From our farmers: Finding community at Headwaters

Emily Cooper of Full Cellar Farm

This is the fourth in our “From our farmers” series, and was contributed by Emily Cooper of Full Cellar Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.

There’s a buzz around Headwaters Farm this year, and it isn’t just the bees. With 13 farms leasing land at the incubator (up from 8 last year), the activity here is more evident than ever before. And along with the sounds of the rototillers, irrigation headers, and tractors, there’s another sound that’s harder to hear, but more persistent than any other. It’s the sound of community, and it starts with “Good morning!”

I love farming at Headwaters, and the biggest reason is the community. With so many people here, it’s guaranteed you’re going to bump into someone as you go about your work. Maybe you share the wash station and get to see what variety of radish someone else is growing – or what pests are eating their carrots. Maybe you see a new tool someone is using, and stop to ask how they like it. Maybe you pause in the barn to bemoan your overabundance of tomatillos, and someone else magically has a customer who wants them. Or maybe you just say hi as you pass at the port-a-potty. (I’m lucky enough to host this hub of activity next to my field.)

Throughout the history of farming, neighbors have been integral to the work. We often share the image of the hardworking, independent farmer, but sometimes we forget how farming also requires community. Need help pulling on that greenhouse plastic? How about changing a tire, or with a tractor implement? Sometimes something as small as having someone to water your plants while you’re out of town can mean the difference between work overload and a much-needed vacation.

I feel so lucky to have stumbled across this amazing program right here in my own backyard. In many ways, it serves as a model to me of what farming could be. Instead of being a bunch of beginning farmers all struggling to afford the land, infrastructure, and equipment we need to start our businesses, we are a patchwork of small farms on adjoining land, sharing knowledge, experience, and resources.

My hope is that in the long run Headwaters will turn out to be not just a training ground for the next generation of farmers. Maybe it will also help create a certain kind of farmer: one who sees value in cooperation, sharing ideas and equipment, and working together to grow food for our communities, of which we are all a part.