By Erika Lundahl
Since 2011, Crooked Carrot Community Supported Kitchen has sought to provide healthy, locally sourced meals to the larger Finger Lakes community – and this season brings a big change.
Early morning on Crooked Carrot Farm, out past rows of apple trees and a small creek, plots of onions are just beginning to sprout. “Garlic, hot peppers, cabbage, parsley, herbs – we’re really so excited for the farm’s first season,” says Jenny Caldwell, one of the farm’s founders. Alongside her is Silas Conroy, one of the founders of the Crooked Carrot Kitchen in 2011.
The farm, located on two acres of land between the Cayuga Lake Watershed and the Chesapeake Watershed, began as Hemlock Grove Farm by Jenny’s parents. Jenny, who has been farming on various Upstate New York farms since she was in high school, is giving the farm a second life.
Now it serves to support the Crooked Carrot Community Supported Kitchen in their CSK (similar to a CSA) “shares.” Each share contains a variety of pre-prepared dips, broths, beans, and vegetable dishes with ingredients sourced from the Crooked Carrot Farm as well as several other local farms.
Groundswell has played a crucial role supporting the development of the two businesses – the kitchen and the farm. Silas, an Ithaca transplant from Central Pennsylvania, took the Groundswell farm business planning class for the kitchen in 2012, and Jenny took the same class in 2013 for the farm. They have been working together to refine the interdependent relationship between the two businesses.
“The Groundswell class really helped us develop our budgetary goals and create a comparison enterprise budget to see the costs vs. income viability of each of our ventures individually,” says Silas. He has been working with the kitchen for three years and sees the farm as a way to further their personal values of sustainable agriculture and sustainable living.
“In farming you get to see so clearly how interconnected ecological systems are, and how your decisions effect your immediate environment. This lifestyle is sort of a bridge between personal and environmental health,” says Silas. Together he and Jenny presented their unique business plan and budget at the Northeast Organic Farming (NOFA) conference. Is was essential, Jenny explained, to put the goals and values of the organization first and foremost when considering every monetary decision the farm makes. “You have to ask yourself how you want your life to be, and then try to reflect that in what you do, and how you farm.”
In these early stages of the formation of the farm, Crooked Carrot is constantly making major decisions about the direction of the farm, a process that Groundswell has assisted with from the beginning. “Taking the business planning class definitely helped us see what kind of growth was realistic, and how we can best focus our energies,” said Jenny.
So, other than the Facebook advertised blackened garlic and pinto bean salad rumored to be in the fourth CSK share of the season, what else is on the menu for Crooked Carrot in the future? Growth, hopefully. The two acres of land won’t support the budding farm for long. “This is a tiny operation right now in comparison to most farms. It’s great because the kitchen provides an immediate venue for everything the farm produces- but we hope to expand within the next couple years,” says Silas.
It’s clear that Crooked Carrot has exciting times ahead of them in the years to come, as they continue to make a name for themselves in the Ithaca local food and farming community.
Find out what’s cooking at the Crooked Carrot on Facebook or at www.crookedcarrotcsk.com
_Erika Lundahl is a volunteer writer for Groundswell. An Ithaca transplant, she graduated in 2012 from Ithaca College with a Writing degree. While in school she worked with our local bookstore cooperative, Buffalo Street Books and has been working at The Piggery for the last year. We’re grateful for her help in bringing you stories about our amazing Groundswell trainees. Thank you Erika!_