This year marks the 30th anniversary that the Living Earth has been receiving the finest local organic produce from Many Hands Organic Farm (MHOF) in Barre. For those of you old enough to remember 1985, we were located on Pleasant Street, and my current crop of gray, thinning hair was a mop of hirsute blackness. Tears for Fears and Huey Lewis were rockin' the music charts that summer, Back to the Future with its time traveling DeLorean was playing in the theaters and the musical Cats was the number one show on Broadway.
Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge are the heart and soul of this dynamic agricultural enterprise they started in 1982 and coined Many Hands Organic Farm. Eight more hands from their three sons (Dan, Paul and Chuk) and daughter Ellen helped out for many years along the way. For the past 33 years, MHOF has respected and honored the intricate balance of the natural rhythms and cycles of their Barre homestead, eschewing the use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on their farm. MHOF is currently certified By the Baystate Organic Certifiers organization.
Never ones to remain static, Julie and Jack's stewardship of the farm has evolved through the years by incorporating the latest research and practices in organic farming principles as well as their own empirical knowledge gleaned from their experiences of so many years on the farm. They have been utilizing nutrient density principles on their farm for several years now by amending the soil with organic compost, rock, and mineral powders vegetable meals and humates. Julie and Jack optimize the soil's microbial ecology by inoculating their vegetable and fruit beds with beneficial fungi, bacteria and other microbes. The combination of mineral and biological enhancement produces fruits and vegetables that are not only delicious but also incredibly nutritious as well. These practices were recently validated at the 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference. In a research project on the carrot nutrient content, MHOF was awarded first place among 14 participating farms in the Northeast by growing the carrots with the highest levels of carotenoids.
Julie and Jack are now resolved in doing their part to help reverse climate change and reduce the carbon footprint of their farm through soil carbon sequestration. Research has shown that even modest increases in the amount of organic matter in the soil can significantly decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The farm is achieving its goal by maximizing photosynthesis, increasing plant diversity, minimizing soil tillage and supporting the growth of beneficial soil fungi. As if this labor of love wasn't enough, Julie and Jack, through their Many Hands Sustainability Center, have supported the rehabilitation of individuals with drug and/or social issues who have been incarcerated or institutionalized. They provide employment on the farm to those who would otherwise face many obstacles and prejudices in trying to secure work when their "debt to society" has been fulfilled.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Julie and Jack were pioneers in Worcester County when they began their CSA program in 1992. This system provides a direct connection between their farmer and the consumer. It is a means of reducing the risks a farmer takes by providing a guaranteed market for their goods and benefits the consumer by providing the "who, where and how" of their food source. The CSA program provides each shareholder with a weeks' worth of luscious local organic produce from June to October. Those interested in becoming CSA members can contact Julie online (mhof.net) or by calling her (978-355-2853). Living Earth is a CSA pick-up center on Mondays from 4-9pm. And of course we will continue to receive several organic produce and egg deliveries a week from MHOF to feature in the Living Earth produce and dairy cases. Congratulations to Julie and Jack for their thirty-plus years of organic stewardship on their piece of mother earth in Barre and for being the truly enlightened sages of the Worcester County farming community.