Abby Ferla, owner of Foxtrot Farm in Shelburne Falls, spent her summer nights camping in a tent in her fields, accompanied by her partner and dog.
“This is the first year that we have grown food crops, and it has been an evolutionary process of learning to keep deer, skunks and porcupines out of corn and peas,” says Ferla. “Currently my dog whines when he hears something in the gardens and I just let him come out of the tent to chase them away.
Foxtrot Farm is a 3 acre certified organic farm specializing in the cultivation of fresh and dried bulk botanical and culinary herbs. This year, Foxtrot Farm launched a CSA focused on plants that walk between food and medicine, with a focus on climate-resilient growing methods.
“We have a strong focus on climate resilience at Foxtrot Farm because, like many farmers in the valley, I’ve seen how climate change has caused unpredictable seasons and weather conditions,” Ferla says. “Naturally, this has led many farmers to try to increase their control over the climate in which they grow so that their crops can thrive; for example, using greenhouses, low tunnels and black plastic to protect against freezing. For me, I really wanted to limit my use of plastic, which led me to the question of “ what would it be like to explore cultures in a different way ” and “ what are the cultures that require less babbling and outside inputs, or can be frost, drought or flood resistant? “
This remained the guiding question for Ferla’s CSA and led her to grow many foods generally considered to be weeds, as well as plants closely related to weeds.
Amaranth, which is closely related to amaranth, is one example. Amaranth is similar to spinach, loaded with vitamins and minerals. Unlike spinach, amaranth is heat and drought resistant, and in a square foot, you can grow about five times as much amaranth as spinach. Even with a heavy harvest and little to no watering, Foxtrot Farm amaranth has become unstoppable.
Another example of a climate resilient crop grown on Foxtrot Farm is a variety of corn called Painted Mountain Corn. The story behind this corn is that a farmer in Montana grew every variety of corn native to North America he could find. He grew these varieties of corn in the same field, which allowed them to cross-pollinate and every year he saved the seeds of the corn that did the best.
Since this farmer grew up in such volatile conditions, the result is a variety of corn that is resistant to heat and frost, drought and flooding. The genetic diversity of this corn makes every ear different. Although it is usually a burnt orange color, some grains are blue, purple, pink, white or burgundy, giving off a purple or magenta tint when crushed. The brightly colored kernels make this corn ideal for decorating or eating fresh, roasted or ground to make colorful tortillas and more.
Ferla also grows pears, grape leaves, orack, Italian dandelions and radicchio, and buys hawthorn berries for the CSA.
“The ASC was a total pleasure,” says Ferla. “It was really fun exploring this idea of what our kitchen could look like if it were more place-based and focused on human and environmental healing, with a group of people also interested in having these discussions.
Beyond simply collecting their produce each week, Foxtrot Farm CSA customers took the opportunity to share recipes such as Grape Leaf Pie while sharing the fun of what each season has to offer. offering and learning about the history of the foods they eat. home.
“So many things that we think of as weeds today were actually brought to the United States as food crops,” Ferla says. Dandelions, for example, are not native to North America, but were brought to the continent by European settlers. Orack, another crop grown by Foxtrot Farm, is very similar to spinach and was more popular than spinach in the mid-1800s.
“For reasons unknown, spinach has come into fashion and orack has fallen. I also love spinach, but you can only grow it four months a year, if you’re lucky. Orack is much stronger and can be eaten just like you would with spinach. My favorite way is to jump quickly with garlic, ”says Ferla.
Social justice meets farming at Foxtrot Farm.
“It informs what we do and how we do it in a really big and personal way and it’s always something that I’m working to integrate more into our farming practices,” Ferla says. This includes the offer of a sliding scale for the CSA, a general 15 percent reduction for all people of color and a “herbs for activists” program. Those who contacted her about this program are people of color who work in their communities to reclaim ancient herbal traditions and distribute herbs.
“It’s a real privilege to be able to send these plants to people to help with this work,” says Ferla.
Those wishing to shop at Foxtrot Farm can find their produce at the Ashfield Farmers Market. They also plan to relaunch their website in the winter.
To find other local farms near you, visit buylocalfood.org/farmguide.
Emma Gwyther is a Development Associate at Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.