The word “mob” conjures up images of large groups of angry, rowdy people just looking for trouble. Thankfully, things were quite a bit more cordial at Skipley Farm this weekend.
Crop mob is a term used in the small farm movement to describe a group of volunteers coming together to work on a farm for a day or two. Volunteers need not have any particular skills – just a willingness to get dirty and preferably have a high tolerance for slugs, snakes, worms, and anything else that lives in the soil. Those who joined me came from a variety of backgrounds from software to construction to actual farming. It’s a great way to see how other farms work, meet like-minded people, and learn something new.
I should give a shout out to Tilth Producers and Washington Young Farmers Coalition who coordinated the event. These two great organizations support new and small farms across the state as well as advocate on behalf of farmers to our legislators.
But anyhoo, back to my story…
Since I’ve been deemed the fruit expert at the farm, I jumped at the chance to visit Skipley. They specialize in growing fruit and take a very holistic approach to their farming practices by incorporating animals and maintaining habitat to support bio-diversity throughout their fields. Gil, the owner, has a background in edible landscaping and it shows in the layout of the farm. It looks more like a massive garden than a farm, with a pond in the center and grassy path that makes a big loop through the grounds.
Up to this point in our farm’s development, I’ve spent most of my time sitting at a computer doing business-y stuff or tending to the bees. Jonathan is in charge of growing stuff; I’m in charge of selling it. It’s a good partnership. So to find myself sitting in the dirt with a long-handled cultivator digging up weeds and breaking up clumps of dirt on a hot May Saturday (my day off!) was kind of amusing. Vince, our farm manager, was also helping out at the event and I said to him “Don’t tell Jonathan that I’m doing this. He’ll think I’m cheating on him!”
It’s amazing how much 25 enthusiastic people can accomplish in less than six hours. When we got there, some of the fruit shrubs were engulfed by grass and weeds and the rows of rhubarb were barely visible. Using just our hands we were able to tear down the weeds, revealing the plants and shrubs, and taking a big burden off the Skipley Farm staff. Fortunately, the weeds were the only casualties of our mob.
After a day of weeding, transplanting rhododendron and blueberry bushes, tying apple trees to trellises, and helping to fix a well, my respect-o-meter for those who work in the fields day after day just shot up about a million percent. Maybe you’ll even see me out in the fields at Skylight Farms some time. But sssssshhhhh! Don’t tell Jonathan I said that.