This Thursday: Our Annual Open Farms Tour

resized-bisson2Join New Entry this Thursday for our 6th Annual Open Farms Tour!

Date: Thursday, August 1st (Rain or Shine!)
Time: 4:45 – 7:45 pm
Location: starting at Ogonowski Memorial Fields, 126 Jones Ave., Dracut, MA; and visit to a 2nd incubator training farm in Dracut
Cost: Free (donations welcome!) – but please register online

You are invited to join New Entry for an insider’s tour of our beginning farmer incubator training sites. Join New Entry farmers and staff for an informative and fun-filled 6th Annual Open Farms Tour on Thursday, August 1st, beginning at 4:45 PM, at the Ogonowski Memorial Fields, located at 126 Jones Avenue, Dracut, MA.

Speak with project farmers and staff to learn about our beginning farmer training programs, our farmland preservation efforts, and farm employment resources. Discover what motivates New Entry farmers and learn steps that New Entry farmers take to mitigate risks on their farms. Explore where your food comes from! Meet and network with other project supporters who believe in New Entry’s mission. Taste delicious appetizers made with locally-grown produce from the farms.

This event is free and open to all New Entry friends and supporters, and registration is required. Donations are always welcome to support and expand our work. Click on the link below for registration and directions. See you at the farm!

Register Now!

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Farmer Profile: Erin Stack

 Erin StackBy Trevor Cullen, UMass Lowell Writing Student 

Buying a farm with two months of vague farming experience is not the traditional way to pursue a career in agriculture. Neither is making the transition from art professor to farmer, but Erin Stack has managed to successfully transform a plot of earth into New Harmony Farm, which will enter its second full growing season this spring.

“I’ve always been an artist and a lover of science,” Erin says, and her experiences in creating and developing her farm, while untraditional, are a testament to the pursuit of a lifelong passion. Erin runs New Harmony Farm in Essex County, a 4,500 square foot plot of land that she originally bought with two months of prior farming practice. She knew she had jumped in well past her comfort zone, but was eager to get her project off the ground.

Erin heard about New Entry through a couple of her friends who were farming mentors and enrolled in the Farm Business Planning Course. She says one of the most valuable things she learned from her collaboration with New Entry was how to use spreadsheets to effectively plan out the growing season, saving her a great deal of time and effort. She also says the program helped her learn how to be more organized when it came to running her farm and helped her to confidently use farming equipment like tractors, something she had never operated before or even thought of in the context of farming.

These days, Erin has chickens and bees to go along with her vegetables, and is very excited about having a couple sets of hands besides her own to help her. Erin has also become much more involved in the practice of biological and ecological farming, paying special attention to the soil in which her plants grow.

New Harmony Farm“As an environmental activist, I am very interested in science,” she says. “Agriculture has done a lot of damage to the environment.”

Erin is doing her part to help aid in this problem, going a step further than organic farming by growing nutrient dense vegetables. These veggies contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals thanks to improved soil chemistry. Erin has also been attending the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s soil and nutrition conferences.

As for the progress and future of her farm, Erin says she has been humbled and enlightened by the farming process. Coming from an academic background, she says that the biggest initial shock to her was the difference between theory and practice, something that farming really helped to put into perspective. She still maintains her artistic streak though, saying that farming is just a new art form to her, and Erin’s efforts and participation in bringing “articulture” to New Harmony Farm is evidence of this. A future idea for “articulture” she has had is to paint a tree with some form of bacteria like a yogurt, and to watch as the bacteria changes colors and evolves.

With her farm becoming more stable each year, Erin says that she hopes to make people more conscious of the food they eat and how farming can be improved.

“Our stomachs are a great place to start,” she says.

Learn more about Erin’s farm at www.newharmonyfarm.com.

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Event Journal: Explore Farming!

