Free Workshop: “How to Grow Vegetables for Seed Saving”

Seed saving is a way to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations. If you’d like to learn about the process of collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, you can attend a free workshop presented by Amy LeBlanc on how to grow vegetables for seed saving. LeBlanc is a certified organic farmer in the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).  The workshop will take place in the Couper Room at the Reuben Hoar Library at 41 Shattuck Street in Littleton, MA on Saturday, March 8, from 1:00-4:00pm. The event is co-sponsored by Littleton Community Farm, the Reuben Hoar Library, and the Littleton Conservation Trust. Registration is requested.

LeBlanc will explore seed saving techniques for annual food crops like peas, beans, tomatoes, herbs, garlic, and peppers. Attendees will learn practical basics about self-pollinating crops, insect and wind pollination and the problems with cucurbits. She will discuss vegetable varieties that grow well in our micro-climates, and how your family favorites may become the resilient building blocks for future varieties.

Leblanc is a University of Maine Master Gardener, an educator and speaker on the subject of seed saving, with a specialization in tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Along with her husband Mike LeBlanc, she owns and operates the 100-acre Whitehill Farm in East Wilton, Maine, and she is active in agricultural research.

Passionate about saving heirloom seed varieties, LeBlanc has been saving seeds for years. She is a contributing member of Seed Savers Exchange, and the Farmington Seed Savers; a member of and crop certification specialist for MOFGA; a member of and a presenter for the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA); a member of the Certified Naturally Grown Program; and a recipient of two Northeast SARE grants to study disease in garlic. Every three years she attends the Organic World Congress hosted by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements.  She is planning her 2014 trip to Istanbul. She also compiles the Tomato Lovers Paradise catalog, which is appreciated by tomato enthusiasts worldwide.

Amy saves seed for about 10% of the plant varieties she grows. Generally, these are the rarer varieties that are being maintained by only 2-3 people in the world. Her heirlooms preserve genetic diversity and educate others about the importance of that diversity and of knowing how to grow food.

“We are delighted to have Amy share her expertise in the area of seed saving,” said Amy Tarlow-Lewis, President of the Board of Directors for Littleton Community Farm. “In this era of corporate agriculture it’s vitally important to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations.”

To register, please call the Reuben Hoar Library: 978-540-2600

About Seed Library Littleton

Seed Library Littleton is a partnership between Littleton Community Farm and the Reuben Hoar Library, and it was established to enable anyone in Littleton the opportunity to “borrow” heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for free. The mission of Seed Library Littleton is to build community through the collecting and sharing of bio-diverse, locally-adapted seeds, provide education on seed saving techniques, and create a forum for discourse on the relevancy of local food systems to our community. For more details, visit http://littletoncommunityfarm.com/seed-library-littleton/.

For more information about the Seed Lending Library, please contact: Workshop Coordinator, Katie Carruth boardlcf@gmail.com

Wanted: Farm Manager Experienced in Organic Methods, for Summer 2014 and Beyond

Littleton Community Farm is in the market for a Farm Manager!  We are proud and thrilled to have reached this point on our journey, and eager to meet the person(s) who will bring our plans to fruition.  We are looking for an entrepreneurial, community-oriented Farm Manager, with at least four years of farming experience. The position will be very part-time starting in July or August, and will become very full-time at the start of 2015.

Experience in farm business planning, greenhouse production, use and maintenance of equipment, and seed saving required. Experience in teaching, non-profits, volunteer coordination,  and planning and execution of small building projects are desired. The ideal candidate will also possess a clean driver’s license, strong communication and leadership skills, patience, enthusiasm, and a ready smile!

Our lease of two acres from New England Forestry Foundation has been drafted, and the soil has been tested. This Spring our Directors will complete the hiring process, and in the meantime the fields will be plowed, amended and cover-cropped. For the balance of 2014 our Farm Manager will participate in a few community events, create a farm plan and proposed budget, and propose infrastructure improvements to the barn, irrigation and fields. The year 2015 will be our first growing season!

