Next week the Greenhorns will travel up to Wrenthem, Massachusetts to hang out with and film Christy Raymond. Here is her story:
Christy Raymond started-up White Barn Farm, a vegetable growing operation this year. She is 29 years old and farming and living on family land with her grandmother in Wrentham, MA.
In Christy’s first year, she envisioned keeping meticulous records and trialing some processed products in a certified kitchen (pesto, tomato puree, hot pepper jelly, bread and butter pickles). However, the farm quickly developed a life of its own. By the start of June, Christy was selling fresh vegetables at two farmer’s markets a week, continuing to sell to the restaurant she was still waitressing at, and developing a wholesale account selling bagged basil tips to the Bellingham Whole Foods. The crop list was intentionally limited and Christy was only farming ¼ an acre of land. But, the small space was incredibly productive, available space was immediately filled with upcoming transplants that were started in the 12′x30′ hoophouse which her dad and brother helped put together in April.
Swamped by mid-June, she posted a craigslist ad to recruit several volunteers to help one morning a week in exchange for a share of vegetables. By early July, her operation had expanded even more to include a mid-week pickup of a pre-packed box of vegetables for 5 customers and a temporary roadside stand across the street from the farm on Saturday mornings. As a side project, three acres of the back field were plowed and seeded to Sorghum-Sudan grass to bring some organic matter to the fairly sandy soil.
Now the fall is here and Christy has decided to shift the focus of her marketing to the CSA model. She will offer 50 shares for 2009, counting on advance payments to give her the financial fortitude to hire a full time employee. The CSA model will allow Christy to concentrate on vegetable production and to harvest just what is needed and already sold, rather than spending several days away from the farm at markets, hauling lots of stuff around with the possibility of bringing it all home again. The entire crop plan is still in development, but it will certainly be more expansive: think potatoes and winter squash and more brassicas.
Christy is trying to rein in her dreams to the realistic scale, but has not ruled out raising a flock of laying hens to be rotationally grazed around the farm. There is a possibility of beekeeping, an expansion of cut flower plantings, and maybe some trial perennial crops (lavender, hops, and blueberries are high on the dream list). Family and community support have been incredible thus far, feedback about the produce has been very positive, and the outlays for this year have been paid back with a little to spare for a disk harrow and manure spreader.
There is lots of infrastructure to work on before the 2009 season begins – including digging a well for irrigation, developing the basement of the barn into cool storage, and building a storage shed for the tractor, equipment, and supplies. The inspiration and visions are miraculously enduring the work and exhaustion and overall Christy is filled with hope for the future of saving this prime farmland in the heart of suburbia.