity to share their expertise with members of their community. We would like to keep each tour group small - anywhere from 5 to 10 people max. At say $30 a person, that would mean up to $300 dollars for 2 to 3 hours of the farmer's time.
Currently, Kate and I are working on a farm tour for sometime in August. We have found a local farmer (who has a 10 acre vegetable and poultry farm) willing to conduct our first tour if we can get at least 3 other people to participate. We are also speaking with a local goat farmer, who has a small cheese operation, about a possible tour later on this year. Obviously as the group grows we can discuss ideas for future tours.
Anyway, if any of my fellow Massachusetts readers would like to join our group/help us get it started/be on our farm tour email list, please email me at email@example.com. And if you are a small scale farmer interested in giving a tour, please reach out to me as well!
Footnote - I probably should have mentioned that Kate and I are not planning on making this a for profit enterprise. For us it's about building a local community of like-minded people and giving us an opportunity to make some new friends! All fees associated with each tour will go to the farmer. Also, $30 is just a hypothetical figure I put out there. The cost will be negotiated based on the length of the tour and the activity involved. The last thing we want to do is make the cost prohibitive for members of our group. I'll let everyone know the cost well beforehand, whether it be $10 for a basic hour-long farm tour or $30 for an intensive morning-long chicken processing workshop.