SVHC Member Update: Colleen

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colleenColleen Hotchkiss
Veggielution

Summer is the busiest time of year for farmers, and at Veggielution we are definitely not an exception. After expanding the farm to 6 acres over the winter and spring, we are cultivating 3 times the amount of land that was in production last summer, and that means 3 times the amount of work. Thanks to our incredibly successful tractor campaign, we no longer have to turn beds by hand or move giant piles of mulch and compost using wheelbarrows, but with the typical summertime drop in volunteer participation, the Farm Crew has really been hustling to make it all happen. We have the help of an amazing group of interns who act basically as extra staff people, facilitating volunteers and taking responsibility for specialized tasks and projects like tomato pruning and chicken care. Also, for the past 8 weeks, we had the Dig Crew – our summer youth program of 30 local high school students – working out on the farm 3 days a week, helping on harvest days and with planting, weeding, mulching, greenhouse work, and more. Now that Dig Crew is over, and most of our interns will be leaving the farm as the semester starts back up, we expect to have at least a few weeks with not a lot of extra hands. What makes all the hard work worth it, however, even in the face of the late August lull that Mark has been reminding us about, is the fact that we are distributing so much good, healthy, delicious food in the community.

Managing all our harvest and distribution, I am able to see not only the hard numbers of what we’re producing and distributing – average weekly harvests of about 3,000 pounds, 75% of it distributed through low-cost or no-cost channels – but also the individual impacts for the people eating our food. Running our Farm Box CSA program, I get to chat with participants each week about how they’ve been using the vegetables, and we swap recipes and commiserate about our broken food system. I get emails from participants who say they “LOVE” (all caps) the vegetables and ask me to pass along their thanks to all the students and volunteers who make it possible. At our on-site Farm Stand, I have seen our customer base grow so much since November, when I started running it every Saturday. About 40-50% of our customers each week are regulars, who come every Saturday to stock up on all their favorite veggies, and I continually get feedback about how (insert vegetable here) is the “best [they've] ever tasted.” Introducing people to lemon cucumbers for the first time is always a joy, and when people come back to get something specific because they enjoyed it so much the previous week, it tells me we really must be doing something right. That positive feedback and those individual moments of connection with the people eating our food give all of us the energy to push through the long hours and hot days to make this farm the amazing place that it is, and it gives me so much life to be part of it.

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