Are these farmers crazy?
The chalkboard behindHeartwood Farm’s stand at Feast and Field Market reads “Pay what you want… take what you want. ” It’s a CSA model that might seem crazy to the average consumer, but Heartwood Farm’s Justin Park wants to break from the notion that local vegetables have to be inaccessible and elitist. Noticing waning numbers in their farm share program, he and his wife Carin wanted to “breathe some new life into the CSA. We wanted to try to make it more accessible to a wider range of people and their incomes”
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and in many CSA models, people pay for a season of food upfront. Members come to the farm, or designated pick-up location each week to pick up vegetables, usually in designated amounts set by the farmers, or already packaged in boxes or baskets. In veering from this model, the Parks wants to show people that “CSA’s can be really easy and you are going to get the most value for your money.”
“I want people to eat better food, and I’m just going to keep working until more people are eating our food!”
Farm share members pay on a sliding scale, and when they come to pick up their vegetables, they are able to take what they wish. In the beginning of the season customers can be overheard checking but not really believing; “so I just take what I want?” Perhaps their eyes are too big for their stomachs and they take more than they can actually use, but by the end of the season, they become used to the model which allows them to take only food they will use, causing less waste.
For those confused by sliding scales, or those more used to being told what to pay, various pay scales are offered. $250 is suggested for an individual share, $450 for a double share, $550 for a small family share, and $650 for a large family share. Vegetables are also available a-la-carte, but the advantages of membership is a better deal.
“We want to give people a good deal,” says Park. “We want them to feel like they are getting more than they paid for. We also wanted to give flexibility. We’ve always worked with people so that they can pay whatever they can afford, and absolutely offer payment plans.”
photography by Seth Butler/ http://Sethbutler.com
Heartwood Farm, a Love Story:
Heartwood Farm's Justin and Carin Park met in 2007 while living in Lake Tahoe while working at the New Moon health-food store. They had a shared passion for real food and a shared vision for a rural life, connected with the cycles of nature and connected in community. Carin, had escaped academia and left a PHD degree in Philosophy from Georgetown. Tired of talking about what it meant to live a good life, she left the “Ivory towers of Academia" to try living it. And living they are;
In 2009, the couple spent the summer apart; Carin farming in the valley of Lake Tahoe, and Justin came to Vermont where he interned with Fable Farm. That summer he knew that he was committed to a life of farming. His introduction was an infamously cold and wet year, in which tomato blight arrived across the region. He remembers it as “cold, wet and muddy”, but it wouldn’t deter him. “I think I had already decided to farm. I knew it was going to happen. I don’t know what would have deterred me. It was a hard year but it was a very inspiring year simultaneously.”
In 2010 the two moved to Hartland, VT where they shared a job position at Cobb Hill Farm. Committed to the area, and inspired by the strong sense of community they found in Barnard, they put down money on a wooded piece of land on Bowman Road, and took off on a trip around the world—Farmers don’t have time for honeymoons, so their travels were a pre-wedding, pre-farm and pre-family honeymoon. They returned to put down roots, literally getting roots in the ground for their first year of farming as Heartwood Farm. Justin began working on their timber-frame house and Anabelle, now 5, was born the next spring. Along with Charlie, now 2, the family of 4 is in the process of moving into their home this spring.
Photograph by Seth Butler / http://sethbutler.com
A Vibrant Community of Local Farmers
Heartwood Farm shares a lease from the Vermont Land Trust with Fable Farm,Eastman Farmand Kiss the Cow Farm. Working in a collective as the Feast and Field Farmers, these four farms are able to access land, a 500 acre parcel formerly the Clark Farm, which would be otherwise too expensive for any individual farm.
Their first summer farming, there were two vegetable farms in the collective, and Heartwood Farm sold their vegetables at Woodstock Wednesday Farmers Market. Carin began making kombucha to supplement vegetable income. Her herbal-flavored fermented teas became such a hit that Carin’s Kombucha became a side business, and continues to be a hit at Feast and Field Market. In 2015, Heartwood Farm joined up with Fable Farm, and for one season they operated as a collective farm, jointly growing vegetables for CSA. In 2016, Fable Farm phased out of vegetables and into wines, catering and events, and Heartwood Farm took over as the Feast and Field vegetable farm.
Photograph by Seth Butler / http://sethbutler.com
Feast and Field Market
Each Thursday evening from June 1st through October 12th from 4:30-7:30, all four farms can be found selling their wares at Feast and Field Market. Heartwood holds their CSA pick-ups at this unique market set in the fields of the farm where the food is grown. The rhythms of an eclectic array of bands can be heard filling the hills as part of BarnArts Music Series. Mexican themed prepared foods are available from Fable Farm featuring meats from Eastman Farm and Kiss the Cow, along with Fable’s fermented drinks, Carin’s Kombucha, Kiss the Cow Ice Cream and other food and craft vendors.
To read more blog posts like this, subscribe to my blog here. I work with the farmers of Feast and Field Market, and coordinate BarnArts Music Series at the Thursday events. I'll be writing more features on local farmers, artists and community members working to make our world more delicious, more beautiful, more just, and just more fun.
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All photography by Seth Butler: http://Sethbutler.com