June 4, 2011

We’re all living in different worlds.  Your world is made up of the things you see and hear, the things you’ve experienced and are experiencing now, the things you feel, the things you know, the things you believe.  And that world becomes very familiar over time.  The faces, the words, the objects and shapes, the pathways and currents of movement, all become comfortable, recognizable, safe.   Acceptable ideas, ways of doing, things to do, become so engrained as to be unconscious, and soon sink into the still reflective surface of truth.  It’s hard to think about things so far away from here, on the other side of that surface… sometimes, you forget that there’s anything else out there at all.

But there comes a time to leave that world behind.

In fact, whenever you want to learn something new, and I mean really learn it, to internalize it, to know it, you have to enter that new world – not just peek out the window, or open the door and look out, but walk through that open door – and that means leaving the old world behind.  It’s not that you can’t walk those old paths and hallways any longer, but you have to leave behind the old world’s comfort, it’s security – the idea that your world is the only world; that your truth is the Truth.  Because it’s not.  And to enter into a new part of the universe of life is to realize how incredibly vast and infinitely varied the whole world is; and before long, you begin to see that your world is only one part of that whole world, made up of infinite, harmonious, inseparable parts…

The world of farming with Community Cooperative Farm is a completely different world.

There are different rhythms of life: rise at 5:30, a quick breakfast of eggs from our hens and/or bacon from our pigs, then a sunny, serene, backroad bikeride over the Green River and you’re in the field by 6:30.  Whatever the work is: hands deep in the dirt or clinging to the shovel, squeezing clumps of compost or busting sod, harvesting leaves of kale or  tenderly tucking in transplants, clipping favorite vines for the goats to keep her occupied while your buddy milks her gently and tries to fend off her immaculately accurate kicks; it’s always work that you feel with your whole body, its work that you do.  Then before you know it its 10:30 and the Sun is looking right down over your shoulder, too Hot and High for you to be productive, even the plants are drooping exhuasted; it’s not worth the scorched skin.  So a long lunch and siesta, and then back out for a few more hours, in the late (late) summer afternoon shade.  After a heart-y dinner cooked with so much love that its not even a secret ingredient anymore, it’s hard to stay awake past 10:30.  But sometimes, we do.  Every activity, every action, every movement is a dance, which the Earth and the Sun and Moon and Stars and all Beings are equally a part of.
Different conceptions of work, accomplishment, and success.  It’s nice to be in a place where the I is important and valued, but not as important or valued as the group, and the mission/ideal that the group stands for – then your work becomes a part of the realization of that goal.  A beautiful, touching feeling, a sense of real progress, in the inch-by-inch, leaf-by-leaf developments of the field.  In dark brown of the Earth, nothing is planted for today’s harvest, but today is the only time you have.  It’s a strange and apparently contradictory feeling of accomplishment when you wipe the sweat from your brow (and the dirt from your hands onto your forehead [luckily nobody cares]) and look out over a planted row, bare and flat as (or barer and flatter than) when you started, but you feel the dreams and hopes churning, beating like your own heart underneath that raw Earth, and it seems that anything at all can happen.
Different ideas about fulfillment.  When more is more there’s no end to the cycle of need; but when less is more, and you admire someone for minimizing their waste and consumption, an then begin to admire that quality in yourself, suddenly you find your habits start to change, and you see that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to make this whole crazy society thing work…
Different definitions of Right and Wrong, of Truth, of Justice – not just one different definiton, but countless different definitions, seeming to change and grow faster than the plants.  It’s hard to go 5 minutes out in the field planting next to your Brother or Sister before you’re talking about something real and meaningful (probably because you’re doing something real and meaningful).  And what a blessing to be surrounded by reflective, passionate, brilliant, seriously seeking, open-mindeded and open-hearted, people – diverse in interests and subjects of study but united in a sense of purpose, of wanting to do something, to make something happen, to dig and plant in the Earth until maybe one day the Truth springs up out of the ground, fresh and green and alive as an ear of corn, reaching towards the sun.
Different experiences of life and death.  In the field you come face to face with life, actively participating in the birth and growth of beings (because yes, plants are living beings), as the parent to tens of thousands of children (we’re planting 20,000 onions alone).  But universe is not life alone.  Death is closer than ever before, working in the field next to you.  I held a dying turkey chick in my hand, watched it struggle to breathe, its eyes closed.  How can you understand death without being close to death?  But if you immerse yourself in Nature, where everything is constantly being born, dying, and being reborn (only to re-die, of course), you begin to see how life comes out of death; growth comes out of destruction.  The single individual cannot last – but the dynamic life of the group goes beyond the individual.  This is a fundamental law of nature, and our Modern Human Culture’s way of ignoring it, rabidly fearing death, only leaves us blind, and lost.

