|Ever wonder why Jeremy became a farmer? Read on!|
Farmer Jeremy's Sunday Morning Speech
Originally presented at the NACF fundraiser brunch 22 June 2014
Here we are on Sunday morning, and while I’m not here to deliver a sermon, I do have some things to tell you about my religious background. My Grandfather on one side was a Methodist minister and he and my Grandmother built a vibrant community around their church. My grandparents on the other side were second-generation Russian Jewish immigrants living in a very tight community in the Bronx. My parents, children of the sixties, became Quakers around the time I was born. I always had the strong sense growing up in their household that I should find work doing something cool that would make the world a better place.
In high school, I volunteered at soup kitchens in New York City and fantasized about traveling to the Third World to volunteer to improve people’s lives. My sister, in fact, traveled to Africa as a teenager, and now does public health work there. I’ve chosen to find my life’s work of community service much closer to home. One year in college, I worked at a farm in Virginia that trucked vegetables in to farmer’s market. It was a lot of fun. I had previously been involved in outdoor education, and while it was something cool—it was immensely satisfying to be part of a group of people who heroically scaled a mountain or paddled across the lake in a windstorm, or whatever the challenge of the day was, I was having trouble seeing the part of that work that was making the world a better place.
Farm work was a revelation for me. We had a group of energetic people working as a team to accomplish herculean tasks, but the outcome here was much more tangible: healthy food that improved people’s lives. The farmers there had been college professors before they started farming, and they employed maybe 20 college students per season. They would often have little lectures about various aspects of farming. The message of one of those lectures that really struck me was that running a business could be an effective way to accomplish larger societal goals—you put forward what you do, and ask people to support that work by buying your products. This is in a way more direct than something like political work where you try to change people’s minds with persuasive language. A farm business in particular can be a real slice of making the world a better place, by trying to create a little piece of the world we want to live in.
So I see my work here at Simple Gifts Farm as a community service in a very real way. I enjoy running a business and existing in a marketplace. We have the incentive to produce really fantastic food so that people will want to buy it. But the reason we do things the way we do is really more about what we feel is right than purely about the profit motive. We have a piece of land that is being used to produce healthy food in an ecological system. This land serves as open space for our neighbors who walk their dogs and baby joggers through it. Our CSA members are connected to their food supply in a very real way. When we have a cold spring like the one we’ve had, or a new strain of tomato blight comes through, or when we have a fantastic crop of carrots or strawberries, people get to learn about how these kinds of things effect what we all get to eat. And through our apprentice program, we are training up our next generation of farmers. We try to empower them to take on some management of the farm effort, and hope that they will go out and find their own farms to work in their own version of the right way to do things.
The name of the farm, Simple Gifts Farm, is taken from the hymn “’Tis a gift to be simple”. As it turns out, there is nothing simple about what we do. Every connection, from soil fertility to pest management to maintenance of equipment, and maintenance of crew morale, from harvest management and storage to community relationships and financial planning, are immensely complicated. But the reasons we do it, the gifts on which we depend, are still simple, and they are all about connecting these pieces together so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the past eight years, we have built a tremendous community asset. In many ways it surpasses my dreams, and I am in wonder at how it is that we have come so far. There is no way that I could have done this alone, and I will always be grateful to everybody who has contributed along the way.
Our current fundraising effort supports the continuation of the most mission-driven parts of our work—both the apprentice program and our interface with the local community are dependent on the preservation of the front parcel on North Pleasant Street. Please help us to support the continuation of this work so that this farm can remain a community asset for us all and for future generations.