By Lingru Kong and Fredrick Eccher
This past weekend, UMSL Business had the wonderful opportunity to spend the day volunteering at the wonderful EarthDance Farms in Ferguson. The farm has been operating for several generations and will soon be certified as an organic farm. EarthDance is Community Supported Agriculture, which is a way for people to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. This system provides the farmer with much-needed spring capital to get going as well as a secure the local market for the season. EarthDance is believed to be the oldest organic farm west of the Mississippi. It located at 233 S. Dade Avenue, Ferguson. It used to be the Mueller Farm owned by Al & Caroline Mueller. In 2008, Molly Rockamann, who has visited Mueller Farm when she was 15, decided to start EarthDance with the vision: Organic farmers feeding the world. Communities caring for the land. Farms inspiring creativity.
EarthDance’s staff reflects on the seasons past, and makes plans for the coming year, from deciding which varieties to grow to determining the best crop rotation. Majority of EarthDance’s produce goes to their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, but they also sell it at two farmers markets and to chefs and grocers with a local-foods focus. To help funding, EarthDance offers five different programs: Farm & Garden Apprenticeship Program, Youth Program, CSA, Farm Tours and Field Trips, and Volunteer Opportunities. Besides the revenue from crop sales and educational programming, EarthDance gets support from grants and donations.
On April 11th over 20 UMSL Business students and volunteers came out to help plant 7 varieties of potatoes. Then we weeded a cover crop off of a field to get it ready for planting. Cover crops return important nutrients into the soil while keeping the topsoil from running into the sewer system when it rains. Manager Monica and Matt gave volunteers a brief history of the farm at the beginning. After that, the first task was to plant five different kinds of potatoes. Monica did a demonstration and then volunteers worked as pairs. The second task was to weed a cover crop off of a field to get it ready for planting. In the afternoon, program director Rachel took volunteers for a tour of the farm. Currently, EarthDance has rain recycle system and greenhouse. Rachel said that they are hoping to get funding for an education center and an indoor banquet facility. We saw their recycled wood from the old farms barn turned into a new tool shed. In about 4 more years they will have pear trees that will be providing pears. And they have been partnering for years with a local lady for producing honey. The bees were too busy to notice us even though we were with 10 feet of the hives no one was stung.
EarthDance produce can be found on plates all over town. EarthDance’s Community Supported Agriculture members enjoy a weekly selection of the farm’s bounty; the CSA includes public members, EarthDance staff, and of course, the apprentice-farmers who grow the crops. EarthDance also sells produce at two farmers markets and to chefs and grocers with a local-foods focus. Ferguson-Florissant School District purchases vegetables from EarthDance for fresh produce “taste-tests” at nearby elementary schools, and in 2014 the district will join our CSA, bringing four shares per week to a school salad bar. EarthDance regularly donates produce to community organizations that provide food to needy individuals and families. Partners include Ferguson-Florissant School District’s Homeless Families program, St. Stephen’s food pantry, and Operation Food Search.
EarthDance lead a great example of how a local business helps Ferguson. EarthDance sells its produces at the Ferguson Farmers Market and helps feed the needy through the Feed Ferguson program. In addition, EarthDance provides employee opportunities for Ferguson community and helps to educate and training youth.
Check out pictures from the fun day below!
EarthDance farm breaks the tradition by being active on varieties of social media. For more details of EarthDance Farms, please check out the links below:
Support EarthDance Farms:
Educational Programs: http://www.earthdancefarms.org/what-we-do/