Checking in on the “Grow out:” a visit to Heritage Farm
by Anne Obelnicki, RAFT Grow-Out Project Coordinator
Towards the end of July I had the pleasure of visiting John Harkins at Heritage Farm on Aquidneck Island (Portsmouth), Rhode Island. John is one of the farmers participating in our RAFT Heirloom Vegetable Grow-Out, and Id scheduled this visit for my birthday with the premonition that this would be a special place to spend a few hours. I wasnt disappointed.
My visit was on a rainy day, not much of a surprise in New England this summer. However, John and his two farm workers one full-time, one part-time bustled through the fields as cheery and efficient ever, apparently unfazed by the gloomy weather.
Like other New England farmers, John told me that his crops were about a month behind this year because of all the rain and the lack of sunshine early in the season. Luckily, he hadnt had much disease as a result, and as he cheerfully led me through the fields he pointed out variety after intriguing variety of beautiful plants thriving in bushy, healthy rows.
Johns career path evolved into vegetable farming after spending a chunk of his 20s in landscaping. He told me he liked the productivity of vegetable farming creating something useful, something delicious that you can eat and found it in sharp contrast to the unproductive nature of maintaining grassy suburban landscapes. John gave a short, ironic laugh as he commented on the discrepancy between what people will pay to have their lawns mowed (a lot!) in contrast to their expectations for the cost of good, wholesome local vegetables (not much!). Obviously a thoughtful farmer, his mind seemed to buzz a mile a minute as we continued to walk the fields.
John is growing 11 of the 16 RAFT veggies included in the Grow-Out, but his enthusiasm for heirlooms vastly exceeds the bounds of our project. As we walked, he pointed out the row where he is doing a seed trial of 10 tomato varieties for Fedco Seeds. I was impressed as John rattled off names of strange and intriguing heirloom squashes, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and other veggies, all remembered without a map. While many farmers find it more convenient to grow just a few varieties, John told me growing TONS of varieties is part of what makes farming engaging and exciting for him.
John is new to working with restaurants, but were hoping through the Grow-Out hell make connections with many chefs in his area. With all those amazing heirlooms to sell, theyll be lucky to have him as a supplier.
[For our previous Grow-out posts, click here, here, and here]
To read more, follow this link:
Please enter the word you see in the image below:
Find out about open positions and internships as Slow Food USA.
Find out more.
68 Summit Street, 2B
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Tel: 718 260-8000 or 877 SlowFoo(d)
Fax: 718 260-8068
© 2010 Slow Food USA - All Rights Reserved