Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CT NOFA Accepts 3 New Journeypersons! Spotlight on Ben Harris

CT NOFA is proud to announce the next round of Journeyperson farmers to take part in the 2 year program funded by a grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture through the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The Journeyperson program strives to support farmers in the education gap between apprentice and independent farmer and to provide resources and opportunities for prospective new farmers who have completed an apprenticeship to further develop skills they need to farm independently.  

This year we have accepted 3 beginning farmers into the program: Ben Harris of Root Down Farm CSA in Coventry, Josiah Venter of Ro-Jo Farms in Bethany and Roger &  Issabelle Phillips of Sub Edge Farm in Farmington. 


Ben Harris. photo by Weston Monroe/Cara Paiuk
Today's blog spotlight will focus on beginning farmer Ben Harris.



Ben has earned degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics, was a political speechwriter and worked for the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations*. Ben's interest in local and organic agriculture began while on assignment in 2008 where he covered government raids on a large kosher meat packing company in Postville, Iowa and in 2010 he left he job in journalism to work on a small family owned farm in Vermont. 
Since then he has farmed in northern California and western Connecticut and earned a certificate in ecological horticulture from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"I believe growing food sustainably is among the greatest imperatives of our time and I find the work incredibly meaningful. But mostly, I love the lifestyle, the long days, the country living, and being more in tune with natural cycles."

Ben launched his farm, Root Down Farm CSA, just this year with a field of roughly two acres and a heated 3,000 square foot greenhouse to grow a variety of mixed vegetables for 30-40 CSA shares in the greater Hartford area with the hopes of eventually growing the CSA program to provide 300-350 shares in the future. For Root Down Farm CSA's 1st season Ben will be offering shares on a sliding scale from $450 to $750 for the season, to make the food more affordable to people on a lower income.

"Most CSAs sell for about $600, give or take, which is what I've set my target price at," Harris said. "But if that's hard for people — and I know that it is — I'll accept as little as $450."*

Those who can afford to pay more than $600 are asked to do so in order to help subsidize the less expensive shares.Harris said he's offering the lower prices;
"mainly because I think organic food should not be an elitist product, it shouldn't be something that only people who can afford to shop at Whole Foods can have access to. I think that being able to purchase healthy food that's grown in a manner that respects the earth and the people that work on it, that shouldn't be a luxury."*

For more information on Ben's farm visit rootdowncsa.com

Check back to our blog over the next week for features on the other two Journeypersons Josiah Venter and Roger &  Issabelle Phillips 


*From Courant article entitles "Hall Graduate Leaves Journalism, Becomes Farmer"

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