For farm manager Jamie Barrett of Bellair Farm CSA, being a resource for the larger community is part of the farm vision. Jamie didn’t grow up with agriculture-- it was something he discovered. “There’s all these connections to nature and cycles, [I realized that] this is what I wanted to do with my life and I hadn’t known it was out there—we want Bellair to be a place where we can provide that connection for our members,” says Jamie.
The property has been in agricultural production-- in some way or another-- since the 1790’s, and its most recent iteration falls in line with supporting local, organic food. It will become a certified organic farm later this year.
By inviting CSA members, volunteers and school groups to help out on the farm, Bellair harnesses the spirit of community and idea building. “The energy and ideas people bring on the farm feed us, there’s so much possibility here, but we are limited. When ideas fit with our goals, we can let volunteers run with it, and Bellair is a better place much faster than we could ever do alone,” Jamie explains.
Even though the sky was gray and the wind cold when I visited, the farm was busy preparing for the upcoming season. Jamie slid open the greenhouse doors to three very long tables covered with small seedlings—the start of the farm’s vegetable crops that provide 400 full CSA shares each year.
I’m introduced to Michelle McKenzie, a farm manager who started out on the first-ever farm crew and never left. “I love it here,” Michelle says, as she takes me around the greenhouse. Seeding begins in mid-February and goes until early May, and follows the 6-page seeding schedule work-list that keeps everyone on track.
CSA members crave diversity and Bellair has 50 types of vegetables, and nearly 100 different varieties. Offering different varieties also helps with season extension. “Not all lettuces like to grow in the summer, but by growing a couple varieties that do, we can extend the season and offer our members lettuce for longer,” Michelle explains.
Before leaving, I watch the farm crew prepare and seed the members’ pick-your-own beds with peas. It’s exciting to imagine that in a couple months CSA members will trickle in to pick up their first share of the season.
Visit Bellair Farm CSA’s website for more information on CSA membership (full for 2015), volunteer workdays, and their summer workshop series: www.bellairfarm.com.