Prospective applicants can sign up for a tour of the farm site on Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm, at the New England Forestry Foundation, 32 Foster Street Littleton, MA. (RSVP to boardlcf@gmail.com.)

To view the complete job description, click here. Deadline for applications is Friday, March 14, 2014. Email applications to the attention of Brittany Sidway-Overshiner at boardlcf@gmail.com. Applications should include a letter of intent, a resume, at least 2 references, and your vision of a farm plan for LCF.

Check this site often for updates and for information about potential weather delays for the tour on March 9. Please help spread the word about our latest venture!

What’s All the Buzz About Honeybees?

Why are bee hives popping up around your neighborhood? How come bees congregate at your birdbath or swimming pool? How serious is the disappearance of honeybees that’s been reported in the news?  What’s so important about honeybees anyway?

To find answers to these and other buzzing questions about honeybees, please come to the first meeting of the Littleton Honeybee Forum on Thursday, February 6th, from 7-8:30PM in the Vincent Couper Room of Reuben Hoar Library.  You needn’t be a beekeeper to join the Forum! If you are interested in learning about these remarkable creatures and the challenges they face, please join us.  After a short program, we’ll engage in “bee talk,” and enjoy some honey-infused treats.

Honeybees are not native to North America.  They were brought here in 1622 by colonists who needed them to pollinate food crops. About 130 fruit and nut crops rely on honeybee pollination. Our supply of meat and dairy foods also depends upon honeybee pollination of feed crops such as alfalfa and clover.  The economic value of honeybee pollination has been estimated at over $16-billion annually in the USA. And yet these tiny insects do the job for free, keeping us all fed, and simultaneously producing a surplus of honey and other hive products that beekeepers harvest. Join the Littleton Honeybee Forum to discover more about honeybees!

We will organize hive openings and a speaker later in 2014.  Join the hive!  For more information please contact Littleton Community Farm at boardlcf@gmail.com

The Farm’s First Educational Program: Why Protect Seed and Plant Diversity?

Last week Littleton Community Farm and the Reuben Hoar Library were pleased to host Tevis Robertson-Goldberg from Crabapple Organic Farm in Chesterfield, MA. Tevis spoke at the Library on the importance of seed preservation.

The lecture marked the official launch of the Seed Lending Library that the Reuben Hoar Library and the Littleton Community Farm are jointly implementing for the 2014 growing season. The mission of “Seed Library Littleton” is to build community through the collecting and sharing of bio-diverse, locally-adapted seeds, provide education on seed saving techniques, and create a forum for discourse on the relevancy of local food systems to our community.

Tevis presented a 12,000 year history of the human impact on the evolution on our seed (food) supply and how it has changed our food, economy, environment, health and biodiversity. Below are some interesting tidbits we gleaned from Tevis’ talk…

100 years ago the United States had a rich polyculture that has been replaced by a monoculture. Today there are more acres of corn then there are acres of the world’s population, making corn the most successful species. Corn is now all genetically closely related. The current risk to our food supply is that agricultural catastrophes like the Irish Potato Famine are possible.

Since 1924 the US Department of Agriculture has had a seed bank in Geneva, NY. It is similar to the Svalbard Global Seed Cave, which is a “doomsday” seed vault in Norway that is essentially the world’s insurance policy for food. International and national seed banks are for commercial growers; these seed banks don’t really serve small farmers. Commercial growers get the access without doing the work. Tevis considers these seed bank varieties to be “functionally extinct” because no one is growing them. Whether the USDA bank will be there in the future depends on the politics surrounding it.

In the last 100 years seeds have become commercialized; hybrids give seed companies control over seed. “X” variety always comes from a specific company. Varieties are a market commodity with built-in obsolescence. “Seed varieties are now a throw-away commodity,” said Trevis. Large scale commercial breeders are growing seed commodities for industrialized farms. Most heirloom varieties are now in danger of going extinct because there are only one or two producers. Varieties are lost when companies choose one variety over another simply to make more money. What matters to the seed producer is whether propagation will be profitable.

