Working & Playing Hard at WCF
by Brien Darby, Executive Director
In February we were fortunate to welcome Josh Volk, author and farmer, to Kansas City. Josh was in town for events hosted by the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and was kind enough to share some expertise with the metro-area audience. I became familiar with Josh’s work when his first book, Compact Farms, was published. I relied heavily on his detailed descriptions and diagrams of small farm operations across the country to inspire students in the beginning farmer course I was teaching at the time. Cultivate KC’s commitment to providing new information and resources to our faming audience through the Metro Farms and Food Systems program made this opportunity a natural fit for our organization.
Josh arrived in Kansas City on a sunny afternoon that would soon turn bitterly cold. We took advantage of the weather and visited Ophelia’s Blue Vine, Urbavore, and our own Juniper Gardens Training Farm. At each farm, it was fascinating to see Josh assessing not only what he saw on display (tools, field preparation, use of space), but also parsing each farmer’s description of their systems and field conditions. By interjecting with suggestions or solutions witnessed at other farms around the country, Josh was pushing back on the assumptions that one starts to develop over time about one’s farm or even what the identity of farming means in your region.
Next, Josh presented a workshop on topics from his second book, Build Your Own Farm Tools, including farm worker ergonomics, affordable tool design, and a lesson in the physics of working smarter, not harder. Attendees heard Josh’s account of the design considerations and real-life obstacles that led to the final tool schematics in his book. They asked questions specific to their own farm operations and tool needs, and Josh’s answers did not disappoint.
Lastly, Josh joined us for a meet and greet hosted by our friends at Crane Brewing in Raytown, MO. Farmers, staff, board members, and Cultivate supporters gathered to share a delicious bite to eat from Buck Tui BBQ and hear Josh’s perspectives on a range of topics from the importance (and difficulty) of enterprise budgeting to land access for urban agriculture to his ideas on the most important aspects of farm record keeping.
We’re grateful to Josh for sharing his time and expertise, to our friends at West Central MO Community Action Agency for extending the initial invitation, to Hotel Kansas City for putting him up, to our sponsor, North Central Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (NC-SARE) and for the generous contributions from all our supporters.
We couldn’t do the work we do without you!