We’ve got to get back to the garden.

It’s no big news flash that the food we’re eating is killing us. Between genetically modified foods, pesticides, suspect school lunches, and highly processed foods packed with sodium, preservatives and creepy color additives, it’s a gauntlet of bad choices. But the truth of the matter is, the more you can eat straight out of a garden (yours or some farmer’s near you), the healthier you’re going to be.

Which is why the Rockland Farm Alliance is such a fertile idea, ripe with possibilities for replication. A bedroom community of New York, Rockland was once a flourishing agricultural community with over 900 active farms that provided tons of fresh food for the big city next door. Today, Rockland has just 9 farms, 7 of them on less than two acres, and folks get their food from big grocery chains, swathed in plastic, like everybody else.

Moving earth (and heaven) for the garden.

But RFA is aiming to change that, with a town and county-supported lease of 5 acres of Open Space Land that the Alliance is turning into the Cropsey Community Farm, a working farm with an education area for teaching kids where food actually comes from, and an area dedicated to producing specialty crops (i.e. not Doritos) for schools. A model of Community Supported Agriculture, the farm is funded by member families who commit to getting a once-weekly box of organic produce. And who are willing to shovel a little compost when necessary, too.

Volunteers work on bringing back the 300-year old Cropsey Barn!

It’s an all-volunteer effort (except for one paid head gardener at Cropsey) but these folks are on fire to get their hands dirty. They’ve resuscitated the Agriculture Board, are lobbying for more active farmland, have renovated an ancient barn, built hoop houses and greenhouses, and look at every piece of fallow land (corporate headquarters, hospital grounds, parks, county open space) as a potential garden. Ultimately the vision is that each town in Rockland will have its own community run farm, where kids will help work the land, carrots will grow fat and long, and people will have local access to healthy, nutrient-rich food they helped raise with their own hands (or their own dollars).

American Organic

Tamika Adjemian is volunteer coordinator for the program, and if I could cross her with Sustainable Pattie here in Atlanta, (post on 4/28) they could probably feed half the country. Tamika’s rounding up Americorps volunteers, Girl Scouts of the Hudson, the Rockland YMCA, schoolkids, retirees, and young farmer interns to plow, plant, harvest and build – and make Community Supported Agriculture a reality. Upstate farmers are calling the Alliance “trailblazing,” and the hope is to re-produce the idea across the state – and beyond.

I love gardening, I love community projects, and I LOVE fresh produce, so this one’s a no-brainer for me. My $100 is going to Rockland Farm Alliance to build good fences (that make good farming neighbors) – and to help organically grow food that feeds our hearts and bodies. You dig? If so, click here to donate!

8 thoughts on “We’ve got to get back to the garden.

  1. I wasn’t planning on writing a review for this, but after an internship with these people, I felt a duty to save you, future student interns, from the trap you will fall into when you work for these people. To give you a little overview, I spent my last semester wasting valuable time and expense to conduct what I initially thought was “experiential learning.” When I arrived, not only was Naomi insecure about herself, and unwelcoming, she thought that I, the student, was there to take her job. This unnecessary tension throughout the internship caused her to assign very menial work to position me for failure, even at meetings she discouraged me from sharing my opinions. I found Mr. Gorowitz to be short tempered, and Mr McDowell as simply a figure head for this non-profit who were filled with empty promises. Not only was the internship disorganized, everything seemed to be all over the place. Gorowitz and McdowelI are unprofessional to interns, do not have YOUR future in mind, and will only respect you if you are say, a New City native with lots of money to donate, or you have a dad with lots of money to donate, for example. I was promised letters of recommendation for my hard work [albeit, free labor] to several Ivy League institutions only to receive absolutely nothing in return. Because of this, I had to scramble to procure recommendation letters at the last second from other people. That being said, if you, the student, have any choice between this and ANY OTHER internship, I would go for the other. This was a very painful experience that I did not deserve, and will NEVER forget, and can confidently say I learned next to nothing about sustained agriculture.

    • So sorry that you had such a bad experience during your internship with Rockland Alliance, Jah. I don’t know that people that you mentioned personally, as I only talked to Tamika — but you obviously have a very bitter feeling about the time you spent working there, and that must be a drag. I hope that Tamika and/or Naomi will reach out to you and try to resolve the feeling that this time was so unrewarding for you!

  2. I enjoy all of your posts! I want to thank you for sharing all the uplifting and encouraging things people are doing all over the world. Light is stronger than darkness and good can triumph over evil.

  3. LOVE this. Nothing on earth can compare to the taste of a freshly picked tomato, or carrot just pulled out the earth, and one that is pesticide free, was planted, watered, weeded and finally munched on by the “farmer” teaches more than any amount of preaching about laying off of junk food and “eating healthy”. Congratulations Tamika.

  4. I grew up in Rockland County when there hundreds of farms and saw how nearly all of them were sold for developments. Against all odds they galvanized the community AND the politicians to do something about saving and bringing back farms. Now that I have been following their work I finally had to get involved…truly an amazing volunteer effort!

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