Yep, it’s a different world, alright.  And it seems far away, foreign, perhaps even frighteningly distant from the place where you begin.  But the beginning doesn’t matter, because there’s no beginning and there’s no end to the journey.  All you have to worry about is walking out the door.  Because by walking out, into that different world, we can finally and ecstatically bask in the sunlight of knowledge and experience; and only by doing can we feed our innate need for newness, and from that nourishment, we begin to grow.

And what is life for, if not to grow?


Quote of the Moment

May 27, 2011


The stars, Earth, stones, life of all kinds, form a whole in relation to each other and so close is this relationship that we cannot understand a stone without some understanding of the great sun. No matter what we touch, an atom or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the Universe. The laws governing the universe can be made interesting and wonderful to children, more interesting than things in themselves, and they begin to ask:

What am I?

What is the task of humanity in this wonderful universe?

-Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Welcome to a new season,

The 2011 growing season is under way and the past two months have been very busy for Tashi, Mael, Will, Jeramy, and myself.  In mid-march, Mael returned to the farm from his travels in Europe and India ready for another season.  The firsts seedlings were well on their way by the beginning of march.  We started out with onions, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kales, nasteriums, collards and chard.  The seedlings were started under high spectrum fluorescent lights at Tom and Cathy Torrico’s house.  Space became an issue very quickly and we expanded from two to seven lights and another location Brian’s Torrico’s house.  Thanks for the basement space and watering help.  Even with all the new lights, space became an issue when we germinated our second round of brassicas (broccoli, collards, cabbage, etc).  This was due to slightly colder than normal march temperatures, which delayed the use of the greenhouse and outdoor planting by almost two weeks.  Now everything is in full force with the tomatoes reaching for the ceiling and the peppers getting bushier everyday.

While this season’s seedlings have been growing in their plush accommodations, we have been working in several ways to prepare for planting, harvesting, and selling our produce;

Field and Crop Planning

This process started with deciding which seeds to buy for the 2011 season.  From here we hit the drawing board placing the crops on the field and determining what needed to be done to plant them and what they needed to flourish.  This process may sound simple but it takes a number of different calculations to determine how much space and/or transplants/seeds are needed for a given vegetable.  This also involves companion planting (planting beneficial crops together, ex. parsley and tomatoes), crop rotation (most crops do not do well grown in the same spot year after year, this involves using green manures to improve the soil with organic plant matter), and taking into account given soil conditions.  The crop plan also depends on the weather conditions, and has to be adjusted to unseasonal weather.  This has been the case this year.

Preparing the Fields

This year our main fields are located:  Intersection of Lime Kiln and West Sheffield Road (Barn in the middle of the field) Sheffield, MA, 1347 Route 7 Sheffield, MA, 63 west st. Mt. Washington, MA, and we have another site we’re working on in Hartsville.

Our goal this year, as it was last year, is to use as little oil in the field as possible.  With this in mind, We began turning the Lime Kiln site a few days after the snows had faded in the third week of March. Mael, Tashi, Chris Obrian, and myself all put in time in May turning the field by hand one shovel at a time.  The field has a great layer of topsoil, in most areas it has been relatively easy (compared with the clay in the other field) to remove the sod from the soil and place the majority of it in piles for the compost.  By April 1st we had prepared areas for the most of the first round of brassicas.  These were planted in the 1st week of April.  The first peas, lettuces, spinach, and Asian greens, were also seeded that week.  We then seeded carrots, radish, turnips, and beets at the beginning of the next week.  Since, we have also started to plant different herbs, onions, and more of what we started with.