Written by Trevor Cullen, a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

On December 12, I went to New Entry’s Lowell office anticipating sitting in on my first Farm Business Planning Course; however a wrong turn led me to sit in on the Explore Farming! class, which ended up being a great one for a newcomer like me to attend. It was led by Sam Anderson, who fielded questions from another diverse group of both already established farmers and those interested in entering the business. It was a smaller class, with eight other people besides me.

One of the points of conversation that stuck out most to me was the continuous stressing of the fact that quality of life should be the main motivating factor for a farmer, or someone interested in becoming one. In the class it was recognized and understood that as a small farm, making a substantial profit, especially during the first few years, is a challenge. A more realistic goal is breaking even during the beginning. So the lifestyle, not potential profit, should be a farmer’s biggest motivating factor. I thought this was such an intelligent point to bring up to those who were interested in beginning their own farm.

There were a couple other smaller points of conversation from the course that I enjoyed as well. One was the fact that you don’t need a barn and a silo to be a successful farm, meaning there’s a misconception out there that successful farms need to have hundreds of acres of land, a fleet of tractors and the trademark barn and silo. This is not so, Sam stressed. There are plenty of small farms that have plenty of great produce from small plots of land. The last thing that I thought was smart to address were the alternatives to starting your own farm. During the last part of the class, we discussed how if you weren’t sure the farming lifestyle was for you, or you didn’t have the money to start your own farm, there are other options out there, such as landing a job as a worker on a farm, finding an apprenticeship, or researching and networking to better understand the farming market.

As someone who is still new to New Entry, I thought this was an outstanding course for an outsider with an interest in farming to attend. From the basic concepts and suggestions, to the lack of pressure to do anything but listen, the class was a great starting point.

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In Memory: Mr. Kim

By Matthew Himmel, former New Entry and World PEAS Marketing Manager

If you have ever bought amaranth greens, water spinach, Asian cucumbers or bitter melon at the Lowell Farmers Market or received them in your World PEAS CSA share, most likely it was grown by Visoth Kim (“Mr. Kim” to all of us at New Entry) and his family. Intensively managing a small farm in Dracut, Massachusetts, Mr. Kim was the principle supplier of most Southeast Asian crops at the Lowell and Lawrence Farmers’ Markets as well as one of the most prolific growers for the World PEAS cooperative-and one of the first farmers New Entry ever worked with. Mr. Kim passed away late last year after a long illness.

Mr. Kim emigrated from Cambodia, where he was a teacher and a farmer. After arriving in the U.S., Mr. Kim worked in electronics manufacturing, but continued to grow vegetables in his backyard, selling any surplus in his community. After joining New Entry’s first Farm Business Planning Course in 2003, Mr. Kim met John Ogonowski, who provided Mr. Kim and several other early New Entry farmers with a plot on his family’s land in Dracut. During periodic trips back to Cambodia, Mr. Kim continued to teach, this time showing farmers the novel farming practices, such as drip irrigation, which he had come to use on his Massachusetts farm.

The community of New Entry staff and farmers have benefited greatly from Mr. Kim’s contribution to the organization. Organized, thoughtful and hard-working, Mr. Kim has provided a role model to farmers of efficient, intensive production. Personable and savvy, he demonstrated successful marketing, selling through a variety of retail and wholesale channels. Sincere, gregarious and undeniably photogenic, Mr. Kim also became one of New Entry’s best ambassadors.

I recall a World PEAS shareholder meeting in Andover that Mr. Kim attended. After discussing the mechanics of the CSA, shareholders had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Kim. He described his passion for growing high quality produce and a desire to keep his customers healthy. His testimony demonstrated the value of supply chains that are short enough that farmers and customers can know one another. His warm smile remains prominently featured in most of New Entry’s literature and on the large mural, hand-painted on the cooler for World PEAS farmers.

His wife and sons plan to continue farming on the same plot, and selling the same crops to the World PEAS Cooperative. Mr. Kim will be dearly missed by all of us who knew him as our farmer and friend.

