So the email came out today from Farmer Jawn about all those acres she’s renting where Chester County’s beloved now retired Farmer Pete and Pete’s Produce used to be. I will allow the new farmer her words (this email came out today):
A Heartfelt Update from our CEO, Christa Barfield
I am thrilled to share some wonderful news with you. FarmerJawn is ecstatic to announce the grand opening of the FarmerJawn Produce Market on Friday, August 18th, running through the Thanksgiving season. Get ready for a bounty of fresh, locally-grown tomatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, an array of greens, local products, and so much more.
I understand that some of you may have wondered why it took a little longer for us to open our doors. Allow me to shed some light on the process: It was essential for me to honor this Lenape land and prioritize the health of people and the planet. To achieve this, I made the conscious decision to let the foliage on our farm go through their natural life cycle, enriching the soil in the process.
Now that we have mowed it down, we are well on our way to converting our farm operation from conventional to fully organic, just as I promised.
The journey hasn’t been without its challenges. We’ve bobbed and weaved through irrigation woes, faced oppressive commentary, endured unkind visits, braved torrential downpours, and even navigated through the haze of Canadian wildfire smoke. Despite it all, I am immensely proud of what my team and our volunteer community have accomplished, and I stand firmly by my decisions thus far. I am filled with gratitude for all the farmers and environmentalists who understand the mission at hand and have stood by me as we see it through.
For those who don’t know me, I started my professional career as a healthcare professional before transitioning into farming. My dedication to “Food is Medicine” is rooted in my commitment to the wellness of our community, the Philadelphia metro area, extending to the great state of Pennsylvania and the surrounding states, but my impact is most certainly felt internationally.
I cannot express how excited I am to welcome each and every one of you to FarmerJawn at Westtown School. I named my organization FarmerJawn as a love note to my city, which also symbolizes that we all should know where our food comes from. It is truly an honor for me, my team, and our farm & food artisan partners to nourish you now and through to the 2023 holiday season and beyond. We are eager to serve you with the freshest and healthiest produce, grown with love and care.
In the coming weeks, we will continue regular communication and provide more details about our market’s hours of operation, our style of farming as it is clearly different and not understood and a warm introduction to our dedicated team members. We are committed to creating a welcoming environment, where you will find not just prized produce, but also a sense of community.
Additionally, if you happen to know anyone interested in part-time cashier/stock employment, we have openings available. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.
Thank you all for your continued support and patience. Your belief in our mission is what drives us to do better and be better every day. We can’t wait to see you at the FarmerJawn Produce Market in the coming weeks, where health, sustainability, and community come together. Westtown is one location within the FarmerJawn ecosystem and we are driving systemic change for our region that will be felt nationwide.
With heartfelt gratitude, Christa Barfield aka FarmerJawn
P.S. For those of you, who know and love the Westtown farm and patronized the market over the previous years, please take into account that it began as a small farm stand and developed and experienced growth over two decades. Also understand that Less than 2% of U.S. farmland is stewarded by Black people and just over 0% is stewarded by a Black woman and the ‘why’ is rooted in the colonization of opportunity. Please think about all these facts as you form opinions about who FarmerJawn is…FarmerJawn is a Movement!
Ok. Deep breath. As a former customer of Pete’s Produce and a resident of Chester County who used to drive to Westtown to go to Pete’s BEFORE I lived in Chester County, I am actually trying to NOT be offended by this woman’s message.
For starters does she think none of us have seen farm fields go fallow to rest the land and rejuvenate? I certainly have and I know (for example) that Pete did not abuse the land and milk it without nourishment like the now former farmer at Immaculata did. When Immaculata switched tenant farmers, those farm fields literally breathed a sigh of relief. The new farmer tilled and added bone meal and manure and more. No more Round Up and his first season he planted a cover crop of soy that he just let grow to enrich the soil. I watched that guy care for the fields. And not one field was left to look like a hot weed filled mess. He respected the land and the neighbors and the school he is leasing the fields from. And today the fields have never looked better.
I also have known and do know other farmers who also will rotate their fields so sometimes some fields sit. When a field lies fallow, it doesn’t look like much is happening. But it is. It is resting and the land is rejuvenating. But when fields are laying fallow, other parts of a property can actually be maintained a bit. You know like the entrance to the old market etc.? Pete didn’t plant crops to the edge of the road.
And yes, I do know it takes a couple of years to be able to get land being farmed back to straight organic. And the process to get an organic certification is detailed and somewhat arduous to get established.
However, right or wrong, I feel like you are either WITH this farmer or AGAINST this farmer, and up until this point I was NEITHER, but like many many many other people I was wondering what the hell was going on.
Why? Simple, when I drove by July 17th and this was the view:
Sorry not sorry, it looked like shit. That was a beautiful property and when it wasn’t in season, umm the basics were done….like the mowing.
When I posted about this on my blog’s Facebook page oh the oh so uglies came out to the point that I had to remove most comments because people were not being civil to each other or to me for expressing MY opinion that the property looks like crap.
I said after I was forced to remove comments:
Please note that I have removed the majority of the comments. Not because all of them were objectionable or because I didn’t agree but because I’m sick and tired.
I am sick and tired of being judged because I expressed my opinion.
