Jamestown Community Farm - Home
About The Jamestown Community Farm Volunteer Your Support Island Farms Jamestown Community Farm - Home
 
   
 

Jamestown Community Farm
Bob Sutton, Farm Manager

East Shore Road
Jamestown, RI 02835
Tel: 401.423.0910

Eric Archer, Chairman
Land Owner: Peter Ceppi

Products:
  • In-season Vegetables

General Donations/Barn Fund Donations can be sent to:
Donations: Leo Cote, Treasurer
Jamestown Community Farm Inc.
PO Box 352, Jamestown, RI 02835

Volunteer:
Memorial Day thru Columbus Day
Tuesday and Wednesday evenings 6:00PM to dark
Saturdays 9:00AM to Noon
231 East Shore Road
(corner of Eldred Ave)

Farm Stand Open:
Saturdays July thru October

 

ISLAND FARMS - The Jamestown Community Farm

The Jamestown Community Farm Incorporated is a non-profit 501c (3) organization. Our organization was created nine years ago in response to an idea that there is both personal and community value in helping those in need and that one of the most fundamental needs is good food. Growing fresh produce and distributing it to those less fortunate meets a fundamental human need and is also a valued project for defining our Island community.

From the outset our intent was: to grow and produce crops without the use of commercial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and to define and pursue a method of sustainable farming that systematically improves the value of the agricultural soil even as it produces crops. The Farm is committed to methods of farming that recognize and minimize the impact on the natural environment and the native populations of the Island’s flora, fauna and natural resources, including water.

The Land

The Jamestown Community Farm exists on 17 acres of privately owned cleared farmland in the center of Conanicut Island, Town of Jamestown. It is located in the northern section of the Center Island Greenway, a 1000 acre recreational, historical, conservation and agricultural area, that runs down the middle-center of Conanicut Island from north of Carr Lane south to the Village. The Community Farm property is the only large acreage plot of land in the Center Island Greenway that does not have some type of permanent protection from residential development.

The soils on the Farm (Newport A and Newport B) are excellent for agriculture. The US Department of Agriculture, Soil Survey of Rhode Island classifies these soils as having the capability for the highest crop production values in the State. This land has been used rather continuously for some type of agriculture for the last 300 years and possibly earlier under Native American stewardship. For the last 15 years the land has followed sustainable agricultural practices that maximize its natural agricultural potential and systematically improve the soils. Large rocks and stones have been removed and clover, timothy, and smooth brome grass have been planted on approximately 13 acres to improve the hay production. Lime and natural leaf compost have been added to the 4 acre vegetable garden and the land is managed using soil, water, fertilization, pest and herbicide control practices that are natural and sustainable.

The land occupies a north/south ridge and approximately half of the land drains west into the watershed of the Town’s public water supply and the other half drains east into the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. The slope of the land is less than 5% so that natural erosion of the valuable agricultural soils has been minimized over the years. Additionally, the Community Farm plants winter rye cover crops that reduce wind and water erosion and adds organics back into the soil when plowed in during spring cultivation.

The Volunteers

The Community Farm relies entirely on volunteer labor. The governing board and the Farm manager are volunteers. There is a core group of approximately 10 to 15 individuals and families that have, over the years, provided a dependable stability to the work force and annually, approximately 75 to 100 separate individuals of all ages show up to work. The organization has always encouraged volunteers of all ages and on any given volunteer day ages may range from young children to retired seniors. Volunteers tend to come primarily from the Jamestown community however two of our most steadfast volunteers come from Middletown and Charlestown. Both have worked on the Farm every year for the last nine years.

The Farm is an eligible recipient of student community service hours. Many private school students are required to perform community service and over the years we have participated, (10 to 15 students annually) in this program with several different schools. In addition, St. Georges Academy in Middletown has been especially resourceful in providing volunteer students and this past year we held a work day for these students and over 50 students attended.

The University of Rhode Island Resident Assistant Program has annually provided approximately 50 to 60 URI juniors and seniors for a Saturday morning of very productive work. This past year the URI Freshmen orientation program also provided approximately 100 freshmen students for a mornings work.

Both the Jamestown Press and the Newport Daily News have been a very positive and supportive resource, covering our special events and providing information for volunteers, hours of operation, etc. Newspaper coverage is an important element of attracting new volunteers and getting response to our special events.

The Crops

On approximately 4 acres, which is entirely surrounded by 8’ deer fence, we grow the standard variety of garden vegetables with the exception of corn which we do not produce. In 2008 which had the best growing weather, we grew over 16,400 pounds of vegetables: which included the following (in pounds): Tomatoes: 2,394, Winter/Summer Squash: 6,000, Green Beans: 1,800, Cucumbers: 1,664, Peppers: 970, Pumpkins: 1254, and a variety of other vegetables totaling over 16,000 total pounds. We also have 6 bee hives which in a good year produce about 400 pounds of honey and pollinate the vegetable plants. We have chickens which produce eggs and provide a nitrogen rich fertilizer to add to the garden soil and 3 sheep that support the Farm aesthetic and promote a certain public interest.

