After seven trips around the sun at Mathewson Farm, Red Planet is changing its orbit.
The owners of the property let us know back in April that they will not be able to renew our lease. This came as a shock; up until about 2 weeks previous we were talking with the family about 5 more years! It has taken some time to sort through our confusion, but we realize that the most useful way to think about their decision is that it is clearing a path towards someplace better.
We plan to finish up our 2014 harvest season and then get into a long winter of pulling up stakes.
You could definitely call this bad news, but it’s mainly just bad timing. We had already been feeling insecure about that rocky little piece of Johnston Earth, because we have never had an ownership stake or a long term lease on which to build our growing business. The abrupt notice just got us to put our foot on the clutch pedal. Since then we’ve been running the search for a more stable and productive farm opportunity in high gear.
This season, us Martians have spent a lot of time looking at and talking about lots of different farm possibilities.
We are looking to purchase a farm or obtain a good long term lease on farm property in Rhode Island. We’d prefer to stay in the Providence area, but hate to rule anything out. We are totally open to cooperative projects or community farm models, but we are also fine with the same old mom and pop style we’ve worked with so far. We’re open to working with land trusts to acquire property or to lease land they may already own. We’re looking into easements or leases on state property. In other words, we are willing to be creative and flexible in achieving our goal of fair and stable land tenure. The key for us is making sure we have more of a stake in the project than we have had so far.
As we choose our path, we’ve determined that the key for us is not to make a move based on mere survival. We feel lucky that we’ve had the opportunity to earn a living from growing food for the past decade because it’s a fulfilling and fascinating line of work. We also feel lucky to have met all you great people as we built the business: at markets, in restaurant kitchens, through the CSA or just out in the tomato patch. But we haven’t been so lucky in finding a stable location on which to really prosper and achieve our dreams. We dream of having the freedom to expand our acreage and open a farmstand. We dream of heated buildings and a farm kitchen and a bathroom! We dream of a heated propagation house for seedlings and a garage for equipment. We dream of hiking trails and berry patches for our customers. We think we have the skills and assets to build a really great farm, so we want to make sure the next move is a real step up in every way.
No decisions on anything yet, but we are approaching the make or break point, so we thought it was time to let you all know about our situation for three reasons:
1. We have worked with, laughed with, and learned with so many great people in our 10 years of farming, we thought some of you might have some ideas about what we should do next or how to do it. We’d love to hear from any or all of you on property we don’t know about, cool new ideas, potential collaborations, and maybe to just share old memories from past farm seasons.
2. Because we hadn’t yet planned on it, the relocation of Red Planet Farm is going to be a very expensive and demanding project. Once we decide on where we are going, we are going to need help organizing fundraisers to try to cover the many extra costs of getting our new farm up and running without a major interruption in our normal planting season.
3. Some folks like to go to the Y for a workout. Others get exercise by helping farmers take apart and move their stuff (it’s sort of like Pilates) We want to be there for you non-Y members. We will organize some work days for dismantling the big stuff, but anytime you want to come out and let a hand just get in touch!
We look forward to the next phase of Red Planet.