Growing Farmers -Fall 2017

The Community Farm Institute teaches people the business of farming.

by: John Stanton

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

John Kuszpa squats down and picks up some perennial onion bulbs. They are small and clustered, the very definition of what it means for a plant to go to seed. He explains that he leaves some onions unpicked, the bulbs grow on top of the stalks, eventually fall to the ground and become seeds for the next harvest.

We are standing next to one of two eighthof-an-acre plots that he works at 168 Hummock Pond Road, officially called The Walter F. Ballinger Educational Community Farm. To the uninitiated it looks like a decent-sized garden. But Kuszpa is a farmer. The difference begins in intention. Gardeners grow vegetables for themselves. Farmers grow produce for sale.

The Farmers & Artisans Market, held every Saturday from mid-June through Columbus Day downtown, gives small farmers and artisans an opportunity to sell their produce, artisanal foods and arts and crafts.

“We grow very intensively, and are able to gets lots of produce from a really small parcel of land,” he said. “In one eighth of an acre you can grow between $10,000 and $17,000 worth of produce.”

He smiles and corrects himself. Maybe the potential is closer to $10,000. Farming, no matter what size your farm, is a crapshoot.

“To make money you have to be exceptional at this,” Kuszpa said. “You have to understand each different plant. You have to understand each different weed. You have to watch each different bug. You have to know how the soil works. Sometimes it feels like you have to understand the planet and everything on it.”

Kuszpa studied agriculture in college, then lived and worked on a small farm in New Hampshire for a year before stepping away from farming for a decade.

“Eating is an agricultural act.” ~ Poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry

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