We create annually several tons of leaf compost. This compost is created from Island leaves brought to the Farm by commercial landscapers. The leaf piles are periodically turned over to accelerate decomposition and in 12 to 18 months the Farm has piles of beautiful black compost. This compost is applied to our fields and also sold to landscapers and residents for their gardens.

The remaining13 acres of hay field produce about 25 tons of hay which is mowed and baled by a neighboring farmer and the hay crop is winter fed to a herd of “grass fed” Belted Galloway beef cattle located on Windmist Farm also in the Center Island Greenway.

Over the years we have certainly gone through a learning curve and we know much more now than when we started. We are weather-dependent and function entirely with volunteer labor. In 2010 we are in our tenth successful year.

The Distribution System

During the last nine years we have grown in excess of 100,000 pounds of fresh produce and distributed this produce at no cost to food pantries and soup kitchens in Providence, Newport, Peacedale, Charlestown and the senior and lower income housing in Jamestown. During the height of harvest season we distribute on average 300 to 400 pounds of vegetables weekly to each of the locations. The donated use of the land, volunteer labor, donated equipment and infrastructure have allowed us to grow, distribute and donate tons of fresh produce to those in need at an average cost to us of 27 cents a pound

The Educational Role

There was a time in our fairly recent history when just about everyone had a relative who farmed. If you are older than 55 you probably remember going to your grandparent’s farm for Thanksgiving or Christmas and maybe even working on the farm during the summer vacation. If you had this opportunity it is most likely a fond memory. It was also a learning experience and as a result of these visits and work opportunities you developed a general sense of what farming was all about.

For the most part these informal learning opportunities no longer exist and have not existed for the last 40 years. One aspect of the Farm that was not anticipated at the outset and has evolved and grown each year are the educational opportunities, both formal and informal, that the Farm provides. In the last two years alone we sponsored or cosponsored; an agricultural based science fair, a farm tour for the Jamestown School 3rd graders, pumpkin day, hay rides, work days for URI freshmen, work days for URI Resident Assistants, pumpkin cooking demonstration, grass fed beef cooking demonstration, preschool treasure hunt, Girl Scout sign making project, St Georges School work day, pumpkins for the Charlestown Head Start Program. Additionally we work with the North Kingstown School System to provide a weekly teaching opportunity for their autistic children program.

The Equipment and Farm Infrastructure

The Jamestown Community Farm Incorporated owns a variety of farm equipment and small farm buildings that have been purchased with grants or donated to the Farm. Our biggest single piece of equipment is a 55 horsepower John Deere 4 wheel drive tractor with a front end loader. This was purchased used, approximately 6 years ago with grant funds from the Champlin Foundation ($25,000). We have also a rather practical array of commercial vegetable farm equipment in good condition that has been donated or purchased by the farm with farm revenue. Although difficult to appraise our equipment in total, including the tractor, probably has a value of approximately $20,000. However, new replacement value of this very same equipment would easily exceed $100,000, so maintenance of equipment is a vital element of the Farm. Our small buildings probably represent a replacement value of $30,000 and also require annual maintenance.

Funding the Farm’s Annual Budget

A major goal of the Farm is to be financially self-sustainable. That is, to have the Farm generate enough revenue annually to meet its costs of seed, plants, fuel, etc. Toward that end the Farm sells; vegetables and honey from a small farm stand; leaf compost to home gardeners and commercial landscapers and holds an annual “fund raiser“event.

Our lease agreement with the private land owner is for one dollar a year. The plowing, planting, weeding and harvesting is with volunteer labor and donated equipment. We have an annual budget of between $2,500 and $4,000, primarily spent on plants, seed and tractor fuel and maintenance and animal feed. Buildings and other infrastructure that support our project have also been donated over the years and are repaired and maintained from this budget. As we begin our tenth year we have a ten year land agreement, a little over $7,000 in the bank, equipment and infrastructure worth in excess of $50,000 and willing volunteers.

The Future

We recently signed a new annual lease with the landowner that allows us the use of the land for the upcoming year. Although it is an annual agreement it acknowledges the intention of the owner and the Jamestown Community Farm Incorporated to enter into this agreement annually through the year 2020.

There are two central interwoven and simultaneous missions of the Farm, critical to its sustainability and its growth through 2020. The mission at the outset to provide fresh produce to those in need is central to our organization. It is particularly critical given the outlook of our economy over the next years. The second mission is to build on and further develop the educational and the sustainable agriculture opportunities that have evolved at the Farm over the past nine years.
Consistent with these two central missions the Jamestown Community Farm Incorporated has established all of the following as goals and will systematically pursue all of these objectives over the next ten years: (listed in no particular order)

  • Improve the growing methodology working particularly toward systems that minimize the persistent weed problems.
  • Provide and strengthen our community service aspect especially with school educational programs.
  • Maintain and improve our equipment and infrastructure. Build the barn in the next year.
  • Work with and strengthen the Farm’s relationships with the local and state agricultural community.
  • Improve our marketing with the intention that the produce sales provide a significant portion of our annual farm operating budget.
  • Concentrate some additional effort on increasing adult volunteerism.
  • Start to develop a plan for the perpetual protection of the 17 acre property in the event the current owner decides to liquidate.