Just Roots Community Farm Fosters Youth Collaboration

Innovative farm program uses accessible skillshare as community builder

Just Roots Community Farm isn’t “just” anything – never just this or just that, the farm incorporates many different projects, practices, and goals into its overarching purpose. Located on the former Poor Farm in Greenfield, MA, Just Roots works to promote knowledge of, demand for, and access to local food in Franklin County. Through a variety of offerings including community workshops, affordable CSA shares, volunteer workdays, and educational programming, Just Roots serves as a community-centered vehicle for resiliency, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and endless learning.

Quickly becoming a vital part of the local community, Just Roots is a valuable resource for families. First and foremost, the farm provides families from all socioeconomic backgrounds access to delicious, healthy, local food. Just Roots’ CSA offers low income pricing which, at just $5 per week, makes CSA shares accessible to almost anyone. Additionally, food grown at the farm is donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens – over 20,000 pounds of produce have been distributed for free since the farm’s founding in 2008.

On top of growing healthy veggies, Just Roots offers a wide variety of educational opportunities to community members of all ages, and families have an almost endless array of ways to learn about many different topics at the farm. A visit to the farm could inspire young children to learn about everything from common garden pests to the growth cycles of plants, and could lead older children to discover answers to questions about food security and community resiliency.

During the summer, Just Roots offers Outdoor Adventure Weeks to children ages 8-12, providing an experiential and immersive farm-based learning experience. Participants in the program will explore habitats in and around the farm, learning about the many different creatures of all shapes and sizes that can be found nearby.

Families with older children who are ready to start learning skills for self sufficiency (teens, mainly) can participate in skill-based workshops offered at the farm. Ranging in topic from cobb oven building to simple food preservation, the farm’s Community Workshops aim to share skills, information, and resources with community members in a way that is easily accessible and affordable. Held for 1-3 hours on periodic Saturdays, the workshops cover topics that are seasonally appropriate, and teach skills that will be immediately useful to participants.

A less structured learning opportunity offered by the farm is a monthly volunteer day. Held on the first Saturday of each month from 9am-12noon, each volunteer event brings together eager workers of all ages and abilities to accomplish tasks around the farm. By lending a hand (even a very small hand), children will not only help to ensure that the farm continues to be successful, but they’ll learn about the farm’s practices and crops. Digging in the dirt to plant seedlings could even lead to some observation of worms and other small creatures, while weeding or pulling invasive plants could lead children to learn about how plants reproduce and the effects that non-native species have on our environment. And, of course, working to support the farm’s mission is an important lesson for volunteers of all ages – when we work together as a community, we’re stronger. And when we commit to offering equal access to quality foods, we promote a system that is fair and just.

If you’re interested in learning more about the farm, or would like a chance to explore the farm in a relaxed environment, stop by for the Spring Farm Festival on Sunday, June 8th, 2014. Held from 3-7pm, the festival will include lots of opportunities for fun and learning. Families can go on a wildlife walk, watch demonstrations of pig plowing, learn about herbal medicine, do some farm-inspired art projects, help out with farm work, and connect with other community members who share common interests and goals.

Just Roots Community Farm is located on Leyden Road in Greenfield, MA. For more information about the Spring Farm Festival or any of the other farm programs, contact info@justroots.org or call 413-325-8969. www.justroots.org

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