The second weekend in April we used my Cousin Mike Seward’s Tractor to plow the parts of the field that we would not be able to turn by hand.  We did a light till on the Lime Kiln field just tearing up the grass and dicing it up.  From there it takes less time to remove the grass and we can use spading forks to loosen the soil.  We are trying to mulch (leaves, card board) the remaining un-tilled parts which will be turned by hand for summer crops.  We tilled ten feet on both sides of the route 7 field to try and expand a little but the rest was left because it was tilled last year.

Since mid-april planting has been in full force with more of the cold weather crops going in, as well as our first potatoes and thousands of more onions

Building Farm Boxes

In March, we had Will Conklin mill wood for vegetable boxes.  Will headed up this project and we used woodshop space that he rents in Great Barrington to make the box.  In three days we put together 28 boxes, using joinery instead of nails to put the boxes together.

Route 7 Farm stand

Will has been heading up this project.  We are building a timber frame farmstand.  We spent the last month and a half harvesting logs.  Thanks to our friend Brian Heck, we were able to get good access to some great white cider and hemlock trees.  The first day another friend Cal Turner, a professional tree worker, helped us take down 4 trees with his chainsaw.  The next weekend Will, Brian and myself took down the last trees using the axe.  We cut the trees into 10 and 8 foot pieces and brought them to Will Conklin’s wood mill in Sheffield, MA.  Will and myself added some trees we had taken down over a year ago to the mix and we had our building.  Will Conklin milled the wood on the 16th of April.  Two of the beams were two large to load onto the truck and bring to Conklins, so Will Levin and Tashiana Colston will be milling them by hand, old school.  They will be making mortise and tenon joints using traditional tools.  We hope to be ready to raise it up in early June on our Route 7 site.  We’ll let everyone know well in advance so all that want to can help out.  We’ll also be working on an earthen oven which we will be inviting people to help out with.

Sign Making

Tashi and our friend Sydney have been working on making beautiful signs for our field and farmers market display.  If anyone has any paint left over that they are looking to get rid of we can always use more.

Branding: Logo

Tashi created a new logo for our egg containers using linoleum prints that she carved.  She is currently working on an official Farm logo which will be a simple variation of the original done in Linoleum print.

New Faces arriving

This coming Saturday a new farmer will be joining our ranks,  Jasper KosokoffHe will be coming to us from Portland, Oregon and is excited to be a part o our community and learn more about farming.

We were also just visited by Zeydoc, a friend of Wills from timber-framing school, who will be returning for a month or two this summer.

Volunteer Days

Starting this Saturday the 7th of May we will be welcoming CSA members the opportunity to work at the farm.  We will be doing this every Saturday throughout the month of May.  This Saturday from 10 to 4, we will be working on our field located at the intersection of Lime Kiln Road and West Sheffield Road (the driveway is just west of the intersection next to the first telephone pole) in Sheffield, MA.  If you need more specific directions please call.

If anyone would like to volunteer or just visit the different farm sites on other days they are more then welcome and can arrange that by phone or email or just stop in if you see us.

1st CSA Harvest

The First CSA baskets will be distributed either the the 28th of May or the 4th of June.  We will update you as soon as possible with the what to expect in your baskets.

Farmers Market’s

We decided that we would stay as local as possible with our produce and sell at the Sheffield Farmer’s Market Fridays 3-7pm starting May 27th, bring a blanket, music will be played and their will be plenty of food to enjoy, the Nutrition center market wednesday 3-6 and the new CHP market Thursday afternoons.  Our Farm stand locations will be: farm stand on at 4 Cross road Mt. Washington, MA and our new farmstand at our field on 1347 Rte. 7 Sheffield, MA.

The weather is improving everyday and the plants grow faster and we are working nonstop to get the farm ready for the season.  We are able to do this because you decided to join in the rewards and struggles of agricultural production.  We thank you for your support in growing CCF.

