The C.R.A.F.T program (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in the Hudson Valley / Berkshires / Pioneer Valley) is a wonderful program that offers a lot of invaluable information about farming and the specific experiences of the farmer/farm you are visiting. A few dozen apprentices make up the eager audience and the young energy is electric because everyone is excited to be there which leaves you happy and rejuvenated on your return back home.
From the months of April through October apprentices from all participating farms gather at one farm for a visit and/or workshop. Each visit includes an overview of the farm as well as a hands-on demonstration of one or two specific topics. Some of the topics covered are: soil health, direct marketing and season extension, fruit production, cover cropping, horse power, mechanical cultivation, small scale diversification etc.
We all participated in a craft event at Thompson-Finch Fruit Farm which was excellent! We even celebrated by harvesting some of their beautiful strawberries. But perhaps one of the highlight visits was at Sisters Hill Farm in Ancram, NY. Farmer Dave established the CSA in 1999 with one acre feeding 40 members to 5 acres feeing more than 200 families. Amazing. He is a very motivated, innovative and handy man! His background in carpentry comes in handy around the farm where he’s built a greenhouse, walk-in cooler, root washer and harvest cart. His fields were immaculate and healthy – a reflection of the state of mind and energy of the farm and it’s workers. He was big on cultivation – both mechanically and by hand and even demonstrated how he uses the wheel hoe by running up and down the aisles with energy to spare… no big deal.
But I have to say the thing that left an impression on me was how much he appreciated his three apprentices. He had them do the demonstrations for us all and was filled with ‘thank yous’ and ‘beautiful jobs.’ The office had a calendar with everyone’s birthdays and a weekly outline where everyone contributed to the farm agenda and the tasks at hand. They were included and at the very core of the operations of the farm because without them their wouldn’t be one… and you know there wasn’t a day that went by when they didn’t feel important or vital to the success of the farm. It makes you think and wonder… imagine if all work places were like that. Then maybe it wouldn’t feel like work – more like purpose and passion. Something you can take pride in and feel satisfied at the end of the day not only because you are needed by because you are connected to others around you. By supporting each other you create a positive, nurturing environment which is all anyone could want or need. Check out Sister Hill’s blog for some great pictures…