CSA Series: Sunseed Farm

From the Sunseed Farm website

Owners: Tomm and Trilby Becker
Phone: 517-980-0893
Farm Location: at the end of Boyden Drive, near the corner of Joy and Maple Roads, just northwest of Ann Arbor.  
Email: farm.sunseed@gmail.com
Season:  Three 16 week sessions offered throughout the year.  Spring share starts January-April (16 weeks). The Summer share May to mid-August (16 weeks).  Fall share end of August-December (16 weeks).  A total of 48 weeks of CSA distribution through the year.
Pick-up: Thursdays, at the farm.
Cost:  Spring share (16 weeks) $320; Summer share (16 weeks) $560; Fall share (16 weeks) $560. Share is designed for 2 adults, 2 children. 
Cost per week: Spring share: $20/week, Summer and Fall share: $35/week
Growing practice: Ecologically and naturally grown, without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, building the health of the soil.
Website: http://www.farmsunseed.com/

Tomm and Trilby Becker are the newest couple behind the newest CSA I’ve learned about so far.  They got married last fall, and with financial (and volunteer labor) support from FridayMornings@SELMA put up their first hoophouse. They only recently returned from a romantic European honeymoon.  Last week they released their first membership application for the Summer season. Their new CSA will be among the first to extend to 48 weeks of total production in 16 week shares for the summer, fall and spring seasons.

Tomm Becker notes that with his experience managing the year-round Student Organic Farm at MSU, producing food in the colder months will be a specialty of theirs. He says “we grow year round in passive solar hoophouses, and protect some crops in the fields with agribon and straw mulch.  It makes a lot of sense for us financially to extend our season, and we believe it’s important to maintain our community's food supply through the winter. We want to grow everything that we can at this point in this climate.”

Their new website lists the dozens of vegetables they’ll be growing - from arugula to zucchini, with celeriac, edamame, melons, sweet corn, and tomatoes in between.  It’s a long list! Becker says their shares are designed for four people - 2 adults and 2 children. 

Both Beckers have backgrounds that led only circuitously to farming, with Tomm’s in English Literature, and Trilby’s as an environmental activist.  Tomm Becker’s experience of working on the MSU Student Organic Farm in the process of getting a degree in English opened up the possibility of growing food for a living.  He says: “It’s a wonderful thing to do. The process of it is very humbling and yet very empowering to me, just giving water and surrendering myself to the weather and the faith of seeding and being able to steward so many living things. That’s one side I really love, another side is providing for my community and feeding people and connecting with people through food.”

He continues “I worked at MSU for about 5 years. And in that time there had been children born, and now they are little people, talking, and walking around. It’s just cool to think about how the food I guided into being helped form their bodies. It’s an honor to grow food. I love it. It feels good to be outside and working. I like the motions of farming aside from those more cerebral concepts, I like the work itself.” 

Becker says he’s in the process now of seeding the hoophouse with lettuce, kale, chard and some root vegetables for their first crops. And outside of that passive solar structure says “I’m putting in a cover crop, winter rye, and clover, to build the soil and lock in nutrients over the coming years.”

They are able to make this start thanks to the friends who own the land. The land will eventually have a conservation easement through the Ann Arbor Greenbelt to preserve it as farmland, and that will also allow the Beckers to purchase it.  

The Beckers have big plans to eventually implement a permaculture system that will incorporate animals, and ever-bearing fruit trees and berry bushes. Becker says he thinks that someday they’d like to have more land under production, and will see their starter farm turned into a farm incubator that could help other young farmers make their own beginning in farming.  

That’s especially heartening considering the depressing news from the 2007 Ag Census that says that the median age of farmers increased between 2002 to 2007 from 55.3 to 57.1, and that the number of farmers under age 25 fell by 30%, while the number of farmers over age 75 grew by 20%.  With fewer than 2% of Americans growing our food, we need more ways of getting new farmers!  So this CSA is important for many reasons. 

Moving into a new year of relationships that will connect them to each other, their land, and their community Becker says that for the next big thing on their event horizon “We'll probably hold a hoophouse raising celebration with a workday and bonfire party.  And if we wanted to make it really fun, we'd invite some of our musician friends to lively things up.”

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