Coming into its tenth year, the Brook Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)’s Board of Directors has hired a new farm manager: Creek Iversen, who, along with his partner Lisa Mitten, is already breathing life and song and community into the historic farm located on the Mohonk Preserve off Butterville Road at the base of the Shawangunks. Iversen was born near Cooperstown, but spent most of his life in the Hudson Valley. “It’s great to come back to the Hudson Valley, because this is where I learned how to farm, and there’s such a vibrant farm community here. It’s like a farming hot spot, and you just can’t ask for a more beautiful landscape and place to farm or have a better community of people to enjoy.”
Mitten was born in the suburbs of Maryland. She attended the University of Maryland and moved to Long Island for several years after she finished up her graduate degree. The two farmers met at various Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) conferences, as well as contra dancing festivals. They share a combined love of farming and music, with Iversen being a lifelong musician and Mitten a singer and dancer who is now getting her fingers steeled around the guitar.
After a long job search, they both decided that the position at Brook Farm was the best choice, and apparently the Board felt that they were the right match for each other. The two moved to the old white house at Brook Farm on January 14, and already have a network of friends, CSA members, new members and volunteers who attend their potlucks and farm jam sessions.
Although they planned to have an open farmhouse event this past weekend, due to the snowstorm they’ve rescheduled it for Feb. 23 from 1 to 5 p.m. Prior to the Open House (but certainly everyone is welcomed) will be the Farm’s preparation for maple sugaring, where they tap the trees and clean the buckets and get ready to let the syrup pour!
“We’d love for people to come out and help us prepare for the maple sugaring,” said Iversen. “That will begin at 9 a.m. and go until the Open House, and the event is for CSA members, other farmers, friends, new CSA members, those interested in becoming a member, volunteering…everyone and anyone!”
They will have farm snacks, and people are welcome but not obligated to bring something for a potluck. And of course, there will be music. “That’s a big part of what makes our CSA unique,” said Iversen. “We’ve already had two farming jam sessions where people just come and bring an instrument, and we play, sing, dance. We do a lot of that on the farm as well: sing work songs as we plant and harvest.”
The couple’s vision for the farm is like many CSAs in that they want to bring people closer to their food. “We’re about community farming,” said Iversen. “People too often think of farming as laborious drudgery, but it’s actually a high quality of life. Think about it: You have the best, most fresh food at your fingertips. You’re outside exercising your body. You’re enjoying the land and the growing with friends. And with us, you can also sing as you do it!”
To that end, they plan on having live music at their weekly farm-share pickup. They will also continue to hold monthly music jams and potlucks.
One thing that they’re both happy about is that the farm is in great shape. “It’s not like we’re lacking any resources,” said Mitten. “We have a beautiful farmhouse; a greenhouse; a high tunnel, which we already have winter greens growing in, as well as herbs. We have the equipment, a tractor, and the land has been well cared for. The beds are raised and have plenty of compost on them.”
Although the intense outdoor planting season begins in March, they’re already prepping the greenhouse, continuing to care for the greens and herbs in the high tunnel, and there are perennials at the farm, including blueberry and raspberry bushes, that they are excited about and want to expand.
Two things that they want to add to the farm-share opportunities are a cut-flower CSA, as well as a seedling CSA. “A lot of our current CSA members told us how much they loved the cut flowers, but that often there weren’t enough of them. So we’re going to be planting a lot of flowers,” said Mitten. As for the seedling CSA, Mitten said that she wants to offer a variety of shares of fresh seeds, so that “someone who has a patio or container garden can purchase a small share, and someone who has a large garden can purchase a greater share.”
True to their tagline “Come Sit at Our Welcome Table,” the couple is very passionate about bringing people to the farm, onto the land and to their table. “While the planting and tilling and harvesting require endurance and strength, not everyone has the physical ability to do that work,” reflected Mitten. “So we will offer people to come to our table and shell peas or clean garlic or chop tomatoes: whatever is needed. That provides a sense of community, and the conversation starts rolling, and it’s like the farm version of a knitting circle.”
Their vegetable shares and more are already being purchased, and anyone interested can get their share now, as the season officially begins in the spring. To learn more about any of their music jams, special events, share prices, volunteer or intern programs, just go to their website at www.brookfarmproject.wordpress.com. You can also e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 255-1052. They are open and engaging and passionate about building community through farming.