Posted in New Entry news, On the Farm, Small farmer | Comments Off

Event Journal: Farm to School Workshop

Written by Trevor Cullen, a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Last month, I attended the Farm-to-School workshop hosted by New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and led by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. As someone completely new to the organizations, I came with an open mind and many questions. Who would be attending this workshop? What exactly would the purpose of the meeting be? Was I going to be surrounded by old men in overalls, chewing on stalks of straw?

As it turned out, the workshop consisted of a diverse crowd of both farmers and people who were not yet farming, but interested in the process of supplying food to schools. The two women running the workshop were well organized and prepared to answer any questions. The book provided by them for the workshops attendees proved to be a great tool for following along during the meeting, and a source to use afterwards.

I found that although I came to the workshop with no strong sentiments of what to expect, I learned a great deal. Being a college student, the idea of small, local farms supplying fruits and vegetables to a school was pertinent to me. There were a couple of facts that struck me as particularly fascinating. First, I was happy to learn that recently there has been a massive overhaul in the federally run school lunch program; in order to get government support, a school lunch program has to meet certain guidelines, containing a certain percentage of veggies according to their different colors. Another topic addressed that caught my attention was that multi-national corporations like Aramark can only buy produce from farmers that are GAP certified and have at least five million dollars’ worth of liability insurance. So while I want nothing more than for the farmers’ stands in Dracut or Tyngsboro to be able to sell their apples or pears to UMass Lowell, unfortunately it’s not that easy.

Leaving the Farm-to-School workshop, I was impressed with how well the workshop had been run, and how easy it was for me to jump right in and quickly get a grasp on what was going on. From federal guidelines to commonsense advice like labeling all your produce in order to gain some name recognition, I enjoyed learning about how small time farmers could begin to make a difference, and profit while doing it.

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Becca Weaver: Farmland Advisor

Becca at greenhouse workshopNew Entry’s own Becca Weaver has been selected to participate in Farmland Advisors, a new training program on farm transfer and farmland access options designed for professionals working with farmers and landowners.

With nearly 25 percent of the farmland in New York and New England owned by farmers aged 65 and older, transferring land to the next generation of farmers poses a significant challenge. The Farmland Advisors program was launched to strengthen the network of professionals capable of working with farmers and landowners on transferring farm businesses and farmland and aiding new farmers in securing land.

The two-year training program will be led by American Farmland Trust, a nationwide farmland conservation organization, and Land For Good, an organization that helps provide farmland access, farm transfer planning, land planning, and farm use agreements. Funding is provided by a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Grant.

Becca, who coordinates New Entry’s Farmland Matching services and the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts, was one of 80 participants from the Northeast selected to participate in the Farmland Advisors program. Participants include Cooperative Extension educators, land trust staff, agricultural service providers and other professionals working with farmers and farmland owners. Farmland Advisors addresses this challenge of facilitating farm transfer by educating participants through a series of progressive learning and networking opportunities, including webinars, a regional conference, and peer-to-peer exchanges about farmland and farm transfer issues.

For more information about Farmland Advisors, contact Diane Held at (716) 471-7134 or dheld@farmland.org

Posted in Farmland, New Entry news | Comments Off

Farmland matching in the Boston Globe

Boston Globe image

Boston Globe image

A Boston Globe article this week focuses on New Entry’s farmland matching program, including the story of New Entry farmer Seona. Congratulations to Becca Weaver, our Farmland Matching Coordinator, for the well-deserved credit!

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It’s a SNAP: Expanding Food Access in Lowell

World PEAS, and the larger New Entry Sustainable Food Project, are committed to serving under-resourced individuals in the greater Boston and Lowell areas in both the supply and demand side of commercial agriculture.  We support the farmers who grow food for our programs, while also working to expand access to these foods in communities in Lowell and East Boston.  This presents a common paradox in the world of sustainable agriculture- how do you support agricultural livelihoods, by providing the best price to our farmers for their crops, while also making these foods to be accessible for low-income populations?

