A Taste of the World in New England
While national agricultural news can often seem bleak, and consumers may have the sense that large industrial farms
dominate the market, the outlook is a bit brighter here in New England. Â The most recent USDA agricultural census showed that small-scale farms, many of them managed by immigrant and minority farmers, are expanding at a steady rate in Massaschusetts.
Organizations like Lowellâ€™s New Entry Sustainable Farming are part of this trend. New Entry supports beginning farmers, many of them immigrants to the U.S., in developing farm businesses and offering communities better access to locally grown food. Sam Anderson, New Entryâ€™s Outreach Coordinator, says that farmers native to places like Cambodia and the African continent feel a strong connection to local food systems, and that many immigrant farmers do agricultural work on top of other employment because it feels essential to their quality of life. â€œIf you come from a place where you grew your own food for security, not as a luxury, you really value the ability to provide food to your community. Being a â€œfoodieâ€ is different in Zimbabwe than it might be here in Boston; itâ€™s more about stewardship of the land. If you take care of the earth, it will take care of you.â€
Many of New Entryâ€™s clients learned to cultivate food on small plots of land in their native countries, and are able to operate profitable farms on plots as small as a quarter of an acre at New Entryâ€™s incubator farm sites in Dracut and Newburyport. They use that land to cultivate local staples including tomatoes, corn and greens, and also to develop crops that they knew in their native countries. Cambodian bitter melon, African maize, Callaloo (amaranth), long beans and goat meat are among the agricultural products that may not be well-known to American palates, but offer an important taste of home to immigrant populations. The ability to provide those familiar tastes within immigrant communities is a significant source of pride for New Entryâ€™s clients.
New Englanders can share this experience through New Entryâ€™s â€œWorld Peasâ€ CSA. Shareholders receive seasonal local produce in shares that include some of those less-familiar products, giving them an opportunity to experiment with new varieties and to connect with different cultures. The CSA is a multi-producer operation that draws agricultural products for its shares from about 60 different small scale farmers, many of them immigrants and new farmers. The program gives developing farmers a supplemental market for their produce and teachers them strategies for planning harvest and delivery, making them better equipped to work with restaurants and other markets as their operations expand.
New Entryâ€™s annual â€œOpen Farmsâ€ tour offers consumers an opportunity to meet the projectâ€™s farmers, explore the land, and taste some locally grown produce next Thursday, August 7, in Dracut. The organization will also have a table with information about its programs, including enrollment information for the World Peas CSA, at the Boston Local Food Festival on September 14. Come see what the world has to offer in your own backyard!
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