Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Help Sustainable Farmers: Join A Crop Mob

The New York Times recently did a story on a new group of young, landless North Carolina farmers, known as the Crop Mob, who volunteer to help on local, sustainable farms. Since the story was published, crop mobbing has become a social media sensation among foodies and sustainable farm advocates (like me).
As the group describes on its web site, “Crop mob is a group of young, landless, and wannabe farmers who come together to build and empower communities by working side by side. Crop mob is also a group of experienced farmers and gardeners willing to share their knowledge with their peers and the next generation of agrarians. The membership is dynamic, changing and growing with each new mob event.”
The group began in the North Carolina Triangle of Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, because there are many small, sustainable farms started by young farmers who often can’t get all of the work done alone.
Sustainable farming is labor-intensive work; the planting, harvesting, processing and even barn raising that this type of farming requires used to be done as a community effort and is often too overwhelming for one individual to handle.
That’s where the Crop Mobs come in. “The crop mob was conceived as a way of building the community necessary to practice this kind of agriculture and to put the power to muster this group in the hands of our future food producers.”
The monthly volunteer days or “Mobs” are announced informally by word-of-mouth and on the Internet. Anyone who is willing to work can just show up.
As outlined by the group, there are a few principles on how the Crop Mob works:
  • No money is exchanged.
  • Work is done on small-scale, sustainable farms and gardens.
  • A meal is shared, often provided by the host.
  • This is not a charity. We crob mob for crop mobbers.
Crop mobbing is growing and there now a number of mobbers popping up all over the United States and on the Internet including Seattle, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; and California.
Those who live in the city or suburbs don’t need to feel left out. Even city farms, backyard, or community gardens can use mobs too, as the New York City Crop Mob illustrates. It is hosting its first mob on April 11.
If you are interested in joining a Crop Mob in your own area, check the interactive map to see if there’s one near you. You can also go here to get tips and info. and starting your own mob.
You can find them on Facebook and on Twitter.
Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.

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