Wigwam will check in with Common Ground’s farm manager Arielle Narva throughout the year. We emailed her a few questions to start off the dialogue for the coming growing season.
Wigwam: You recently got back into town. Where did you spend your winter?
Arielle: I just got back to the States from a few months visiting family and dear friends in Central and South America. It was incredible. What a blessing to have had the time and opportunity to travel and spend time with people dear to me, and be with them in their lives. I swam, ate seafood, read books, crop-planned in warm weather. And came home ready to work!
It’s been pretty crazy reading about the drought out west and all the weather all over the place. I farmed for several years on the north and central coast of California before coming to Beacon, and all my farmer friends and former-co farmers are really in a state of panic about the lack of water. It is very real, and really scary. I remember my last season at Green Oaks Creek Farm in Pescadero, our well ran dry every day. And that was two years ago!
It sure has been a brutal winter for everyone here, but we are really blessed with ample water and rich soils. I couldn’t believe last year when I arrived to Common Ground that there wasn’t even an irrigation system set up yet. We only had to use it a few times all season.
Common Ground has launched its new U-Pick Shares and Market Card initiatives. Both are designed to give community members the benefits of participating in the growing season of our farm, but with more flexibility and affordability than other CSA models offer.
Ww: Are you lying around on the sofa binge-watching Farm Kings?
Arielle: I wish! Wow, I’d never heard of that before.
Right now the farm is covered in a beautiful, untouched sheet of ice, so I’m just getting everything ready. I ordered seeds, picked up our organic potting soil from McEnroe Organic Farm with the help of Jon Miles and Sarah Womer from Peoples Bicycle, and their trailer.
I’m going to a lot of meetings to plan events and programs for the season. There are a lot of exciting new things in the works for this year. We’re expanding our low-cost mobile farmers markets that we do in partnership with Green Teen around Beacon, to the Health Center parking lot every Wednesday. Helanna Bratman and I are really working to improve our visibility around town to get the word out about these markets, where folks can get our Common Ground and Green Teen veggies for half of retail price, and pay with food stamps and WIC coupons.
We’re also working on the community garden at Tito Santana, with Common Ground growing the plant starts from seed which the Green Teens will then transplant, care for and harvest for the mobile markets, as well as for the restaurant. Sarah Womer of Zero To Go is in charge of creating a composting system for both the garden and the restaurant to use. We’re continuing to participate with Beacon’s JV Forrestal elementary school as part of Beacon Farm to School Collaborative, which includes Hudson Valley Farm to School, Common Ground, and Hudson Valley Seed. We plan to expand our presence to other elementary schools and provide the program with vegetables. And there’s more, but I’ll save some surprises for springtime.
Ww: Common Ground Farm is rolling out two exciting new programs this season.
Arielle: Yes! I am so excited. As of this week, Common Ground has launched its new U-Pick Shares and Market Card initiatives. Both are designed to give community members the benefits of participating in the growing season of our farm, but with more flexibility and affordability than other CSA models offer. The U-Pick shares cost $150 (or $125 if you sign up before April 1st!) for ten weeks to come to the farm weekly, either Wednesday afternoons or Saturday mornings, and pick your own vegetables.
The market cards are set up like a debit card, for which you purchase a chosen amount and then can use it over the course of the season at the farmers market. This will allow individuals and families the option to invest now in our season, almost like a shareholder, and similar to a CSA member, while providing the freedom to choose any kind or amount of vegetable they want for their weekly share. These are both such creative models, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they go.
Ww: Any quick tips for Wigwam readers planning to start growing some veggies in the back (or front) yard? What can they be doing now to get a jump and give themselves a good chance of harvest success?
Arielle: Well, it’s still pretty cold out. I don’t know about you but I’m ready to get back outside! In the meantime, I would recommend gardeners curl up with some seed catalogs and choose all the things they want to grow! Maybe I’m just crazy, but between all the vegetables, herbs and flowers, there is almost nothing more fun than flipping through the photos of all the beautiful varieties.
Some seed companies I recommend that have good organic seed options, especially for folks who are growing on a small scale, are Johnny’s, High Mowing, Peaceful Valley and Baker Creek—especially for heirlooms. I would also get a jump on purchasing any fertilizers and/or soil amendments and compost, now, so you can get right in ground when the snow does melt…someday! The City of Beacon makes compost that growers can pick up for free. And stay tuned for Common Ground’s plant sale, that will be in either late May or early June. We’ll have lots of exciting options for Beacon gardeners.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more once the snow melts!