If you live in an urban area, your food source may not be top of mind. However, a farm is always close by in the D.C. region, including CBF's own sustainable Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Clagett produces organic vegetables for a weekly community-supported agriculture (CSA) share as well as donates produce to local non-profits such as the Capital Area Food Bank. This takes a lot of coordination I soon discover, most of which is managed by Carrie Vaughn, the farm's vegetable production manager.
On a sunny Wednesday, I visit Clagett Farm to help with the harvest and to meet with Vaughn. Several volunteers greet me as I arrive and immediately put me to work unloading freshly picked heirloom tomatoes followed by harvesting onions and setting up baskets of vegetables for CSA pickup.
The farm schedule is somewhat predictable: Wednesdays and Saturdays are harvest days, when Clagett Farm staff direct hard-working volunteers who help pick the vegetables. The rest of the week is dedicated to managing other volunteer projects on the farm. Today being a Wednesday, Carrie determines which vegetables are appropriate for this week's share. After deciding on heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, squash, and the onions we'd just dug up, Vaughn oversees the CSA pickup and then settles in for a chat.
"It varies a lot," says Vaughn of her typical day on the farm. "I think that's one of the nice things about the job: That it's not the same thing day after day. Sometimes I'm working on the tractor alone; sometimes I'm with a lot of people I've never met before; and sometimes I get to work with people that come back all the time, [that become] friends."
Vaughn started her career at CBF as a volunteer fresh out of college where she had studied biology and decided she wanted to pursue a career in agricultural research. But, as we know, some things don't always go to plan in life. "I came here to learn about what it's like to be a farmer, so I could be a better researcher. I guess I just fell in love with farming and never left!"
As Vaughn and I continue to talk through the morning, there are many things, I learn, that you can do while gardening or selecting your food to help restore the Bay and its waters. Allowing native plants to flourish and grow is just one of them. "People have to let the clover live in their yard. All that diversity in their lawn is really helpful," says Vaughn. "It's naturally fertilizing."
As expected Vaughn is a tremendous advocate for supporting local agriculture: "A lot of people think that buying organic is about being healthy for the consumer, but for me the purchasing decision has a lot more to do with the health of the whole ecosystem. You want to make sure you're supporting a healthy ecosystem through the farms that are giving you food."
—Lindsey Kellogg, CBF's Communications Intern