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Dancing Tomato Farm is Growing!

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2013 July-August Issue Newsletter

By Suzy Konecky NOFA/Mass Beginning Farmer Program Coordinator

Miriam Stason has been growing vegetables for many years, including having worked for 8 years at The Food Project in Lincoln, MA. Like many farmers she recognizes the tremendous wealth of information there is yet to learn and decided to seek mentorship through the NOFA/Mass Beginning Farmer Journeyperson Program now that she is starting her own agricultural endeavor.

This year Miriam is farming in partnership with Linda Ugelow – both are participating in the Journeyperson Program and each has her own mentor. Their farm is called Dancing Tomato Farm and is located in Carlisle, MA.

Miriam’s mentor is Mike Raymond, of First Light Farm CSA in Danvers, MA. Mike grows a wide diversity of crops for both summer and winter production. He has two large high tunnels in which he grows many crops for his CSA including greens.

Miriam is interested in growing winter greens for many reasons. Their production doesn’t have the same concentrated schedule as summer crops do, but rather is more steady throughout the year. She wants to pair down from growing lots of different crops and instead focus on growing one crop very well. That said, there is much diversity between the different types of greens suitable for winter production. Finally, there is a good market for winter greens and Miriam plans to tap into that.

There are many people growing in high tunnels, and more people growing specifically for winter markets. However, Miriam has found that there are not too many people who have years of experience with it. This is why she is grateful to have Mike as a mentor. Miriam calls Mike every few weeks with questions. Right now most of the questions have to do with the 30’ x 96’ high tunnel that she is about to construct on her farm. She had planned to construct it earlier, but like many farms this season she has run into difficulties as a result of the rain and drainage. They talk about irrigation, ventilation, siding, moveable vs. stationary, sprinkler systems, etc. “It is nice to have someone that I know I can call,” Miriam says of Mike. “He picks up his phone in the middle of the day.”

Miriam’s plan is to put in the fall planting in August and continue to plant greens into the winter. Next summer she plans to use the high tunnel for tomatoes and maybe eggplant and peppers. Miriam visited First Light Farm for a NOFA/Mass workshop last winter. In addition to having Mike to answer her questions and help her troubleshoot issues, his sharing of experiences, openness, and demonstration of success gives her confidence. “Mike’s farm is really beautiful. It is really incredible. Seeing his production - you know it works.”

One of the expectations of the Beginning Farmer Journeyperson Program is that the journeyperson and their mentor visit each other’s farms at some point during the relationship. This gives both the mentor and the journeyperson the opportunity to ask questions and fully utilize the experience of the mentor. “There are always people around who will answer questions, but it is good to have the formal relationship with someone who you know you can call, especially during the busy time of year.”

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