Walking into the Incubator Farmer Program plots at Gifts of Love’s farm in Simsbury, the first thing you see is Hopi Corn growing in Sean’s plot of land. Plants that he sings and prays over as other members of the Hopi tribe do back at his home. He says it’s important to keep these traditions and methods alive to keep his culture alive.
Juliet guides us to her land where she is growing African corn. This variety of corn she says will not grow over 5 feet high in Africa, but at this point in the season is reaching up ten feet above our heads in the Connecticut soil. She picks ears from these towers and generously hands them out to folks visiting for a tour, insisting that we need to try it. “It’s not as sweet as American corn, but people love it.”
Zania and Manny walk us to their rows of vegetables- long stalks of kale and collards that have been picked throughout the season and sold to Hartford School systems so that students in the city have access to fresh vegetables in their school meals. However, they don’t share the ghost peppers they’re growing with the schools, not a surprise the schools would really appreciate. All these crops are supplementing the sales from their micro-green operation that helped start them on their farming journey.
And in the last stretch, you see the tended rows of Blessings and Sarah Rose- vegetables that are used to not just produce food, but to save seed to continue the life these plants give. They raise valuable herbs as well that allow for health beyond the nutrient rich vegetables they produce. And all the while these fields serve as a background for the teaching they do- helping people grow their own food through the Samad Gardens Initiative Garden club.
These diverse businesses and plantings are made possible because of land. These folks were givenaccess to land at an affordable rate with the opportunity to use tools and equipment when starting their operations from scratch would have been otherwise very expensive. And the diversity of businesses and products these farmers are contributing to their community is obvious.
So as we look at this wonderful project that Gifts of Love has set into motion, it makes us wonder. If more people were given these opportunities, if land was accessible to those with the passion to grow, what kind of diverse and beautiful food system would our state have?