Valley Bounty: Seeds of Solidarity
When Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib set an intention to “awaken the power to grow food everywhere, to transform hunger to health and to create resilient communities,” Seeds of Solidarity was born. The family farm’s specialties are greens, traditional corns for cornmeal, and garlic. The couple’s vision evolved to include the Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, a nonprofit organization the couple founded in 2000. In true partnership, Habib guides the nonprofit’s community and food justice initiatives, while Baruc guides the day-to-day farming operations.
The expansive vision of Habib and Baruc affects all aspects of their family business. The couple is passionate about the convergence of community, farming, and family. Relationships take center stage in their operation. Habib notes, “We are happy we have had many wonderful apprentices over the years, who carry their experiences with us forward in many ways.” Habib continues, “We are proud to have stayed happily married, raised a family, and sustained strong friendships through it all!” In 2019, Baruc and Habib released their book through Levellers Press, Making Love While Farming: A Field Guide to a Life of Passion and Purpose, which explores these themes.
Both in the book and in conversation, the couple’s journey weaves together farming and work. Before the couple started Seeds of Solidarity, Baruc owned an organic farm elsewhere. In Orange, they quickly encountered the limitations of the soil: there wasn’t enough of it. Elsewhere, Baruc used an organic model of tilling with a tractor to churn the soil, add amendments, and plant crops. It’s labor-intensive work, and Baruc was burnt out from the experience. Habib explains, “There was a point where, if we were going to keep going, there had to be a different mindset for us and a different way of walking through each day.”
In 1996, Baruc launched no-till practices at Seeds of Solidarity. At that time, the common model of farming used heavy equipment to turn over the land to prepare soil for planting. Habib and Baruc saw the advantages for healthier soil and crops by keeping disturbances to the soil at a minimum. The approach fortified their commitment to treat the soil as sacred and sequester carbon to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Eventually, the pair posted signs with inspirational social justice quotes around their farm. At first, putting their beliefs into physical form and visible to others challenged Habib, but then she found the quotes helped keep things in perspective. Habib shares, “We walk our farm daily, and these quotes remind us that whatever little minutia you’re obsessing on in the moment is simply minutia you’re obsessing on in the moment. There is a bigger picture out there: there are people who struggle and there is a wider social justice lens.” The signs help pass this wisdom to a younger generation through their farm.
Collectively, farmers share the uncertainty of climate change, and farmers need support from their communities as much as anyone else. Beyond the physical challenges of farming, there is an emotional uncertainty that lingers for farmers. Whether as climate change, supply chains, or staffing, uncertainty is a part of farming. Habib shares the influence of Pema Chodron, “If you’re going to stick with this for the long haul, you have to become comfortable with uncertainty as you make physical adaptations to your farm.”
To remain engaged in relationships while remaining mindful of what’s happening in the world, Baruc and Habib employ whole-body principles to support body, mind, and spirit. Their family starts with the simple act of eating the food they grow. Habib speaks of her personal experiences, “Many farmers barely prepare the food they grow. They work so hard that they don’t sit down with their families to eat a meal. We need to nourish ourselves and actually enjoy the food we grow before we can nourish others.” Sleep and rest are other critical wellness practices for the couple.
Habib identifies relationships for sharing at a deeper level with others as central to her experience of wellness. She continues, “Having people you can honestly share your stress and challenges with is really important. These can be anyone you talk openly with about your primary relationship, your parenting, or what’s on your heart.”
A variety of daily practices contribute to well-being for the family. Habib recommends these actions for farmers—or anyone. “Taking a walk, playing with kids, physical activities, making music or art … all are essential to wellness. Having something that takes you out of your head is helpful.”
For Baruc and Habib, wellness extends to their shared vision of community. Like personal relationships, sometimes the work includes strategic partnerships. Seeds of Solidarity collaborates with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, CISA, on the Senior FarmShare Program. The program offers low-income seniors affordable, locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. Habib reflects, “Senior FarmShare has been the most important program for our farm and community. We’ve been involved since the start. We ran it on our farm and local youth in our educational programs grew and distributed the produce as authentic community engagement. We transferred the program to our partners at Quabbin Harvest Co-op and continue to leverage more funds towards expanding the shares CISA funds. There is a huge need to nourish elders who often live only on social security, and I think Senior FarmShare has always been—and will always be—a critical program that meets a great need while supporting farmers and fostering community partnerships among farmers and the agencies that serve elders.”
The Seeds of Solidarity Farm Stand is located at 165 Chestnut Hill Road in Orange. The solar-powered, self-serve stand is open during daylight hours, and accepted payment is cash, checks, and IOU. This year’s 24th Annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival is the weekend of October 1st.
Lisa Goodrich is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local farms, what’s in season, and where to find it, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.