Growing at Saint Joe’s

CSA farm manager Michial Russell reflects on the year’s harvest at Pearson’s Town Farm.

Farm manager Michial Russell

When the college began Pearson’s Town Farm in the spring of 2009, we knew that we wanted to reconnect people to their food and its production. As the farm evolved, we came to see the importance of relationships. The very real importance of the relationship between plants and the soil, between rain and the insects, between the producer and the consumer helped bring clarity to our vision.

In 2010 we joined the Lake Regions Farmers’ Market, not to make money but to reach out to the community – to let our neighbors know that we were here. It opened an opportunity to bring the business students into our fold and give our student interns a venue to meet with our community from a new perspective. In November of 2011, the farmers’ market folded and we realized that we were losing not only a major connecting point with our community, but also an opportunity to meet one of our many goals which was movement toward fiscal sustainability as a program.

That winter, Beth Richardson stepped forward with her senior business students and offered to develop and market a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for the farm. It would open new doorways to engage our community and also work toward economic sustainability. It was a daunting endeavor and one that we knew going in was going to offer more trials and lessons than we were likely prepared for.

vegetables

Twenty-one families signed up to support us our first year. We began the season with an open house inviting our CSA members to meet one another face to face and to become something more than just consumers, but to be part of a food community. Our summer was not without struggle. We suffered three major crop failures and a handful of vegetables that didn’t produce to our expectations, but we saw a number of victories as well. Some of our members came out to the farm to help plant and weed and harvest. Many families tried vegetables they were not familiar with, some they had never even heard of. On Friday pickups at the farm, people shared stories and recipes with us and one another.

In the end we are very thankful for their participation, not as consumers but as active participants in our food family. They have supported us and helped us grow. With our triumphs and our setbacks, we are still engaging their participation as we look to next year taking their input to guide us into the future – and we hope to expand our community both on and off the campus in future years.