Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Once upon a time...

Fresh Start Farms has a story. And not just your Maine-farmer-growing-good-food-on-fertile-soil story, or your reclaiming-grandfather's-old-land story. Both of these are important and wonderful but there's something that sets Fresh Start Farms' story apart. This tale traverses the Atlantic Ocean, crosses political and ethnic boundaries, and speaks of resiliency and justice far beyond the average seed saving farmer.

Spend some time learning about Fresh Start Farms' story:

The Resiliency Interviews: The Resiliency Project, a collaboration between Cultivating Community, The Telling Room, and No Umbrella Media, brought youth from our summer programs and refugee and immigrant farmers together for shared farmwork and storytelling around skills of resilience.

There Is My Home is a powerful documentary telling the story of two NASAP farmers as they use agriculture to create roots in Maine. Lanes Island Productions, 2011. Winner of the Audience Choice Award at its premiere at the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival. This film will rebroadcast on PBS on Thursday Feb. 9th 10 PM and Saturday Feb. 11th, 11AM.

PBS also showcased the NASAP program from 2007 in Letter From Maine: New In Town as part of the Rain in a Dry Land broadcast. This written documentary describes the Somali transition into Lewiston, Maine.

NASAP photos and video interviews are included in this web-based magazine article about U.S. Immigrants reinventing the family farm: A Harvest of Hope by flypmedia (2008).

One of our original funders, Heifer International, posted an article about NASAP growers in New Roots in America.

The Portland Phoenix wrote a short story called "Enjoying the Fruits of a Sudanese Farm in Maine" about one of NASAP growers and his love for food - on the farm and in the kitchen.

Every face you see tells a unique story. Whether it belongs to your friend, your coworker, your waitor, a stranger... Today, take this opportunity to listen, watch, and engage in the faces behind your food, and open your eyes to lives you've never imagined.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A breath of fresh air.

Everywhere around you, people are talking about the new year - new beginnings, new resolutions, new commitments, new possibilities...

Fresh Start Farms was born from that spirit. A departure from what was known for the promise of a better life. As these growers can tell you, it's not easy to leave behind the past and move forward, to learn a new language or new customs. It takes an incredible amount of strength not only to resettle, but to actively take hold of opportunities to grow a new life. Every day there are new challenges but these farmers have risen above adverse circumstances and are dedicated to caring for each seed of potential in their fields & in their businesses.

Winter Workshops: The winter is a perfect time to reflect on all of this. This week, farmers began the first series of workshops, trainings and classes, refining their skills and developing plans to prosper in 2012.

During the growing season, it can be hard to budget where time should be spent. At many points in the year, farmers are simultaneously responsible for harvesting crops, planting the next batch of seeds or seedlings, weeding everything in between, and finding time for markets (which still involves washing & packing produce, loading & unloading, traveling, and selling). This wheel exercise is a way to visualize how farmers anticipated dividing their time among different tasks.

Early in January, farmers are already figuring out what they want to grow, how much of each crop they want to plant, and how their field will be organized. There are a lot of factors that go into this - customer preferences (produce diversity for CSA shares and farmers' markets, produce quantity for restaurants and stores ), soil health, sunlight exposure and drainage patterns, proximity to beneficial plants and insects (learn more about companion planting), and quite simply, what the farmers want to feed their families. The exercise in these picture gives farmers the chance to play around with how much of what will grow where!

And the workshops don't end there. Add english classes, financial literacy and business planning, production and marketing trainings, etc... With so much to do, it becomes even more important that these farmers have the resources to afford pre-season expenses like seeds, tools, gas, and even building greenhouse space.

Consider supporting their efforts by purchasing a CSA share. Together we can align our new years resolutions: You want to treat yourself, your community, and your planet with more care and respect, and Fresh Start Farms growers want to continue building a stable home in Maine, to earn enough to feed their families and give their children a good life, and to grow more vibrant fields of green :)