Before 1900, there were 1,000s of named varieties of apples and 100s of cider apple mills in New England. With the Prohibition movement (which had an axe as its symbol), many local varieties of apples, such as “Westfield Seek No Farther” disappeared. (The USDA seed bank has 1,795 varieties of apple.)

Most open-pollinated heirloom varieties are now in danger of going extinct because there are only one or two producers.  Unlike hybrids, varieties of open-pollinated seeds do not stay the same; they change according to weather and other growing conditions, and they usually produce very similar plants from their own seed.

Hybrids such as delicata squash have become contaminated at times; as a result there were almost no delicate squash on the market for some years. Waltham Butternut has been very popular; the seed now comes from Texas, so is not growing as well here as it once did. As an aside, it is worth noting that most crops are grown in states such as Florida and California and sold to and eaten by those who have no real connection with the crop.

Home seed savers can more effectively select and improve plant varieties than large-scale producers. Why? Because on a small scale one can look at every plant and select for local conditions, tastes and regional culture. Tevis encouraged people to save seeds for their historical, educational and biological value, for their taste and nutrition, and of course for the sheer fun and adventure of it all.

Stay tuned to this blog site for further updates on the launch of the Seed Lending Library!

Littleton Community Farm and Reuben Hoar Library Launch Seed Library Littleton

Littleton Community Farm and the Reuben Hoar Library are pleased to announce Seed Library Littleton, an exciting new seed lending program for spring 2014. Together, we plan to offer anyone in Littleton the opportunity to ‘borrow’ heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for free! Our goal is to create a self-sustaining seed library where growers who ‘borrow’ our seeds will save and return seeds to our library after they have harvested their crops. We can then offer the seeds to borrowers during the next growing season and the cycle can repeat itself. Over time, the seeds will become stronger and increasingly acclimated to our Littleton growing conditions.

On Thursday, October 24th at 7:00PM–8:30PM in the Couper Room of the Reuben Hoar Library Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Crabapple Farm, an organic farm in Chesterfield, MA, will discuss the importance of seed saving. The program is free and open to the public; please join us!

The lecture marks the official launch of the Seed Lending Library that the Reuben Hoar Library and the Littleton Community Farm will jointly implement in time for the 2014 growing season.

Seed saving has been practiced for thousands of years and is part of our agricultural heritage. It is also an invaluable tool for community building, through the exchange of ideas and experiences that growing from seeds can bring about. There are currently over 90 seed libraries in 30 states and the number is continuing to grow. The Concord Free and Groton Public libraries both began seed lending libraries this year.

The mission of Seed Library Littleton is to build community through the collecting and sharing of bio-diverse, locally-adapted seeds, provide education on seed saving techniques, and create a forum for discourse on the relevancy of local food systems to our community.

Our shared goals are to:

  • Create an accessible and affordable source of locally-adapted seeds that grow well in Littleton that is maintained by a local community of caring farmers and gardeners;
  • Educate LCF and RHL members and the general public about biodiversity, garden and plant ecology, sustainable food production, food sovereignty, cultural traditions concerning food and agriculture, heirloom varieties, Littleton’s agricultural history, and related topics;
  • Build community awareness and connections through partnerships between LCF and RHL and local nonprofits, food producers, horticulture businesses, gardeners, educational institutions, health practitioners, artists, and others; and
  • Strengthen LCF’s and RHL’s connections to the community;
  • Broaden the relevance of LCF and RHL to area residents;
  • Set an example for other libraries and organizations;
  • And support and supplement the other programs of LCF and RHL.

Both the Reuben Hoar Library and Littleon Community Farm would like to thank the Marlborough Public Library for the generous gift of a card catalogue for seed storage!

LCF and Marion Stoddart Help Kick off the 2013 Littleton Reads Program

The house was packed on Monday night, September 23, for the first event in the 2013 Littleton Reads program. Community activist Marion Stoddart of Groton, MA shared insights gained from a lifetime of work cleaning up the Nashua River, once among the 10 most-polluted rivers in America.