Most days I listen to American Public Radio’s broadcast of Marketplace and I find it really frustrating (not strong enough) when they relay Government messages regarding how jobs are being created.  The story is there are some new jobs being created in a few sectors but there are just not enough jobs to go around, we’ve lost our manufacturing base, we’re not competitive, they go on and on about why we don’t have jobs, finishing almost always in recent years by a proposed tax cut for large business.  This is aggravating because what they are not saying is that there are countless jobs and opportunities to be taken and created in food production.  We need Farmers!  The average farmer is 58 years old in the United States and they make up less than 1 percent of the population, you even have to write it in as an occupation on government forms because it doesn’t employ enough people to be important enough to list it.  We lost site of our connection with the food that nourishes us and makes life possible.  We need food Artisans! We lose more and more farm land every year to development, while fewer and fewer companies/farms supply our basic needs.  Without food we would not exist thus the less farmers we have the more our existence is threatened.  it seems simple but then look around, how many items are produced in your town that you consume, what kind of local food economy/security do you have?  I can bet its looking rough.  If your interested in becoming a holistic farmer and have any questions about how to start?  How to find land etc? Please don’t hesitate to ask.  Farming is not easy but it sure is rewarding.  The most important thing to know is that everyone could have a place in farming/food production.


New Farm Site

March 26, 2011

The farmers of Community Cooperative Farms are proud to announce we have another farm site, equipped with a barn! We’re in the process of turning the fields over, by hand (well, with shovels). The barn is full of a lot of old treasures, which will require some deep cleaning but, we’re up for the challenge. The land is smack dab in the middle of residential homes…hopefully, that’ll make it really feel like a community. We’ve already received a lot of support from our new neighbors and we’re looking forward to growing with them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CSA Member Boxes

March 26, 2011

Under the stewardship of CCF’s  co-owner/manager Will Levin( wood artisan/carpenter/wood worker), we had the pleasure of building our CSA members’ produce boxes and boxes to be used for transporting our produce from the field to farmer’s markets. Using locally harvested pine wood, milled by local wood worker Will Conklin, we constructed over twenty boxes (without using any nails). A lot of love and care was put into each box! A huge thanks to both Will Levin and Will Conklin for working with us on this project and sharing your knowledge

Will's Wood Shop in Great Barrington

Wood Shavings Recycled for Chicken Hoop House


The Berkshires recently received a down pouring of rain… and our Route 7 Farm site was pretty much drowned. Luckily, the growing season hasn’t started. We’ve got some preparing to do…

Spring Updates

March 25, 2011

Despite the fickle weather, the farmers of Community Cooperative Farms have been busying . From germinating seeds, signing members up for our 2011 CSA, to planning out the new farm plans for our various farm sites, taking down trees to build our own timber frame shed/farmstand, building boxes for our CSA members, painting signs,  collecting eggs and doing some good old fashion spring cleaning.

Justin and Will building boxes

Junk/Treasures in the barn

Laying Hen

Washed Eggs


More Sprouts


The turn of the century marked a new age in America—the age of industry.  Big business took over labor-intensive jobs and entrusted our country’s survival to iron-clad machines and methods that would yield the heartiest produce, not necessarily the healthiest. A group of dedicated, recent college graduates are doing their part to ensure agriculture’s legacy is not forgotten in the wake of mass production. Community Cooperative Farms (CCF) is dedicated to returning to the “traditions of high-quality, holistically produced agriculture products” that fed our countrymen and women of old.  Tashiana Colston of CCF sat down with UBW for a brief interview:

How did Community Cooperative Farms come about?

It came about in a funny way—a  lot of late night apocalyptic-end-of-our-civilization talks, hypothetical dreams, real fears and a real drive to help people. The five of us met at Pitzer College, Justin and I were next door neighbors in our freshman dorm while Alex lived on the floor beneath us, Mael, Justin and Jane all had the same freshman seminar course. I don’t know if we all sat down and hung out in the same room together until our senior year, though. Early on in the spring semester of our senior year (Jan. 2010) we started having meetings with about five other people who were also interested in starting the farm about how to operate a cooperative, what materials we thought we would need, and who could be out to Massachusetts from California when.

