Spring is in the air, and CSA season is upon us. Today we chat with a local farmer, McDonough Scanlon, about her experience working on Middle Earth Farm in Amesbury. All photos in this post are taken by McDonough herself!
ND: Who are you and what do you do?
My name is McDonough Scanlon, I am a 24-year-old FarmHer 🙂 I work year round at Middle Earth Farm, and on the weekends I work at a Pediatric Psychiatry Unit. This year I have support from my Unit, and my Farm, to start a garden in the playground facility for patients — very exciting!
ND: Tell us about Middle Earth Farm?
Richard Rosenburgh has owned and operated Middle Earth Farm for over 35 years now. I really couldn’t have found a better person to learn small-scale, sustainable, organic method agriculture from. Richard had also been part of the “food chain” working in poultry houses and grocery stores, with some carpentry mixed in. He first started growing vegetables full-time when we he become a stay-at-home dad in the 1980’s.
ND: How did you end up farming?
I graduated college, moved back home to Newbury. I thought some fresh air and sunshine would do me some good, so I emailed local farms and asked if they needed a hand weeding. I had never working on a farm before, but food has been a lifelong love of mine. I volunteered for four months, and then Richard offered me a job.
ND: What is a typical day like?
No day is really typical, but each day starts with the morning chores, feeding and refilling water for the chickens, geese, turkeys and sheep. Then the greenhouse and field houses need watering. Depending on the season we could have to pick for markets or CSA. There is always field work to be done, planning or seeding new crops, weeding and fertilizing. The ongoing joke is that the work is never really “done.”
ND: You have livestock at Middle Earth Farm, how does that factor in to the day-to-day operation of the farm?
I think their function really shines when you look at the farm operations as a whole sustainable system. We don’t have refrigeration at Middle Earth, everything we pick, whether it be for our CSA or a Farmers Market, is picked that morning. This can throw things off when you come back from market with pounds of vegetables that didn’t sell. We try to pick the right amount of everything morning of— but consumers are hard to predict, so we reuse the produce as food for any of the animals. Feeding animals means manure, which we add to our compost pile to age for 6+ months before it gets put back into the fields to grow more food.
I particularly love the seasonal influence the animals have on the farm. I’ve grown to love lambing season, how could you not fall in love with a baby lamb! In the spring Richard sheers the sheep. The chickens, geese and turkeys hatch eggs in the early summer; it adds a nice touch to the feel of seasons changing.
ND: I love your photos, what camera you use?
I was told early on that “the best camera to have is the one you have on you,” many of my photos are from my old school iPhone 4 and I also use my iPad. I have my “commercial grade” photos from a Cannon 60D series which I bought refurbished.
ND: CSA season is upon us, why should someone get a share and what can they expect?
People, please join a CSA. It doesn’t have to be with Middle Earth; however we’d love to have you. The CSA model is helpful for the consumer and the farmer. It cuts out the middle man, putting fresh picked locally grown produce right into your hands, and your dollars directly into a farmer hands. Not only is it the best bang for your buck, but it’s a great social network too! I love the diversity of people we have in our CSA. From teachers, nurses, small business owners, sales, and artists; it’s great to see everyone each week. As someone who puts the labor into growing food, it feels great to be acknowledged for the back-breaking work we do. Nothing feels better than to hear it straight from the consumer that they appreciate all that you do.
A big thanks to McDonough for chatting with us at the Newburyport Daytripper!