BRO interview with Jessica Lang of Cold Spring Cooperative Farm:
BRO: When was the farm started?
Jessica: The farm was started in Spring of 2009.
Who owned the land? How did you acquire it?
The land is owned by the city, and we are the process of acquiring a lease. Most of the land has been vacant for many years.
What was on the land formerly?
Most of the lots – houses. A large corner store used to be on one of the lots. This store was loved by the community and had a popular graffiti mural. It was demolished in 2009 (see below). We started a perennial flower nursery there, and cover cropped it with clover.
What needed to be done in order to prepare the soil for farming?
We amended the soil with compost and manure in previous years and we have great fertility now. To start off this season, we have weeding and planting to do, starting the weekend of April 15.
How much land is there?
8 city lots, and one purchased lot
Are you acquiring more land? What does future growth look like?
The farm currently is a manageable size considering our worker base. We would like to cover crop and plant grain crops like wheat on close by lots.
What resources are on the property? Composting? Greenhouse? Worm farm?
We compost our scraps from the farm. We have no structures on the land. Previous workers have done worm composting on site.
Where does the water come from?
We are members of grassroots gardens, and get water from hydrants using a key provided by the fire department
How has the community responded?
Members of the community love the car, and will often shout “Good job” out their car windows. There are 2 dozen children in the community that come out to work every time we are there.
Is this a cooperative? Can anyone purchase vegetables grown on the farm?
No vegetables are sold, as we do not have permission from the city to sell. People only get vegetables by working shifts.
Who works on the farm?
Neighbors, college students, children, and people from all over the city and even the suburbs. Some refugees will be working the farm this year.
Are there any animals… or fowl?
No, none are currently allowed. If the neighbors are supportive, we may have chickens in the future.
Is this 100% organic?
Yes – we only use organic methods of gardening. Fertility is enhanced with compost, greens and, fish emulsion, and manure.
What is being planted this spring? What grows year to year?
This spring we are planting lettuce, collards, mustard greens, broccoli, carrots, radishes, and various Asian greens. In May we will be planting 150 tomato plants. We’ve planted nearly every vegetable you can get in the grocery store. We have a couple hundred strawberry plants and some raspberry canes.
Do you work with any other organizations or schools?
None currently. In the past we have received support from Buffalo Reuse.
We put the farm to sleep – cover the rows with hay. We also over winter some crops like carrots. Carrots will survive the winter and you can eat them all year round.
Do you invite the community onto the farm?
Yes. We have invited everyone in the community to work on the farm for vegetables.
Are there other urban farms, either in Buffalo or other cities, that act as models for Cold Springs?
Our greatest model and mentors are Janice and Mark at Wilson Street Urban Farm. We have collaborated with them on seed and amendment purchases, and had a end of season pig roast on their farm last year.
Currently we are operating as a cooperative – no vegetables are sold. If the city becomes more favorable to commercial farms where vegetables are sold in the future, we may sell vegetable shares as well as worker shares.
If workers work toward food shares, how does the operational cost work?
The operational cost is minimal currently, but there were some start up expenses. As a grassroots garden, we received some compost and support. We paid for our own seeds and amendments, and power tools in the past. Our co-founder Daniel Ash committed a significant amount of time and energy getting the project running.This year our main cost was seeds. I splurged and spent about a hundred dollars.
The biggest “cost” is labor. The farm is like a child. You can’t ignore it. You need to be out there every day taking care of it, or it will not provide you food. I like to think of our method of farming to be similar to the “it takes a village” form of parenting. The great thing about our model is that you can get a great amount of food with doing a small amount of work. Having your own garden or even your own community garden plot would require 10+ hours a week of work. Here, you can get the same (or more!) amount of organic local vegetables from just a few hours a week, once a week. We also love the community aspect of working together.<
We are looking for new workers that are willing to commit 2 hours a week to the project, in exchange for vegetables.
Our blog is coldspringfarm.blogspot.com
Our Facebook page is here.
Interested parties can contact us at email@example.com.
Cold Spring Cooperative Farm is located on the corner of Southampton Street and Masten Avenue (see here).