My finger taps the steering wheel on the rhythm of the radio. My head is not really listening though. While cars are passing I think about the farm I am about to visit. Since I started the photo project Farmers and Growers, I learned a lot. But not enough to know what a city farm is. I am completely blanc.
As soon as I park my car the concept of a city farm gets a little clearer. I walk into this huge garden. I later learn that it’s one hectare big. Soil beds are filled with all kinds of different vegetables and fruits. I recognise rabarber, lettuce, thyme, raspberries, carrots. Other veggies I have never seen before. There is this huge dark green cabbage on a big steal that reminds me of a itybity palm tree. Luckily for me the beds all have a sign with a number and a name. A bit further I see beetroot, Brussels sprouts, kale, eatable flowers.
What is a city farm
Joke, the farm owner, approaches me.“Give me one second and you can ask all the questions you want!” I have a look around and wait for Joke to join me. “What is a city farm?” I want to know. “That’s a difficult concept to explain. It’s a farm that is close to the city. But it also gives back to the city and there is a community around it. I also don’t use any heavy machines and we farm a lot of different produce. And lastly education is important.”
People can buy a subscription at the city farm. “Participants pay once a year and every week they can come and collect what they want.” I look at the odd looking plant in front of me and aks: “But how do they know what is in season and how to harvest everything?” Joke explains about the news letter she sends out weekly: “I write all the harvesters what they can collect the coming week and how to harvest it.”
A lot of handwork
A couple of beds further a woman with her little basket is scanning the field. “That’s one of our harvesters. Today is a calm day. Often people stay a little bit longer, they hang around or volunteer by getting rid of the weeds. Everything is done by hand, that means it’s very labour intensive and people love to help!”
Only the mowing is done with a machine. The beds are separated by just the right amount of space for a mower to get through. “Most of my time goes to preparing the beds. We can use most beds three times a year. In the spring we produce something, in the summer and in the autumn. There are some vegetables that use a bed for the entire year. Parsnip for instance. In early spring we sow and at the end of the autumn we can harvest.”
“Because our harvesters harvest their own food, I can spend time harvesting for restaurants. I think fifty procent of all the food is going to a restaurant. I harvest and within the hour the food arrives. Policulture is especially good for vulnerable species. That means I can deliver some vegetables that nobody in the area grows. Springs beans for example.”
“But the best part of a city farm is that the farmers gets into direct contact with their costumers.” All the harvesters come by year round. “That means I know them. I think it’s important for people to get back in touch with farmers and with where produce comes from.” I nod in agreement.
Next to a bed of carrots Joke educates me on farming machines. “When you harvest carrots on a tractor, the machine goes through the soil and collects them. Because we harvest by hand we can sow everything a lot closer to each other. This bed of carrots would be spread out onto five beds on a regular farm. It may look inefficient, but it is the opposite!”
“Another benefit is the waste. Because our harvesters don’t care about a deformed turnip, we don’t have to throw it away. We also don’t have to obey by the supermarket rules regular farmers have to deal with.” Resulting in less waste!
Interested in other Farmers and Growers I follow for this project? Check out the project page! I am currently in contact with loads more farmers and growers to also include in the project. It takes some time because I want to visit most the participants multiple times throughout the year. But a patient mind, can get pretty far!