The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) promotes local organic food and farming.
This month, NOFA-NY highlights Ruth Blackwell of Mud Creek Farm.
How long have you been farming?
I grew up on a flower farm, my parents had a couple acres of field grown pansies which they sold wholesale, as well as an enormous vegetable garden. I didn’t know I wanted to be a farmer until later, though. I guess I really started farming in 2006.
What first brought you to farming?
After graduating from art school, I spent a couple years saving up money and then I went and WWOOFed in New Zealand for half a year. WWOOF stands for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” and for me, it was a cheap way to travel and meet new people, working on farms for room and board. But it reminded me that a) I actually had a lot of farming skills from my upbringing, and b) I loved working outside and growing things. So when I came back to the states I eventually moved back near my dad’s place and helped him turn the old homestead into a vegetable farm, and from there I started working on other farms, figuring out what role I wanted farming to have in my life.
Why do you farm?
I love working outside, working with nature to create something great. I also really love doing something that feeds my local community and creates a positive impact for that community.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in farming?
Go work for other people! The best farm school is working on farms. Try a bunch of different places, so you can see how different farmers operate, you’ll pick up lots of skills as well as start seeing things you would do differently. And then I would suggest finding a farm to work at for more than one year, because that way you’ll learn things about how the farm morphs and changes year to year, and how a farmer manages things with the long term plan in mind.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing consumers should know about organic?
I think a lot of people understand organic farming in terms of what’s absent – i.e. chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, etc. What they don’t understand so well is what organic farming is creating, and that is healthy, living, resilient soil. The concept of working with Mother Nature instead of against her, that’s the foundation of building healthy soil, and building healthy soil builds healthy farms, healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy little piece of the world.
To learn more about NOFA-NY, visit nofany.org.