Attendees, including Senator Jamie Eldridge and Selectman Jenna Koerper Brownson, viewed Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000, a documentary about Marion and the grassroots campaign she led to clean up the Nashua, starting in 1962. Guests were then treated to a presentation by Marion on “10 Life Lessons in Civic Leadership.” David Outman, formerly of Littleton’s Open Space Planning Committee, and Jennifer Stach of Littleton Community Farm then joined Marion on stage to participate in a Q&A panel discussion with the audience. The event was co-sponsored by the Reuben Hoar Library, Littleton Conservation Trust, and Littleton Community Farm.

Be sure to check out a copy of the 2013 Littleton Reads selection, The Orchard: A Memoir by Adele Crockett Robertson. Although a slim volume and a quick read, “The Orchard” provides a vivid glimpse of a Depression-era orchard in Ipswich; and the herculean effort of one young woman who worked it single-handedly.

Keep your eye on this blog for news about the Seed Lending Program that Littleton Community Farm will co-sponsor next Spring with the Reuben Hoar Library. In October LCF will host a discussion about the practical, economic, political, and gastronomic implications of seed-saving and seed-sharing. Is it okay with you that two-thirds of the world’s food seed stock is owned by just ten multinationals?

Marion Stoddart with Senator Jamie Eldridge

Marion Stoddart with Senator Jamie Eldridge

Representatives of Reuben Hoar Library, Littleton Conservation Trust, and Littleton Community Farm with citizen-activist Marion Stoddart and Senator Jamie Eldridge. Left to right: Marco Borba, Brittany Sidway Overshiner, Don MacIver, Jennifer Klein, Jennifer Stach, Marion Stoddart, Jamie Eldridge, Amy Tarlow-Lewis, Kip Roberson, Jo-Ann Dery

Representatives of Reuben Hoar Library, Littleton Conservation Trust, and Littleton Community Farm with citizen-activist Marion Stoddart and Senator Jamie Eldridge. Left to right: Marco Borba, Brittany Sidway Overshiner, Don MacIver, Jennifer Klein, Jennifer Stach, Marion Stoddart, Jamie Eldridge, Amy Tarlow-Lewis, Kip Roberson, and Jo-Ann Dery/

Panel Moderator Joy Reo with Senator Jamie Eldridge

Panel Moderator Joy Reo with Senator Jamie Eldridge

Helping Hands for Hunger Relief

Photo of Littleton Community Farm members volunteering at Church Meadows

LCF volunteers enjoy a beautiful spring day in the Garden at Church Meadows, run by the Congregational Church of Littleton.

Did you know that Littleton Community Farm members have begun helping the Congregational Church of Littleton’s hunger relief program? LCF and CCOL have formed an informal partnership, mainly to support the Garden at Church Meadows, which supports the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.

What does the partnership mean in down-to-earth terms? Weeding and meeting! LCF has adopted row #5 at the Church Meadows garden, and will be weeding it.  The row is 80 feet long, and we need to weed one time per week.   We’re looking for volunteers to commit to pitch in just one time during the course of the summer. (The CCOL does have weekend work parties, which make the task not so lonely!) Later in the season we’ll help with harvest and delivery.

Our mission is rooted (pun intended) in supporting local agriculture, and providing people from all income levels with access to nutritious, local food. Partnering with the CCOL community garden is a fun, tangible way to do that. So if you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty (literally), and can spare some time this summer, please volunteer at the garden! For more info, contact LCF Board member Jo-Ann Dery: deryemail@gmail.com

P.S. Check out our  Facebook page!

Thank You for Voting!

Littleton Community Farm logoWe would like to thank the voters of Littleton for their overwhelming support of Article 15 at our recent Annual Town Meeting. We are so pleased to have received such validation of our belief that agricultural land in Littleton is a priceless and irreplaceable resource.

