Back on the 12th of April, a group of volunteers descended upon ZJ Farms in Solon. Laura led the charge, with the repeat volunteers, Robert and me, and a group of students from an environmental science class. Everyone made it safely, although a few of us (I’ll name no names) may have perhaps gotten a little bit lost – but only for a few minutes!
We all gathered in the sheep barn, intrigued as to what our tasks for this farm work day would include. First, Laura passed around two handouts which were meant to educate the environmental science class. The first had a list of terms and their definitions, and as we looked over it, one phrase in particular jumped out: pesticide treadmill. Susan, the owner of ZJ Farms, informed us that a pesticide treadmill is an unending cycle where farms have to up the ante on their pesticides because the pests are becoming more and more resistant to the chemical compounds. She also briefly touched on how our outlawed pesticides are still being made in the United States, and are being exported overseas to other countries. Some of that produce then makes its way back into the United States, where we consume it. The second handout explained how volunteering time to work on the farm benefits the environment.
After this discussion, we all broke out into groups. A set of people worked on creating tomato cages out of concrete rebar,
another group worked on cutting milk jugs,
and a third clustered into the greenhouse to work on creating soil blocks to plant seeds in.
I was working in the greenhouse, so I’m not really sure what was going on back at the barn. Once we arrived in the greenhouse, we mixed soil and water to the correct consistency
(as Robert told us, “The correct consistency is key!”) and then Robert started making the soil blocks.
Some people migrated into the greenhouse to start planting the seeds into the soil blocks.
I worked on transplanting some tomato seedlings to encourage root ball growth. Here, I’m listening to Susan very intently. See the concentration on my face?
Lunch time came around quickly, and almost everyone left, I’m sure quite hungry from their morning’s labor at the farm. I had some time to kill (and had a very large breakfast), so I stuck around to help Susan a little more. We finished transplanting the tomatoes, and she pointed out some large boxes that some volunteers had created (I must have missed that when I was in the greenhouse!). We shuffled around some flats of seeds and set up the warming mats in those boxes for the small seedlings.
I had a great time working at the farm, and I look forward to coming back often throughout the season. It’s a good feeling to look out over Susan’s farm and realize that you had a (albeit very small) part in the process.
The best thing about volunteering at Local Foods Connection, hands down, is knowing that I am not only supporting small family-owned and run farms, but I am also helping low-income families in my area get fresh food. As food prices rise around the world, it’s nice to know that I can use some of my time to the benefit of so many different spheres: the environment, local agriculture, CSA Farms in particular, and the everyday people that surround me.