Each month, the Granby Drummer publishes an interview with a local farmer from our town. Read on to lean more!
Interview with Joe O'Grady, Farm Manager (April 2014)
1) How did you get started in farming? When I was in elementary school I remember taking some test that told you what you were going to be when you grew up, mine said Forest Ranger/Farmer. Growing up in the suburbs of Long Island this seemed preposterously unlikely, but after college and after the Peace Corps I found myself working on an organic CSA farm and was instantly hooked. I've been working year around on farms ever since.
2) What's your favorite product/service that you produce? My favorite (aside from beets) is that we are year round - producing and distributing vegetables in the otherwise bleak winter months. That and all the U-Pick flowers and cherry tomatoes we grow for our CSA members
3) What will your farm look like in 10 years? There will be more perennial crops like rhubarb, asparagus, raspberries, elderberries, asian pears - I could go on for a while, but more so than this the soil will have its minerals and trace elements balanced its organic matter increased resulting in crops that are more vigorous, more resistant to pests and disease, more nutrient dense and last but not least, better tasting.
4) What benefits does agriculture give the community? When a community can produce its own food, it benefits in countless ways. We are more resilient in the face of droughts, floods and crop failures in other parts of the world - if we can shop and eat locally. The farther produce travels the more nutrients are lost, so the consumer will improve their health the more they buy from local farmers.
5) Who did you learn the most from when you were getting started? 5)Scott Chaskey, the Head Farmer at Quail Hill Farm on Long Island, is my greatest teacher, mentor and influence. It was the first farm I worked at and I was there for 6 years, the bulk of my education in 4 season organic CSA farming happened under Scott Chaskey.
6) What do you wish more people knew about farming? I wish more people knew how cerebral and interdisciplinary it is. Of course there is the never ending physical labor but that is just the tip of the iceberg for a diversified vegetable farm. At some point during the season you will need to understand biology, chemistry, ecology, meteorology, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, architecture, marketing, economics, accounting, social media and I'm sure I am forgetting some.
7) What's on your farm's wish list? A BRAND NEW 65 Horse Power TRACTOR! And a dump truck!
8) What's the biggest issue facing agriculture today? I feel like we've hit a bit of a wall customer base-wise and we need to get the vast majority of the country to support local farms, or else this energy behind local ag might run out of fuel. We need to get the people not buying local yet, to see and appreciate all the hidden costs in those underpriced/over-subsidized vegetable products from California and overseas.
9) What's next at your farm? Continuing to find away to make the farm sustainable - both financially and with regards to the soil health. The latter is an easy one, it'll just take time, proper stewardship and consistently testing and amending the soil. Financially it is always difficult for farms, and with us it is no different, so we'll be tinkering like everyone else to find the proper balance.
10) What's the most amazing thing you've seen on your farm? I haven't been here that long yet, but so far it is the amount and quality of the spinach in our greenhouses in February - typically a dreary month on a farm.
11) What's the best thing about farming in Granby? Farming can be very isolating work, so it is good to know you are not alone in Granby!