On Saturday, I joined about thirty riders on the 5th annual Boston Tour de Farms. It was a beautiful day for a ride, and after way too many hours of work in preparation for Farm Aid 2011, it was great to be on my bike for a leisurely ride to visit some of the Boston area’s farms.
Our first stop was Allandale Farm, Boston’s oldest working farm, started in 1765! Jim Buckle, Allandale’s farmer, told us about the history of the farm, what he and John Lee, the farm’s general manager, have been up to to diversify the farm (Chickens! Cattle! Pigs!), and some of the challenges of farming in a city—-not to mention two cities, as Allandale straddles the Boston/Brookline line. Fueled up with Allandale’s tart Gravenstein apples, we got back on our bikes.
Our next stop was Newton Community Farm, where we were met by Greg Maslowe, the farm manager. He told us about the farm, on two acres with just one of those acres in intense cultivation that yields a huge diversity of crops for CSA members, the honor system farm stand at the farm and local food pantries. When he said that this kind of intensive, diverse production centered where people live is the future of farming, it was easy to agree. We were treated to fresh-picked melons and a fresh cucumber salad. By this point, we were getting full!
The third stop was at a site that is part of an innovative new farm started in 2008. Kate Canney, the founder of The Neighborhood Farm didn’t let not having her land stop her from growing! The Neighborhood Farm is a collection of market gardens in private yards in and around Needham, MA. Homeowners lend the farm a portion of their yard and Kate and her team grow vegetables, herbs and flowers. In exchange, the owners receive produce from the gardens during the growing season. Our host was extremely green—while he showed us Kate’s farm plot on his front lawn, he also showed us his own garden and his collection of solar panels, which produce more than enough energy for his entire house. As he put it, his energy meter runs backwards, putting power back into the grid!
Our final farm stop was Brookwood Community Farm, where we were treated to lunch of heirloom tomato and cheese sandwiches. The founders of Brookwood petitioned the town of Milton to put farmland that was in conservation back into production. So far, Brookwood has been granted a lease to work four acres of the 160 in conservation, and just like the other farms on our ride, they use that land to best use, using organic methods to grow vegetables for their CSA members and local farmers markets. Brookwood has as part of its mission to produce and make good food accessible to low-income residents, and they helped found a farmers market in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, which we rode past on our way to our final stop.
To cap off our ride, we finished at the Roslindale Village Main Streets Farmers’ Market, where we picked up produce from many of the farms we had just visited. The Neighborhood Farm has always impressed me with their variety, quality and farmers market display, but knowing the ingenuity and creativity that goes into that operation (not to mention the hard work of working as many as 20 different farm plots!), gives me that much more respect for Kate. So I made a beeline for her stand and purchased as many heirloom tomatoes as I could fit in my bike jersey pocket and rode for home intent on making my own farm-fresh salad for dinner. That evening, my friends and I enjoyed those tomatoes and I told them all how lucky we are to have such amazing farmers right in our own backyard!
Many thanks to our friends at Urban Adventours for their help in guiding the ride and fixing flats!