This is a challenge that staff at New Entry and our fiscal sponsors, Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) and Tufts University, have been working to address with various programming models.  This season, after intensive planning and collaboration, World PEAS and CTI developed a pilot project- the SNAP CSA.  This program, which allows individuals receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, often referred to as food stamps, to purchase a small CSA share at half price.  The remaining half of the cost of the CSA share is subsidized by the support of generous donations by our shareholders and the Farmer’s Market Promotion Program.  The SNAP CSA initiative operated every Friday this season at the Lowell Farmers Market, where individuals registered for the program were able to pick up their shares and enjoy lettuce, greens, raspberries and more.

Participants were recruited for the program through various service agencies and through a wide range of multilingual promotional materials.  The CSA share the members receive is identical to the share offered to our general World PEAS customers, but SNAP CSA participants have the option to pay weekly for their subsidized shares, rather than needing to make an upfront investment for the entire season, which would be a sizeable financial barrier for participation.  While we hope to register more participants in the SNAP CSA program, the current program does serve to address New Entry’s mission to enhance community food security by expanding access to fresh, local food to all populations.  We believe that our CSA is particularly appropriate for SNAP recipients given the fact that we include many unique ethnic vegetables in our shares- providing culturally appropriate foods is a key tenant of community food security.

We are excited to develop our SNAP CSA program to reach even more individuals in the Lowell area and to hopefully expand further in coming years.  By helping under-resourced individuals develop commercial agricultural businesses that can in turn feed low-income populations in Lowell, we are hoping to develop networks of self-sufficiency and community development.

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New Entry’s Newest Addition: Eero Ruuttila

New Entry is excited to introduce our new Technical Assistance and Incubator Farm Site Coordinator, Eero Ruuttila. Eero (pronounced “arrow”) comes to New Entry from Siena Farms in Sudbury, Mass., but he is best known in these parts for his 21 years managing Nesenkeag Farm in Lichfield, New Hampshire. At Nesenkeag, Eero worked with a staff made up mostly of Cambodian immigrants and refugees to keep the 65-acre nonprofit farm self-sustaining through vegetable sales. Eero’s innovations – especially his cover cropping strategies – drew visits from farmers and extension agents around the country.

Eero was also involved in New Entry’s early years as a farmer training project. He was one of New Entry’s first mentor farmers, and helped to teach some of the farmer trainings. In 2003, he worked with two of New Entry’s first farmers, Mr. Kim and Mr. Nil, on a pea tendril project hosted at Nesenkeag. We even discovered that he was the one who put in the order for New Entry’s three walk-behind tractors – the same ones with which our incubator site farmers are, to this day, intimately familiar.

In his return to New Entry, Eero will teach our Farm Business Planning Course and hands-on field trainings, provide technical assistance to New Entry farmers, and manage our incubator training farms.  We are all looking forward to working with and learning from Eero – and our new class of Farm Business Planning students should be, too!

Posted in Field trainings, New Entry news, On the Farm | Comments Off

Workshop Highlights: Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin explains how to get cattle into a handling chute.

On August 30, New Entry had the privilege of co-coordinating a Cattle Behavior and Handling Workshop with the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, featuring guest speaker Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin is nationally renowned for her work on understanding animal behavior and on developing livestock handling facilities based on the perspective of the animal. She eagerly answered questions and related her insights about cattle behavior. When you have trouble getting cows to move into a pen or a handling chute, she explained, they may be anxious about something that wouldn’t seem important to a human, like a dangling rope, a person standing in the wrong place, or a change in floor surfaces. Dr. Grandin also stressed the importance of learned responses; for example, if an animal’s first experience the handling chute is a bad one, good luck getting it into the chute next time!

Dr. Grandin also gave a public lecture the evening of the 29th, and participants in the Cattle Behavior and Handling Workshop were invited to another lecture that evening. For more about Temple Grandin, including a wealth of advice about livestock behavior and handling, visit her website. You can also sign up for our livestock updates or find more resources posted regularly on our livestock Twitter account. More pictures of the workshop below:

Photos by Adrien Bisson

Posted in Field trainings, Livestock, New Entry news | Comments Off