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Part Two – Guest post from Washington – Taking lessons from a killer crop mob

A lot of folks have gotten in touch with us about coming up with practical ways young farmers (and their communities!) can help each other out.  One amazing – and simple – solution is to use crop mobs to focus a large group’s energy all on one specific project.   This is part two in the story on crop mobs in Washington State.

Put simply, a crop mob is a group of farmers, farm interns, or community members who come together on a specific day to tackle a specific labor-intensive project, whether it be reclaiming a field from weeds, harvesting sweet potatoes, or tying up garlic. 

We are thrilled once again to have Jacqueline Cramer from the Tilth Producers of Washington guest post today to report back from a crop mob this month that was sponsored by the Tilth Producers and the Washington Young Farmers Coalition, an NYFC-affiliate.  This post also ran on the Tilth Producers of Washington website.

Got a young farmer community that’s looking for ways to work together?  Read the following reportback for some great inspiration!

Reportback from the Crop Mob on Persephone Farm

by Jacqueline Cramer

Mulching potatoes at Persephone Farm Crop Mob, photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cramer
Mulching potatoes at Persephone Farm Crop Mob, photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cramer.

A small band of able and strong attendees gathered at Persephone Farm for a hands-on “crop mob” on June 16, 2013. Sponsored by Tilth Producers of Washington and the Washington Young Farmers Coalition, farmers Louisa Brown and Rebecca Slattery, along with their crew, led this all-day workshop with the goal of bringing experienced and beginning growers together to learn and accomplish some of the many tasks essential for success. Attendees were guided through a rotation of stations, each focused on one of the activities involved in Persephone Farm’s vegetable production. Great swaths of beds were cleared of weeds large and small, garlic harvested, new beds were planted, and potato rows were mulched with fortifying decaying leaves.

It was all-hands-on-the-crops, as the farmers described weeding methods while the group cleaned the beds. While hands were kept busy, their owners were absorbing new information while they worked. The variety of activities provided an array of learning experiences; everyone left with new skills and knowledge. One participant noted that the most significant thing he gained was “the confidence to dig into weeding with Louisa.” Others noted they learned about harvesting edible weeds and careful weeding practices.

Heading to the next task at the Persesphone Farm crop mob, photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cramer
Heading to the next task at the Persesphone Farm crop mob, photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cramer

This farm’s detailed management and intensive cultivation methods produce abundant local food sold at farmers markets, restaurants, to CSA members, and on-farm pick-ups. The group worked in rows which revealed a multitude of greens used in the colorful Persephone salad mix, sold to area restaurants and included in CSA boxes. Participants helped plant seedlings within a staggered regime for continuous harvest. Low tunnels are utilized to provide a good return and early harvest opportunity.

The farmers answered questions about watering and their irrigation system, seedling management, soil fertility, and sales. They described the stacking functions of the flower crop – including robust sales for weddings – and benefits for the farm by attracting pollinators and creating habitat for beneficial insects. The Persephone growers talked about the need to adapt continuously and find what works for each crop, market, season and area of the farm.

A well-deserved potluck at the Perspephone Farm crop mob, photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cramer
A well-deserved potluck at the Perspephone Farm crop mob, photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cramer.

In the last minutes of the day, the group kicked into high gear and “mobbed” and powered through mulching the potato crop. At the end the results were noticeable and Louisa turned on the watering system to settle it all in. Everyone gathered on blankets to enjoy an evening potluck feast, featuring a giant, green salad from Persephone’s fields and a farm-grown egg and leek bread pudding. Rebecca really meant it when she said she loves to cook with food from the fields! The crew and farmers marvelled at the accomplishments and thanked the participants for their helping hands. They noted and appreciated that many of the workers were farm hands themselves, sharing their services on a “day off.”
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