University of Vermont

The Women's Agricultural Network

Farmer Spotlight

Bread and Roses Farm Grows Vegetables, Builds Community

By Alexandra Zipparo

Bread and Roses Farm, in Westford, Vt., produces superb vegetables – and a lot of them. But for farm owner Chris Siegriest, farming is about much more than growing produce. “Our CSA is created around the desire to make fresh vegetables accessible to as many folks as possible, to weave a strong and vibrant community, to engage CSA members in where their food comes from, and ultimately to have fun in all we do," Chris explains.

Chris, 35, found her calling as a farmer in 2004. She enrolled in the University of Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems Apprenticeship Program. The program provides a unique combination of hands-on farming training and social justice education – just the experience Chris was seeking. After her second year, she began teaching in the program, which, she says, “…really firmed up my learning. After that, I was certain that the life of dirty fingernails and open air was the life for me."

Chris Seigriest washes carrots

Chris established Bread and Roses farm in 2007. The five-acre farm leases two separate parcels with a variety of soils – ranging from sandy to loamy to clay soils. It’s a situation Chris credits with helping the farm crew “stay on our toes with the best farming practices and management techniques.” Bread and Roses uses sustainable production practices, such as crop rotation, cover crops and buffer strips. and does not use synthetic pesticides or herbicides, or chemically treated or GMO seeds. To help minimize the farm’s environmental footprint, Bread and Roses markets its products within a 100-mile radius of the farm.

The farm grows everything you can find in a seed catalogue, which Chris says helps her manage product risks by allowing her to spread her losses among many different crops.  “I've lost crops in the past that CSA members never even realized, since there was always something that exceeded expectations to take its place,” Chris says. “The vegetables I'm super proud of are my garlic (seed originally from Michael Doctor of Food Bank Farm in MA), red peppers, and melons.” The vast majority of Bread and Roses’ produce goes to its 75-member CSA. Bread and Roses also provides approximately 50 CSA shares for low-income seniors and delivers them weekly to their housing units. During the summer Bread and Roses vends at the Westford Farmers Market on the Green. Surplus is donated monthly to the Westford Food Shelf.

Chris chose to market her products through a Community Supported Agriculture arrangement because she loves what it stands for.  “My passion in farming is primarily to build community around food,” she explains. “I'm devoted to the members coming to the farm so they have to brush up against each other, make friends, get dirty in the pick-your-own, and meet their farmer. In a world full of Facebook and Tweets, it is ever more important that folks are making real live connections.”

When asked about the rumor of her farm being notoriously pleasant to work on, Chris responded, “I, too, believe Bread and Roses is an amazing place to work, and part of that is because I don't view it as my farm. There is an amazing crew of folks who come together to make this farm happen, whether they are high school volunteers, CSA working members, paid farm workers extraordinaire, or town folks bartering their skills.  I draw so much inspiration and energy from all those who step onto the farm, and that energy, cycles back to them.”

In addition, she says an important part of creating a magical workplace is obeying the human need for balance. She has recently made the decision to commit to off-farm jaunts, which help sustain her, and provide a lighter side of life. She has even allowed three-day weekend explorations to flow into her schedule. “There will always be something more to do on the farm, so sometimes, you just have to tell yourself to stop. You deserve the down time.”

Farmer mentors have contributed to Bread and Roses’ success. Jane Sorensen and David Marchant of River Berry Farm, Christa Alexander of Jericho Settlers Farm, and Andy Jones from the Intervale Community Farm provided information and knowledge that helped in Bread and Roses’ farm development. Chris refers to Mimi Arnstein, of Wellspring Community Farm, as her “farm goddess of the East coast, and about as ideal a mentor as you can get . . . Gleaning knowledge from the ones who came before and respecting them for the path they created is paramount.”

Chris also says that support from the Vermont Farm Viability Program through the Intervale Center brought countless blessings to her business, while the quick and informative answers found on the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers' Association listserv are priceless.

Learn more at about Bread and Roses Farm at http://breadandrosescsa.com/

Last modified September 18 2012 04:01 PM

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