We write today to ask you for an end of year contribution to the MHSC. 2020 was a remarkable and memorable year here at the farm. With the pandemic and public response to it trickling down to every day operations here, Julie’s retirement as Executive Director of NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association)/Mass at the end of August after 36 years, and the addition of Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms volunteers from March – November, things were never static, nor necessarily reliably familiar this past farming year. All good, of course, as change keeps us on our toes!
Our biggest sadness has been that the Stetson School volunteers that normally come 3 mornings over the course of every two weeks have been coming quite erratically as the governor’s orders change. We particularly enjoy these late teenage boys who bring a breath of youthfulness, and who so very much enjoy their chances to be useful members of our farm staff. Presently they are gone again during the latest covid spike, but we hope to see them again soon in the new year.
It has been two seasons that we have not hired any former prisoners. Hard to know if that aspect of our former work will be going forward in the near future. This was the year that we were gearing up to host outside groups from colleges, secondary schools, international groups, etc., but that didn’t happen. We still got a pretty consistent stream of individuals who ranged from Fulbright scholars, to UMass ag students to boy scouts. And we are doing more zoom education with colleges, grade schoolers, masters thesis students, farm education incubator groups, the usual array of NOFA conferences, and a videotaped interview with the Real Organic Project. Our basic strategy with responding to the many queries that come our way is to always say “yes” and then figure out the best format to share what we know (with just a little pontificating).
This year was the year of folks coming back – working shareholders from as far back as 20 years ago, and customers from 15 years ago. Somewhere out there was the message that one of the ways to address the worldwide crisis of 2020 was to reconnect to a local farm. And new ones coming for the first time – from a couple of Boston folks throwing over their corporate jobs to come here and work and volunteer, weekly work visits by the new Earthlands Farm crew in Petersham, to a stalwart group of four Trader Joe’s employees who are still showing up once each week all the way from Northampton to volunteer. AJ was quoted as saying, “Farming organically is the only thing that makes sense right now.”
Some WWOOFers were being dropped in our lap by our friend Renee early in the season and all of a sudden Leo was here from France and then unable to leave, eventually staying for 3 1⁄2 months. Along came Mario from Spain, Ariana from FL, Natasha from OK, Andres from NJ, Simon from MA, Sam from CA, Eric from FL, Lindsy from WI, Gavin from CA & Davida from NJ. Mario is now home in Barcelona, Spain with his own farm, Lindsy stuck around to become a farm staff member, and we forged some long term friends while slinging copious amounts of hash all season long!
We hired Nora in April and all of a sudden finally entered the marketing world in a serious way. Together Nora and Julie masterminded several times weekly Facebook and Instagram posts, stayed in real touch with the shareholders all season long for the first time in years, brought in $5,000 for NOFA/Mass in two weeks with daily Instagram tips for growers, and were successful in selling out of everything early in the season. The daily tips were so popular that some iteration of them will become a regular feature in our MHSC work for 2021
But first we need to update our website so that we can catalog and make available this daily or several times weekly information on carbon sequestering farming that folks are so hungry for. A YouTube Channel is in the offing too. Jack just retired from The Natural Farmer editorship after 33 years. Julie is farming full-time now after only dreaming about that for years (and loving it). Together we are toying with the idea of a Nearing-esque retrospective on the homesteader/ small farmer life.
In 2020 we threw most of our MHSC funds toward supporting the WWOOFers who put in extra hours on the farm. This adventure was an investment in young people (Gavin and Davida were only 18) perhaps ending up in farming and hopefully at least spreading the good news that good health for people, communities and the planet springs from face to face, hands in the soil, food production that leaves our little corner of the earth healthier than we found it and the people who perform it, and those who consume it, enriched and inspired to become beacons for a local integrated agriculture and community.
That this is working is evident from comments we recently received from one of our shareholders:
“A BIG Thank you to you and all the farm crew (always) for the tremendous efforts and loving energy poured into growing the most exceptional food (and making the highest quality healing products) – as the ultimate medicine for the body, mind and spirit – which has contributed greatly to my living a vibrant life! I am SO grateful and consider you all – and everything about “the farm”- a cherished blessing!!”
Gavin reminded us during his phone interview that Rudolf Steiner once said that it is the responsibility of healthy people to share our positive immune systems with each other. We are surely trying to do that here!
So come on over in 2021 for work, volunteering, lunch and good conversation. And if you can afford a donation this year, we are raising money to hire an immigrant farmer from the Worcester area.
Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson
Many Hands Sustainability Center
You can donate online via PayPal here or send us a check addressed to MHSC, 411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA 01005. All donations to MHSC are tax deductible as we are a 501(c)3.