Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

A Kitchen Table Conversation

The weeds are high. The tomatoes are on the vine, though not quite yet ripe. Many a crop need cultivating and harvesting. There is work to be done on the farm, for the community and the people. These two weeks will be a chance to make headway on cultivating rows of crops, making and spreading  compost and connecting rain barrels for coming rains. About a year ago, I wrote about a new Farm Pantry community service program at Holly Hill Farm for high school students who worked on the farm for a week and ended the week by bringing fresh, organic produce to Father Bill’s shelter in Quincy.  Well it is late in the Summer again and there is still need to grow and bring fresh produce to people in need.

Holly Hill Farm sits just off Jerusalem Road and has lately grown vegetables for the immediate, nearby neighbors, though briefly in the mid 1900s, truck farming crops to Boston was a common practice.  These days, visitors to the farm stand are figuring out how best to use chard, turnips and beets in their next meal.  Sometimes, these local, organic crops can be difficult to negotiate when planning the next meal.  Cooking with such often esoteric roots, greens and legumes presents a challenge.  Nutritionists and chefs are encouraging folks to eat a wide variety of crops and are creating new food pyramids for all of us to follow.  Imagine learning about the health benefits of these veggies and then recipes to best use them.  Tis a challenge.

Imagine the difficulty for someone facing these vegetables on the shelves of a food pantry.  A visit to a food pantry may be the result of many a complex reason. Most shelves in these growing community food pantries are stocked with soups, noodles, dry goods and easy to prepare (heat and serve) meals or supplements to meals.   One of the tasks this week for the high school students should be to provide recipes and strategies for the crops which are not so common, but may indeed be quite healthy. Perhaps there should even be access to a community kitchen for students to apprentice with a chef and cook meals and soups with these vegetables and herbs so as to bring organic vegetables in a more prepared and ready to eat state.  A more direct route of these vegetables to the people in need would keep produce local, fresh and teach about the value of in-season food and meals. But I wax on about an ideal community where kale and pac choi are not just considered high end greens for the elite, but rather sustainable foods with beneficial nutrients.  Grow the crops and share them in a useful way with all who eat and need to know from where their next meal comes.

At the Teak Sherman community garden in Scituate, growers are encouraged to bring known, easy-to-use crops to the food pantry.  If there was a community garden in Hingham or Cohasset, I would suggest plotters grow onions, potatoes, tomatoes and squash. When will land be made available for interested growers to embrace the difficult and invigorating opportunity to turn the soil and sow seeds for those in need in the community? It seems we all can provide better food and education about healthy food, from familiar to new crops.  There is room to grow food in our neighborhoods, farms, back yards, gardens and open spaces and a demand to go beyond the same cycle to provide not just dry goods that are on the shelves.  Until we entertain a paradigm shift with new produce and healthy food, the teenagers will work hard at the farm and then head back to Quincy with a variety of ripe fruits and greens, after a week of cultivating and harvesting community service, growing beyond our confines and learning about new ideas for healthy produce.

© 2013, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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