It’s a common refrain that people have become disconnected from the food they eat, the migration from country to city leading people away from farm fresh produce and towards frozen, ready-made dinners.
And while visiting a farmer’s market is one way to get closer to the source, another movement taking shape locally and around the country is trying to take people a step further: crop mobbing.
Crop mobbing – shed the dictionary definition you know – is a term used to describe any group that flocks to a farm to help get a specific task accomplished.
The practice began locally about four years ago, and has grown into a national movement in part because of a widely read New York Times article on a similar effort in North Carolina.
There are now an estimated 70 crop mob groups around the country, according to Trace Ramsey, who was part of the North Carolina effort and now helps run cropmob.org.
“It began as a small peer-to-peer farmer group for skill sharing and networking. This group grew as friends of the farmers and interns came into the mix,” she wrote in an e-mail. “With the NYT article, that changed even more. We saw more urban folks coming to help just to help and not necessarily to network. They just wanted a change of pace or a connection with food that isn't provided by a farmers market.”
The next local mobbing will occur on Saturday, July 30. Like past events, it will bring people – or should I call them mobsters? – to the Riverbend Farm in Delano. Located about 30 miles west of Minneapolis, the vegetable farm provides produce to co-ops, restaurants and members of its Community Supported Agriculture program.
Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton, who has been a patron of the farm for the last 15 years, said the idea behind the mobbing is to give people a “hands on/hand in view on where their food comes from.”
“We choose to do it monthly, May through September so that people could see the progress of the farm throughout the growing season,” she said in an e-mail describing the event.
At the last mob, the group staked and mulched 3,000 tomato plants that were planted in May – something Riverband Farm owner Greg Reynolds said he and his staff couldn’t have done alone. Other tasks have included transplanting, mulching, weeding, laying drip tape and harvesting.
“We do whatever Greg needs help with and he's great about being organized and ready to put us to good use when we show up,” Singleton said.
Anyone interested in attending the July 30 mob is asked to R.S.V.P. in advance by registering here or e-mailing email@example.com. Carpools will meet at the Birchwood at 9:00 and leave by 9:15 a.m., or you can meet at the farm, 5405 Calder Ave SE, Delano, at 10 a.m. The event runs until 4 p.m. and includes a break for lunch and farm tours.
Singleton advises that people bring rain gear, a water bottle and shoes that can get dirty. Gloves and tools will be provided.
Additional crop mobs will be held on Aug. 27 and Sept. 17.
Please note that this event is also being included as part of the Eat Local Farm Tour. Check back in August for a review of the event.
Crop mob Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=246021432090251
Drew Kerr is new transplant to Minneapolis who comes to the Twin Cities by way of upstate New York. He's a Midwesterner at heart, having grown up and gone to school in Iowa. His interests are sustainable agriculture and building a stronger connection between farm and fork. Feel free to e-mail him thoughts, ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org and to explore his website,www.drewbkerr.com.
All photos courtesy of Mette Nielsen. She can be reached at: Mettephoto@comcast.net