Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Saying hello (and goodbye, sort of) to Dave Rice

GardenShare intern, Anna Kowanko, has been interviewing farmers and recently wrote this profile of Dave Rice, who is both a local farmer and a volunteer member of the Board of Directors at GardenShare.  While Dave's three-year term on the Board is up this month, he has decided to stay involved by volunteering with one of our committees.  Thank you, Dave, and we are so glad you are staying on!

David Rice of Sweet Core Farm assembles his green roofed pop-up tent third down from the main Canton intersection. When I first visit him there is only one table with sparse early summer crops – asparagus and some greens. His booth expands throughout the summer to line the open walls of the tent, now laden with the rainbow – beets, various potatoes, and a continuous supply of lettuce, swiss chard, and greens. David is a medium sized man, with greying hair that today pokes out from under his hunter green baseball hat. He has forgiving blue eyes protected by thick dark eyebrows and a small smile at the corners of his lips that shows his humor. David wears a green accented cream-colored flannel over his dark purple Sweet Core Farm shirt, which appears to be his Farmers Market uniform. When we arrive he hands me a small zip lock bag of asparagus that he packed for us: the last time I saw him I told him about my unruly and unharvestable patch

Attached prominently to the front of his table, three posters hang informing customers that “we gladly accept” SNAP (EBT) tokens, CNY Health Bucks, and New York State Farmers Market Checks. For the last three years, David has been a board member of GardenShare, and currently works as the Secretary and on the Development Committee. But, his support for GardenShare has been longer than that. When speaking specifically about SNAP tokens David says, “I think that taking tokens is a win-win for both producer and consumer” as it ensures product will be bought and also people have access to good healthy food. He has been farming for thirty years and selling at the Canton market for eleven.
When David was in high school he worked at Friendly’s: “ I hated it,” he said, telling us about his off-menu sundae rebellion – “the David.” From there he worked at an apple orchard, finding his passion for farming, more specifically fruit farming. He went to college in New Hampshire, hoping one day to own his own orchard. After college he worked briefly for a you-pick apple farm and ran a CSA in New Hampshire before moving to New York with his wife and two children.

Sweet Core farm itself is about eight miles outside of Canton (take a right at the four-way intersection). Like many farmers around here, David and his wife moved to the county because the land was affordable. Though I don’t get out to the farm until late fall, evidence of abundance still lingers in the soil. David points out the raised beds where he grows squash and cucumbers and shows us the hearty kale and the rows of carrots, evidence of only a few of his twenty-five crops. But, he really lights up when he shows us his expanding apple orchard of young trees planted five feet apart and trussed up against the wind. He shows us how he is training the branches horizontally to bear fruit: his dream orchard finally coming true.

When we say good-bye David offers me his extra cauliflower starters. David embodies the idea that, like growing a strong garden, forging a strong community is about interconnectedness. One must always looking out for one’s neighbor and make sure that everyone gets to sit at the table.