by Laura Markowitz, Transition Town Jericho
In November 2019, Transition Town Jericho (TTJ), Vermont hosted a panel on the effect of climate change on local farms and farmers. One of the side benefits of the conversation was meeting local farmers. One of them was Tucker Andrews of Bone Mountain Farm in Jericho. At one point, Tucker bemoaned the fact that he wanted to give back to the community — grow food for people in need — but he didn’t have access to the labor he needed to pull it off.
TTJ steering member Dave Clift suggested that since our transition town had an email list of 100+ people, Tucker could plant an ‘extra row’ and we’d supply the labor for harvest and delivery to area food shelves.
Tucker planted his extra row of butternut squash in early summer 2020. We set a harvest target date for early October. At one point, Dave and I met up with Tucker in his field to see the extra row. Viewing the seemingly endless squash, I secretly wondered if we’d find enough crew to pick it all.
In late September, we had a couple of back-to-back frosts that could have jeopardized the squash. Dave and I decided we’d better get a crew in as soon as possible to save the crop. On very short notice, on a Sunday morning, more than a dozen people showed up, eager to help. With so many hands, we picked 584 squash in just over an hour!
The squash got distributed to area food pantries and a distribution site. A generous farmer was able to give back to his community, neighbors came together in common purpose for a fun outdoor activity, and we increased food security in our area.
In the future, we definitely want to expand the extra row concept. Plenty of farmers might like to plant an extra row for their community, but may need a helping hand to pull it off. In our farmer’s case, the need was labor, which we had ready access to. This is a great way for the community to connect and collaborate with their farmer(s).