Welcome Stephen, new Arcadia Farm Director
What experiences have prepared you for this position?
I’ve been growing and raising food for the better part of a decade now, working in a commercial setting for about 6 years, and as an educator for the last 4 years. Throughout that time, I’ve learned that in order to connect people with their food, we have to get them out there doing the work, seeing where their food is grown, and meeting the people who raise it. Once that curtain is lifted, it’s very difficult to see food as something that doesn’t matter. I’ve had the great fortune to have had thousands of these interactions with CSA members, chefs, students, fellow farmers, and random passers-by, and the experience of sharing what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, as well as delicious recipes, gardening advice, and, of course, beautiful, tasty food, has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
What is most exciting to you about your new job as Farm Director at Arcadia?
I feel fortunate to be joining a relatively new organization filled with bright, passionate, and motivated individuals and an inspiring line-up of programs. I’m also looking forward to being part of the future growth of this farm, which I hope can develop into a showpiece for the region.
I’m incredibly excited to be jumping into a new region, where the local food scene seems to have so much interest and steam building behind it. Having spent most of my time growing in New England, I’ve seen the passion that many have for local and sustainable food begin to taper off, which has made it difficult to be innovative or creative. While these are just first impressions, the market here seems to be clamoring for new products, ideas, and, overall, simply more farms and farmers to supply it.
I’m also eager to be a part of this historic piece of property and its rich agricultural and culinary traditions. I’m looking forward to scouring through the historical documents that are available to find out more about with kind of things have been raised here over time.
What challenges do you anticipate you'll face as the Farm Director?
Moving to a new piece of land is never an easy task, and I anticipate that it will take me a little while to figure out exactly what this piece of land can do and how best to improve it for the future. I’m fortunate to have Mo’s guiding hand a bit to hear more about what’s been done and what is possible for the future.
Getting to know the rhythms of a new region is also going to be a bit difficult and yet present me with a wealth of new opportunities. Farmers can easily fall into a rut of the same schedules (planting, harvesting, pests, etc.), but being here will allow me to work with crops and varieties that I’ve never had a chance to grow and a longer overall season, which will be a welcome challenge as I’m doing my planning and continue into next season.
What are some of your goals for the 2013 growing season?
I’m still working out which of these goals are feasible and which are harebrained, so perhaps I’ll keep my goals here on the modest side. I’d like to keep up the aggressive improvement of the soil quality through active management, cover cropping, and amending. As part of that, I’d like to really nail down a good larger scale composting system. We’ve got an excellent supply of raw materials (manure, food scraps, etc.) around, and I’d like to be making use of that much better. I’d also like to begin growing more beneficial plants on the farm not only for soil and plant nutrition, such as nettles, equisetum, and comfrey, but also for beneficial insects and bee forage.
As a model of what I want this farm to become, I want to be meticulous in the farm’s succession planting to ensure a consistent supply of what we grow and always having top-quality produce.
If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
No question, garlic. It’s humble, definitely not the flashiest vegetable out there, but it’s indispensible to almost any method of cooking , incredibly versatile and got a spice that you won’t soon forget. I also like how it can provide a crop in several different ways, from scapes to green garlic to full-sized mature heads, providing different flavors for you throughout the season.