Additionally, we are very heartened at the vote on Question 1 at Town Election: 949 out of 1652 ballots cast were in favor of amending the Community Preservation Act to include commercial properties. With the increased revenues from commercial and industrial properties, the Town anticipates adding $64,700 to the CPA fund, which will be matched by additional State dollars.

It’s important to note that the funds generated through this surcharge will be used for future CPA projects right here in our town: projects that are gaining in popularity as developers continue to eye our region. While we don’t yet know what will be happening with the Church Meadows property, it is exciting to know that it will remain as agricultural land.

What’s a community farm?

Littleton Community Farm logoWelcome to Littleton Community Farm’s website! We are an emerging project, a farm without land, a farmer or money. But we are a high energy, dedicated group of people who love to eat, cook, be outside, learn and support our community.

Our logo, which was created by a Nashoba Valley Technical High School student, represents who we are. The cheerful yellow sun and the wheat stalk bring to mind the concepts of preserving farmland, growing food, breaking bread, sharing abundance, building partnerships and welcoming people. If Littleton Community Farm can build this sort of culture and provide this kind of experience to generations of residents, then we will have achieved something amazing.

Are you wondering what a “community farm” is? It is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) that’s run by an experienced and trained farmer. It has a board of directors that provides stewardship and oversight to the farm. Our farm will have a base layer of agricultural operations dependent on donations, grants and volunteers; our agricultural operations will support the overall mission of education, community engagement and stewardship.

Littleton’s identity is made strong by a diverse range of agricultural models.  Not-for-profit agricultural education, not-for-profit hunger relief and for-profit commercial production are all valuable to our community.  Not every town has the opportunity, foresight, or generational choice to welcome new ideas, models and farmers to our community.

What can you expect from a community farm? We’re still building and working out the concepts of our budget and business plan. Typical activities on a community farm include community service, service learning, produce, volunteer opportunities, public events, memberships, outreach, and educational programming. Our farm will also support local schools, business and farms.

Feeling like a kindred spirit? We are looking for people to join our growing ranks. We need extra hands with writing, planning, organizing, and thinking. Looking for a small task? No Problem! Looking to get deeply involved? I have a few ideas for you!

If you enjoy locally grown delicious food, value and honor our agricultural resources, are inspired to learn and grow, and are looking to foster goodwill in our community please join us or make a donation.

Critical Town Votes on May 6 and May 11!

Littleton Community Farm logo

Littleton Community Farm supports Article 15, the acquisition of the Congregational Church Meadow Property at 194 Great Road for agricultural purposes, and we urge the voters to approve this transaction. We strongly believe that this parcel of land should remain in agriculture, as it is a limited and precious resource.

Glacially enhanced soil like we have here in Littleton takes 15,000 years to make, and it is made to be farmed. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has characterized land such as this as a “National and Natural Treasure.”  If it is developed, it is gone FOREVER.

We are so pleased that the Congregational Church has decided to make this property available to the Town.

We are thrilled at the support of all the Boards in Town which have voted on this Article- The Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, the Community Preservation Committee, and the Agricultural Commission. It is important to remind the voters that the taxpayers will not be asked to assume any additional financial burden to enable this purchase.

We believe that this across the board support of this article by these various boards is indicative of the importance that preserving this land has to the entire town.

There are so many possible agricultural uses for this property, so many types of farming:

  • One type is the for-profit commercial production farmers such as those farms in town we often visit and highly value.
  • Another type is not-for-profit hunger relief community farms such as the one now operating on Church Meadows and coordinated by the Congregational Church. It provides free food to Loaves and Fishes, our local food pantry.
  • A third type is not-for-profit agricultural education community farms. They teach about farming and its benefits to the public, provide access to land and crops, and contribute to the community in a variety of other ways.

All of these types of local farming are important, and it will be exciting to see what the future holds for these acres.  The most important issue today is acquiring the land and allowing it to be preserved as farmland FOREVER.

Please, vote yes on Article 15 at the town meeting on Monday, May 6!