THE FRESHEST FARE
Marc Grossman’s first experience working on a farm was in Ohio, when he was in his early 20's. Although he loved to cultivate the land, it didn’t seem like a viable career option. Fast forward a couple of decades, and Marc is the co-owner of the Farm at Our House, an organically-certified vegetable farm that harvests fresh produce in Brookeville, Maryland.
The 12-acre farm, which started in 2002, is located on the property of Our House, a residential job-training center for at-risk teenage boys. The farm provides produce to local restaurants and members of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Marc believes that local farming is a win-win for farmers and consumers: “Local farming provides people in the community with a sense of hope," he said. "People are looking for ways to grow food in a more ecological manner, while enjoying the benefits of fresh, local foods.”
CSA members are able to participate in special harvest celebrations and to volunteer on the farm along with the farm’s staff and the young men from Our House.
“Farming is something that people can come together around. It’s not just about learning how to farm, or working really hard,” Marc asserted. “It’s about having a common goal and doing something really tangible and really productive.”
The farm has three harvests throughout the year—in spring, summer, and fall. Produce pick-ups run from May through November.
BOYS TO MEN
If nature is therapeutic and hard work transformative, then Our House is the ideal place for young men in Brookeville, Maryland who want to transform their lives. The residential facility boasts rolling hills, a pond, swamp, and a host of wildlife—including a beehive and volunteer beekeeper. The residents, who come from social service agencies and correctional facilities, seek to redefine themselves and gain the skills necessary for life-long success.
Over the course of their stay at Our House (which ranges from a few months to a couple of years), the young men receive job training, professional counseling, life skills workshops and GED preparation. But they don’t just receive; they give back. All residents volunteer in their local community to deepen their sense of responsibility and connection to it.
In alignment with Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, OH seeks to “begin with the end in mind.” Residents maintain a strict schedule to develop discipline, a solid work ethic, and can experience the fruit (literal and figurative) that comes from working consistently and diligently over time. The Farm at Our House, a separate entity, offers residents the opportunity to learn how to plant and harvest fruits and vegetables.
“It was real rough going at first,” explained Ed Gould, the long time OH volunteer who started the farm. “They were not too enthusiastic—you don’t get a return for several months—but eventually there was enough land tilled and ability to grow things that the guys made a few hundred dollars.”
Gould argues that the farm and the house provide space for transformation to take place. “When some guys are there because they assaulted someone and are there to deal with their anger, they are going to do that. That they are willing to reveal that to me—that admission is the first step toward their own healing.”
SWEET APPLES: A VOLUNTEER’S PERSPECTIVE
Three years ago, a neighbor recommended that Amie Myers join the CSA program at the Farm at Our House. Eager to go organic, Amie joined and began to volunteer just a year later. Today, she volunteers a few hours a week, in exchange for the opportunity to pick fresh produce for the week, free of charge.
“I feel so lucky to be able to volunteer at the farm,” Amie beamed. “Once I get there I’m always happy, and then I go home with a bounty of local, fresh organic food. You just can’t beat it!”
Amie shared her top eight reasons for why she prefers the farm fresh fare:
- The greens are deeper.
- The apples are sweeter.
- Everything is so fresh. It may have just been picked that day.
- Things are able to ripen on the vine, instead of being picked early and shipped.
- It prevents a lot of carbon emissions. It’s important for me to reduce my impact.
- I cook, every day, with fresh food.
- I like to make pretty easy things. I have a whole basket of six different varieties of squash right now. I’m enjoying thinking of all the things I’m going to do.
- Every week, the food is amazing!
About the Author: Chanté Griffin is a writer. In her dreams, she is a certified organic specialist who harvests all of her own veggies in her backyard, but in reality her solitary rosemary plant died. Tweet with her: @yougochante