April 20, 2010

Crop Mob of Ithaca

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“Crop mobbers” got dirt under their nails and apple trees in the ground on Sunday, Apr. 11. At Ithaca’s first Crop Mob, an event designed to give people the chance to work on a farm for a day, about 30 local volunteers gathered at The Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY.

As described by cropmob.org, “Crop mob is primarily a group of young, landless and wanna-be farmers who come together to build and empower communities by working side by side.  Crop mob is also a group of experienced farmers and gardeners willing to share their knowledge with their peers and the next generation of agrarians.”

Community members generated the “crop mob” at a meeting about funding cuts for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in Ithaca.

From there, people from throughout the community, including the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming employees, local food businesses and students with interest in local foods, joined forces to organize and publicize the event.   The main organizers were farmer-liaison Katie Church, student outreach-liaison Gaia Galati of Ithaca College, Groundswell Director Joanna Green, and volunteer-liaison Rachel Firak.

Various people assumed different roles in the initiative. Utilizing technology and word of mouth communication, the group spread the invitation via a Facebook group, a Google group and posters.

Utilizing her experience, Church emailed 40 farmers in the area.  Using strategies from Crop Mob’s beginnings in North Carolina, featured in the New York Times Magazine article, “Field Report: Plow Shares,” the group formed its own mission and goals.

The Ithaca Crop Mob aims to remain a simple, grassroots organization that arranges a monthly crop mob event.

Furthermore, the group hopes to organize volunteers to clean excess produce and transport it from farms.  Through donation, this excess food may supply the B. J.  Martin School fresh foods project, local community centers and food kitchens.

Overall, the Crop Mob is “a way to get people out on farms and raise awareness that these farms feed our community as well as building that community,” Church said.

On the morning of the Crop Mob, volunteers arrived at The Good Life Farm in carpools.  The event drew greater numbers of volunteers than anticipated, and the Google Group actually drew too many volunteers to remain manageable.

Volunteers planted apple trees of varying species – learning about tree grafts, soil amendments, hole digging, root trimming and tree straightening amendments.  After some hard work, volunteers received lunch courtesy of Melissa and Garrett Madden.  When the day’s work concluded, a farm tour was given as well.

Stephen Snyder cooks at Stella’s in Collegetown, and acted as a mobber during the event.  When asked about his favorite part, Snyder responded, “Just being able to help out. People here often support a local community, but I think it’s better to help develop it.”

Stella’s is a big proponent of local foods, using as much local food as allowed with financial and preferential limitations considered.  Snyder also mentioned that the event allowed for meeting likeminded people, which was enjoyable.

Marlo Capoccia, owner of Garden Gate Delivery, a grocery delivery service offering a variety of fresh, local foods to the greater Ithaca area served as a mobber with her entire family.  Capoccia said, “The most exciting thing to me is seeing people getting involved where otherwise they wouldn’t be able to – it’d be a wish or a dream. This gave people an opportunity.”

Original Author: Katerina Athanasiou