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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Crop Circles: With the Pay-It-Forward Farming by “Crop Mobs,” What Goes Around Comes Around

Nov 10, 2011 11:45PM ● By By Deb Taft

Lower Hudson Crop Mobbers meet the Food Bank's farmer, Doug DeCandia, before getting to work at the Westchester Land Trust field.

Three years ago, a group of farmers in North Carolina’s Piedmont region began gathering once a month, each month at a different farm, helping the farmer with whatever big tasks were at hand—much like the old barn raisings, with neighbor helping neighbor.

And the Crop Mob was born.

In February 2010, the New York Times published a story about the group, inspiring the formation of Crop Mobs all over the country. The details vary somewhat from one location to another, but the motivation is always the same: It’s about helping the people who grow our food.

As soon as I read the Times article, I started a Facebook group called Crop Mob NYC. We did 13 Mobs last year, and we’ve already done eight this year. While the group primarily has served the farms and community gardens in New York City, two of our gatherings last year were outside the city: one at Amawalk Farm in Katonah, and the other at Ryder Farm Cottage Industries in Brewster. Between our Facebook and Google groups, we have almost a thousand members (976 as of this morning).

In April of this year, I broke off Lower Hudson (LH) Crop Mob to serve the suburban and rural farms north of the city. It’s hard to get large groups of city dwellers to come up for Mobs, and there is a great need for volunteers at our farms up here. While I will continue to post LH Mobs on the NYC page, I’m trying to build a group of people who want to participate in the strengthening of the foodshed right here in our neighborhoods. We have many active "green" groups, which would suggest great potential for Crop Mobs.

After our first LH Mob was postponed twice because of weather, we finally Mobbed the Food Bank for Westchester's field at the Westchester Land Trust in Bedford Hills, where Food Bank farmer Doug DeCandia is growing half an acre of sweet potatoes for distribution to Westchester's hungry. We had a great turnout, and we managed to plant the entire half acre with the help of some other volunteers.

We will continue to Mob farms in Westchester, but we also hope to extend our coverage area into Rockland, Putnam and even Dutchess Counties, and into Connecticut, as well. We’ve also become a clearinghouse for individual volunteers who want to spend a few hours working at a local farm.

The Lower Hudson Crop Mob is now up to 50 members, and we would love to have many more folks join us. The bigger the pool, the more we can do to help the people who grow our food.  

Deb Taft, a farmer and beekeeper in Westchester County, is owner of Mobius Fields farm.