I’m sick and tired of people saying it entirely stupid things like, why don’t I personally ask the farmer what’s going on or why don’t I show the farmer some grace.And then there were the dancing thinly veiled comments that I found utterly reprehensible that basically to say what once was beautiful land looks like crap right now is borderline racist. That is not what I’m saying at all that is not what anyone else is saying AT ALL.
And I’m also sick and tired of people, saying I am raising hysteria by what I wrote. What I said is the property looks sad. What I said is it looks really sad to drive by and not even see a farm stand. I went on further to say that I think the property kind of looks like crap because they’re not even cutting the weeds.
I am fully cognizant of how hard farming is, and I also know how hard organic farming is, but I am wondering, as are many other people if the new farmer has bitten off more than she can chew. And I don’t wish that on her because it would be great if she could succeed, but while she is hyper focused on her other properties in her other areas, she seems less concerned about all of us out here and she’s our new neighbor. Maybe smart marketing should include putting the minds of the new community she is joining at ease?
That is not a hysterical opinion or bad.
Some of you need to get over yourselves.
Above you see a photo I took I think sometime in October of 2017. It shows the beauty of this place. Even when not organically farmed. It was beautiful because Pete took care of the land and so did his crews. He loved it, you could feel that. When you reward the land it rewards you back.
So this email sent to people today. Personally I felt alienated, like it was an email shaming for those of us who expressed concern as to the tumble down state of the place. And the paragraph with too much usage of the word professional in the same paragraph was just annoying. She isn’t the only professional woman on the planet, is she?
Someone said to me recently:
I think Farmer Jawn is a great content creator and branding extraordinaire but a terrible farmer. Because it’s a lot of work. 100% organically dope is her tagline…which really means 100% not profitable. There is a reason the average age of US farmers is almost 60 years old….
I agree with that sentiment sadly. Her not really taking the time out here until a random act of email now and some long overdue mowing leaves a bad taste. Whose community is she referring to in her email? All of us equally? I hope so.
I will also point out that we had a sense of community until Westtown School decided to go a different direction. We all knew Pete was approaching retirement age but people still wonder what role Westtown School had to play in last year being his last season don’t they? Pete also employed a steady roster of dedicated employees and farm workers I was told, so when he retired and Farmer Jawn came on the scene, they were part of out with the old, weren’t they? Farmer Jawn is looking for workers, did she reach out to any of Pete’s former employees, I wonder? Or will she?
So Farmer Jawn has a national mission? Will she actually have time for us little folk in Chester County? That remains to be seen. I mean she already in her own email thinks us rubes who can’t possibly grasp the concept of organic farmer or other styles of farming. Lady, I know other organic farmers and with respect kindly don’t patronize the people you need to cultivate.
That email was patronizing. We all know that Pete’s started small. I also am going to say personally, that I respect farmers in general. They race, nationality, gender, etc. does not make me respect any farmer any less. Although I do have a soft spot for female run farms. Which is why initially I was excited a female farmer was coming to Westtown. For me it’s pretty simple: it’s not the hype of social media marketing, it’s what they actually do with the land.
I am going to point out some Chester County history now. Brackbill Farm Markets. Started by an East Whiteland farmer once upon a time in a land far, far away. Mr. Leasa as far as I can see is the reason there ended up being what evolved into what we know today as the Ardmore Farmers Market.
So truly, I do not intend to be unkind here. But I will reserve further judgement until I see an actual anything happening off of social media. I don’t disagree with what she is trying to do at all. So I hope people have the comprehension abilities to understand that. But this is our part of the world and every day we see farms disappear. We don’t want this farmland to disappear. Honestly, the other issue is I am not trusting of Westtown School so that is part of my overall reservations. I know people who live around the school who have been fighting turf fields and nasty lights, which in order to be paid for are always constantly rented out. They also aren’t exactly organic.
Westtown is a lovely school, I had many friends who went there and then sent kids there, but do they really want this new farmer to succeed? Or do they ultimately want the land for something else or to sell it off some day? THAT is what people WORRY about. They want a successful farming operation and farming to stay.
Yes this new farmer has taken to social media and podcasts and what not, but seriously? She needs to make some time for the people out here she wants to support her and whom she needs to support her.
I understand Rome wasn’t built in a day and no farm was ever built in a day, but please be real with us, right? And I miss sunflowers in the farmhouse front field.
For us to support her movement, we might actually need to see some movement, eh? That means, not left feeling chided and talked down to or patronized in an email sent out to an email list. I am not a social media influencer, don’t have any desire to be, just want to know when the farm is going to stop looking haunted and start looking like a farm where I can patronize a local business and buy my produce etc. once again.
I don’t need partnerships with wineries and cider makers and posts from State Rep. Madeleine Dean, who is probably gearing up for her next re-election campaign or something.
I don’t need chef collaborations, I am a rather good cook on my own. I want to see life again in this part of Westtown. I want to feel as a potential customer that I will be welcomed. Will we all be welcomed equally? I hope so because I honestly want to support this business because I like it and I want to.
I am sure there will be many who think I have some nerve stating my opinion. Take a ticket and stand in line, that’s like every day with whatever I write. This is how I feel about all of this and I look forward to hopefully all of my doubts and questions being put to rest.
I will close with my post saying good bye to Pete’s last fall: