For my internship during the summer of 2014, I worked at the Garman Organic Farm on Aquidneck Island in Middletown, Rhode Island. Garman Farm is a family-owned and operated business specializing in heirloom vegetables and small fruits. Owned solely by Jim and Michelle Garman, the farm supplies many local restaurants and markets with fresh organic produce. In addition to that, Jim and Michelle operate a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA program. With over 60 members, this CSA provides an excellent way for members of the local community to support a small, local business in exchange for access to fresh organic food on a weekly basis. The Garmans grow their product on farmland leased from Sustainable Aquidneck and the Aquidneck Land Trust. Jim and Michelle practice organic production techniques, and their methods include building organic matter (with amendments of compost, seaweed, and manure), seasonal crop rotation, keeping soils covered with organic mulches, growing winter cover crops and planting a diverse array of crops.
Over the course of the summer, I spent many days working beside Jim and Michelle planting various crops and learning how to cultivate them. We tilled the soil, manually seeded row after row of assorted organic seeds, spent many hours weeding and watering, and organized community pickup days for the CSA program. It was fascinating to learn how to be an organic grower firsthand. It was an honor and a pleasure to work side by side with Jim and Michelle as the crops grew and we began to harvest them.
The most interesting and pleasurable part of this internship experience for me was learning about and participating within the farm’s CSA program. Every Monday between 2pm and 6pm, the Garmans opened the proverbial “gates” of their farm to members of the community. With the choice of any freshly picked produce available at their fingertips, I watched as these supporters thoroughly enjoyed their weekly visit to the farm. An alternative economic model to the conventional marketplace, CSA’s are an excellent way for community members to actively engage in the growing process and provide much needed direct support to local smaller growing operations.
Through this internship, I have received a plethora of new knowledge surrounding organic growing procedures, CSA practices and how to run a successful small business. I learned the differences between conventional industrial commercial farming practices and those of a small-scale organic commercial farm. I learned how small growers set prices and remain competitive in a tumultuous marketplace. The direct economic experience of participating in the farm’s business model and practices has proven invaluable to my career as an ENRE student. It was a great summer and I had an amazing experience on the farm. Perhaps one day, I too will shed my academic role and join the ranks of an organic farmer, trade my laptop for a wheelbarrow, and spend my days baking in the sun and digging the earth.
By Matthew Reinhardt,
December 10th, 2015