Thursday, April 19, 2018

Root Mass Farm In Berks County Receives Small Farm Environmental Sustainability Grant

The FruitGuys Community Wednesday announced the award of $47,534 in Small Farms Environmental Sustainability Grants to 13 recipients, including the Root Mass Farm in Oley, Berks County.
The $3,986 Environmental Sustainability Grant to Root Mass Farm will allow them to build a high tunnel greenhouse and plant 21 fig trees.
Root Mass Farm, a 5-acre farm run by Lindsay Shapiro and Landon Jefferies, grows a diverse mix of annual vegetables, melons, perennial herbs, and small berries. They use organic methods and place a strong emphasis on soil health while striving to create a vibrant farm ecosystem.
Their produce is sold at two Philadelphia farmers’ markets and through Community-Supported Agriculture agreements.
Neither Lindsay nor Landon grew up on a farm or in the presence of farming parents.  We’re children of the suburbs who got hooked on growing food.
Landon spent summers in college interning on sustainable vegetable farms in Massachusetts and New York.  After a few growing seasons cut short by the impending school year, Landon decided to take a semester off to see a season through from beginning to end.  
He then honed his farming chops at the Wyck Home Farm in Philly for 3 seasons, selling to Germantown neighbors steps away from where the food was grown.  
Since starting the farm, he’s not only scaled up his agriculture know-how, but also picked up some new tricks.  He can now fix the brakes of a Dodge van, change the spark plug on a tractor, and convince a pig to return to its home.
Prior to starting Root Mass, Lindsey knew almost nothing about farming, but she liked the idea of making something useful and working in the sunshine.  The learning curve has been both steep and rewarding.
Sometimes though, she still feels overwhelmed by all the things she doesn’t know.  The height of her farming career will come when she wins the hay bale toss at the Oley Valley Community Fair.
They described their methods in their own words: “At Root Mass Farm, we respect the health of the soil, the health of the plants, and the health of the people who work the land (us!).  We aim to nourish a thriving farm ecosystem, full of insects, birds, fungus, microscopic stuff, and even weeds.
“We use manure, organic fertilizers, and cover crops to build fertility in our soil.  We use radishes and broadforks to improve drainage. We use our muscles and our shuffle hoes to knock back weeds, and we rely on the spiders, ladybird beetles, and floating row cover to do a lot of our pest management.
“If things get bad, we may use a pesticide approved for organic use, but mostly we just try to keep things lively.  If you’d like to get a more personal sense of how things are done around here, we encourage you to visit the farm. After all, we could use your help squashing potato beetles and taming the pigweed.”
Click Here to watch their video “Dream Fig With Root Mass Farm.”
To learn more, visit the Root Mass Farm website.
For more information on the Small Farms Environmental Sustainability Grants, visit the Fruitguys Community Fund website.
Click Here to find Community Supported Agriculture farms near you courtesy of the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture.

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