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Photo from Brookfield Farm

Essential to Life! Q&A with Brookfield Farm’s Kerry Taylor 

Brookfield Farm, a non-profit in Amherst, has stepped up this year with bi-weekly donations of produce as well as gleaning opportunities. Since July 1, Brookfield Farm has donated a total of 3,782.5 pounds of fresh produce that Rachel’s Table has delivered to partner agencies. Director of Intercultural Learning & Land-Based Programs Cara Michelle Silverberg talked with Brookfield Farm’s manager, Kerry Taylor, to learn more about the farm’s approach to agriculture and how we can best support local farmers. 

C: How did you first get into farming?  

K: I stumbled upon it by chance. In my senior year of college, I was road tripping up to Canada with some friends and we picked up a stranger in Grand Isle, Vermont. His parents had a vegetable farm. When I arrived, I instantly felt like I had to be there. When I graduated, I went to work on that farm, and it really clicked for me. I went to Mount Holyoke, so I was supposed to get a “real job.” I worked in D.C. for the city watershed protection division, and decided cubicles weren’t for me. So, I joined the Peace Corps and lived in Togo, a small country in West Africa. It was a small village of farmers. I worked in the natural resource program, which included working with local farmers. I had a little farm myself. I was there for 3.5 years. It was life changing. After the Peace Corps, I went back to farming. After five years, I met my husband farming. He was at Riverland in Sunderland. We got married at Brookfield and started a business in Connecticut. After nine years there, the owners of Brookfield Farm were retiring. So, we took over management and this is our third season at Brookfield Farm. 

C: Why do you continue to farm?  

K: Farming just makes sense to me. You can’t argue a lot about the value of growing vegetables or food. It’s just essential to life. Back in college I was having a full-blown existential crisis. But then I came onto the farm, and everything made sense.  

I love the way we farm with the CSA because there are so many different jobs and elements of the work. You can really emphasize your strengths. Some people would hate doing a CSA because it’s so public facing, but I think it allows for so much creativity. There are opportunities to try new things. Every day is different. I love teaching people about vegetables, cooking, and sharing recipes. I can’t imagine if I wasn’t a farmer how I would eat because I’m just so accustomed to eating what we grow and what’s in season. It’s just so amazingly diverse the work we do. And I get to be outside, no cubicles! 

C: Describe your farming practices and the values that underlie those practices.  

K: Brookfield was founded back in 1986, a very early adopter of the CSA movement. I really feel close to that kind of system – marketing your products and growing biodynamically. We’ve never gotten certified organic, but we’ve always farmed following organic methods – preserving soils, cover cropping, using all different methods for pests and weed control. We do a lot of crop rotations, monitoring for pests, a lot of exclusion type pest control, stuff like that. That’s my foundational practice. I’ve always farmed that way. 

I think right now, the most important thing for farms is being as nimble as possible. We’re in a whole new world with climate change and also markets. Everything feels very volatile right now. So, my goals right now are keeping the farm as resilient as possible, doing things to address climate change, really making sure systems have fail-safes and backups. And also keeping us economically viable and nimble. That means making enough money to pay people well. Inflation is increasing. People need money and people deserve to be paid well because this is essential, important work. Organic techniques are just one leg of the stool. We’ve got to make sure the other legs are strong.  

C: How have recent weather events impacted BF?  

K: Compared to people in river areas, we’ve done okay. We’ve lost a couple of big crops. Leaf wetness really contributes to disease production so we’re being really cautious about and taking care of disease. It’s a pretty big loss but not as bad as some people think. On the other hand, I haven’t had to irrigate, which is very time consuming. And we’ve had some great crops! We had probably our best pepper crop ever. Our onions are looking fantastic. The corn has actually done pretty well. It looks like we have some great Fall roots. Leeks and potatoes look strong. 

C: Can you talk more about how climate change is impacting the way you farm? 

K: This year we’ve seen the destructive power of water. My three years here so far, we had way too much water the first year, a drought the second year, and now we’re back to a cooler wet summer my third year. It’s volatile. That means we have to think about improving drainage issues and of course irrigation. You need to have irrigation available for those dry years or you’re going to have crop losses. Other things: You need to have sufficient cooling for produce in a storage space so that you can get it out of the fields quickly when the weather conditions are right and store it properly. We have a root cellar that was built using passive cooling, but now we can’t get it cold enough because it never really gets cold in the Fall. I’m making sure we can cool that space so we can get our crops harvested, and in as fast as we can, because of the volatility of the weather. And then field drainage. We have some pretty wet fields. Can we do something to improve their drainage? I haven’t had a chance to look at that much yet. Another thing that’s interesting is thinking about how diseases are changing – different diseases, sometimes coming in earlier. So we have to make sure we’re growing varieties that are more resistant. Also, a lot of people are transitioning to growing more in tunnels. We have a couple tunnels that we grow in, but I’ve not stressed that as much. A lot of people are doing work on large scale no-till techniques. I’d love to see what people come up with for that so we can start doing some of that too. 

C: What do you wish people knew about small scale agriculture?  

K: Farming is not unskilled labor. It requires a certain work ethic, to want to move quickly and work long and hard. It requires certain skills that aren’t immediately apparent, like being able to prioritize, move quickly, sort things with your eyes quickly, attention to details – skills that many people don’t have, or haven’t practiced and developed. 

Also, farming in MA and New England is challenging because land is expensive and extremely limited, and we have fewer resources here. When someone looks at our pricing, they have to understand that we get government grants, but we’re not subsidized. It takes a lot of work and money to produce food in a way that preserves land and pays people well. 

C: How can people support local farmers?  

K: On a general American societal level, farmers face the same issues as every small business owner. We need childcare. We need elder care. We don’t have anyone giving us a 401K so we need ways to invest for our future. More specifically to agriculture, buying directly from farmers is the number one thing. Also, in New England and probably nationally now, agricultural land is extremely difficult to come by, so supporting organizations and programs that conserve land for agricultural purposes is important. Different states have different structures for farmland preservation, like the APR program in MA. Towns have special tax brackets for land being used for agriculture. Oh! And if you’re driving behind a tractor on the road, give them lots of space! We have to drive on the road and it is really dangerous. 

C: Where can people buy BF produce?  

K: We distribute produce through our CSA only, which you can learn about on our website. We have CSA shares on the farm in Amherst and we also offer shares through 5 pick-up locations to the Boston area. We have summer shares and our winter shares will go on sale at the end of September. We donate produce through Rachel’s Table and to the Amherst Survival Center as well. We also have an on-farm seedling sale in mid-May so people can grow their own food. 

C: Is there anything else you’d like to say or share? 

K: Besides vegetables, we have livestock – cattle and pigs. We also have an apprenticeship program. I’m trying to increase our reach in the community to those who can’t access our produce through CSA, because that model only works for a small percentage of people. I think it’s important that everyone has access to healthy food. I spearheaded our donor driven donation program to increase our reach and get our produce to people who need it. It’s been great working with Rachel’s Table because it increases our reach to so many different communities. It’s been amazing.  

If you’d like to contact Kerry, you can reach out to her directly at 860-222-5582. Learn more or purchase a Winter CSA share at

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