I think it’s fair to say the farm is Justin Torrico’s brain child, and I would credit him with spearheading the project (finding the land to farm, organzing the people, ensuring that we had CSA members, initiating the purchase of our seeds, securing housing for us, and without his small town relationships, we might not have had the amount of support we’ve received). The farm is a convergence of his passion for food, his studies of the Political Economy at Pitzer College, and his drive for social justice.  I think a lot of us, including myself-his girlfriend- thought these were just musings but as he built a case as to how fragile our economy is and how dependent we are on non-renewable resources and industrialized farming, we all began to see farming together as a viable, realistic and revolutionary act. I think we all came to the decision to farm for different reasons, and we all have different strengths, and that’s what has made the potential of this cooperative farm so intriguing, different and capable of change.

Do you remember the first crop sold?

The first things we sold were radishes, bok choy, swiss chard and kale. We sold it at our first small farm stand in front of Justin’s brother’s house. Looking back at it now, it looked pretty sad but we were working our butts off.  The town of Mt. Washington where the farm stand was, and where we currently have farm stands three days a week has been incredibly supportive. Their support has really kept us going. From different families we’ve been given dishes, tools, we’ve been offered more land to farm, the opportunity to speak to the entire community from a living room, lunch on long days at the farm stand, as well as their business through our CSA and direct market farm stand.

Do you have any crops that you are most famous for?

We’re becoming well known for our red currant tomatoes. They’re this cute little tomato the size of a blueberry. Most people haven’t seen them, and once they try them it’s all over from there. Our top sellers are our tomatoes. We have 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

How can someone who is not near one of your three locations purchase your product?

Well, we’re a small local farm and we intend to sell locally. This is a political and social decision to focus on the local economy rather than cater to the needs of a consumer who is across the country or even 100 miles away. The transportation of our goods outside of the local community would only add to the external cost, and injure the environment more. We would encourage someone who is not near one of our three locations who wanted to purchase our product, to instead support a small responsible farm (not necessarily organic) near them. If someone wanted to specifically support our farm, they could purchase a CSA share for a family in need, visit the farm and volunteer time, invest etc.

With most people being invested in technology and remaining glued to their computers, ipods,etc, how have you been able to market CCF and its mission of returning to the basics to sustain a healthier life?

We recognize that these technological gadgets can have their advantages to spreading a good message. We don’t see technological advances as an inherently bad thing, only that our current societal use is focused on short term cultural phenomena. We seek a long term vision, and as we seek to attain a sustainable healthy life we know that we aren’t going back to the complete basics. I see it much like the Adinkra/Ghanian word and symbol Sankofa, meaning “go back to fetch it,” or “go back and take”, a symbol of the wisdom in learning from the past in building the future. We aren’t shirking all technology by honoring practices of our ancestors, we can learn all the healthy sustainable practices and use new things to help build a better life for everything and everyone. So we have embraced Facebook, blogs etc. to a certain point to market our message for social profit. However, we do understand there are lives being risked to bring us the materials that make our laptops and resources being depleted, which is all unacceptable, and if we can get the message out now, perhaps someone will hear us before it’s too late.

Where do you see CCF in five years?

We’d like CCF to be a non-for-profit organization that runs a farmer apprenticeship, facilitates short-term internships on our farm sites with inner city youth, and works with local schools and organizations. We will be looking to buy land in the future to construct a center for the farm and organization, with a fresh produce, meat, and crafts market.  We also have plans to expand the bio-diversity of our crops and animals, save more seed, and produce more secondary goods.
The mission of Community Cooperative Farms is to foster community, sustainability, sufficiency, permanent agriculture, living with the patterns of nature, spirituality, and ancestry through the production of high-quality food. In order to deconstruct interlocking systems of domination that deny all of us the right to live healthy productive lives, we are committed to addressing issues of race, gender, and class that continue to be ignored.

To find out more information about Community Cooperative Farms, visit: http://sankofa-soul-farmer.tumblr.com. What do you think?

Written By Ra’Kenna J.