Local Hero Profile: Simple Gifts Farm
By Kelly Erwin, CISA Intern
Published in CISA’s July 2017 E-Newsletter – Sign Up Here!
Since its founding nearly 20 years ago, Simple Gifts Farm has been focused on connecting with its community and sustaining the land. Jeremy Barker-Plotkin started the business back in 1999, and in 2006 he joined with farming partner Dave Tepfer on land owned by the North Amherst Community Farm land trust.
Community involvement is essential to the way the farm is run, and Jeremy and Dave incorporate that value into all facets of their business, from their apprenticeship program, which enables them to share their knowledge with the next generation of farmers, to decisions about how to sell their produce and meat. Historically, most of their products have been sold through the Amherst Farmers’ Market and through their CSA program.
Over the years, they’ve refined the structure of their CSA program to offer more flexibility and more connection for their members. They offer pick-your-own crops, which gives customers a deeper connection with their food by allowing them to see where and how it is grown, and allow CSA members to fill a bag with their own selections on pick-up day. They offer alternatives to traditional CSAs as well: a shorter 10-week option, a prepaid “market card” that can be used at their farm stand, and work-days at the farm to help pay for a share.
This year, Simple Gifts is changing it up even more with the opening of their brand new farm stand, which will be open on weekdays from 10am-7pm and weekends from 8am-7pm. This means Jeremy has said a bittersweet goodbye to the Amherst Farmer’ Market, but he doesn’t expect to be spending less time with customers and the community as a result—the new farm stand will be staffed full time, and they’re planning to host more events in the future. Jeremy even hopes to eventually put a kitchen in the farm stand to host meals at the farm.
The farm stand will open July 10th with a grand opening on July 15th from 10:00-2:00.
Jeremy says Simple Gifts has changed a lot over the years. They are continually refining their practices, making things more efficient as well as ecologically sustainable. They currently operate a wood-pellet heated greenhouse that operates year-round, using renewable materials. In 2010, they installed photovoltaic panels to help offset the farm’s reliance on fossil fuels. They even have a bike-powered cultivator, which you can see in action here. They utilize natural and ecological methods to maintain soil fertility: their fields go through 4-year rotations, which means they are farmed for three seasons followed by a season as pasture. In the pasture season they are grazed by the farm’s chickens and cows, which revitalizes the soil for the start of a new cycle. Their farm is certified organic as well. Jeremy believes efficiency is essential to a farm’s bottom line, but at Simple Gifts, their core values of community and environmental protection are always the foundation of what they do.