About Moie Crawford & New
Jim and Moie Kimball Crawford own and operate
New Morning Farm, a 95-acre certified organic
vegetable farm in south-central Pennsylvania.
They have two children, Arlo, born in 1978, and
Janie, born in 1982.
The Crawfords have farmed organically for over
30 years. Starting on rented West Virginia land
in 1971, Jim began growing a wide variety of vegetable
crops on small acreage, with practically no capital
and little experience. From the start all produce
was direct-marketed in Washington, D.C. Moie joined
him in 1974.
In l976 Jim and Moie purchased their present
farm, which had been a small, conventional dairy
operation. With ambitious, innovative financing
and much trial and error, they gradually built
their soils organically, accumulated appropriate
equipment, and designed and built various buildings
for their specific purposes.
New Morning Farm now produces approximately 40
different crops, all certified organic. Annual
sales have topped $220,000. Crops include berries
and herbs in addition to most standard garden
vegetables. The farm employs, besides the family,
one or two year-round helpers and approximately
15 seasonal workers and apprentices. The farming
apprenticeship program is well-developed and has
helped a number of aspiring growers to get started
Over the years the Crawfords have built a many-faceted,
successful direct-marketing system. They started
and operated a roadside stand in years past. They
have organized two now-well-established farmers’
markets and helped found a wholesale marketing
cooperative with a group of growers (Tuscarora
Organic Growers www.tog.coop).
New Morning Farm markets various locally-produced
foods year-round in addition to its own produce
(both wholesale and retail).
The farm is equipped with a heated greenhouse,
two high-tunnel cold frames, an extensive irrigation
system, a packing shed with refrigeration and
implements, tractors and trucks. There is also
a house for a flock of 250 laying hens.
Having started “from scratch” and
taking the attitude that “we’ll try
anything once,” the Crawfords have had the
opportunity to test a great many approaches, theories
and techniques in their complex but integrated
operation. They are willing and able to share
their knowledge and experience with others. They
hope to attract others to farming and to their
geographical area, believing that sustainable
agriculture is of benefit to us all.
The Crawfords have been active members from the
planning stages of the Pennsylvania Association
for Sustainable Agriculture (P.A.S.A.) and Jim
was a member of the first Board of Directors.
Both Jim and Moie were honored in 2002 with the
annual Leadership Award from P.A.S.A. They have
presented workshops a number of times at conferences
over the years, and have conducted field days
at their farm, attended by other local growers.
In 2003 the Crawfords were chosen for the first
annual Harvest Farmer Award from the Glynwood
Center, a nonprofit environmental education center
in Cold Spring, New York. The award was given
for “developing a sustainable farming operation
and building effective relationships with their
home community and other communities where food
in consumed.” Jim has also been profiled
in a USDA/SARE book entitled The New American
Farmer: Profiles of Agricultural Innovation (read
a reprint of this profile on New Farm) and
both of them have discussed family farming and
organic agriculture on National Public Radio and
in numerous publications including the Washington
Post and the New York Times.
seem that the temptation of money to be made by marketing in
the city would be emptying the countryside several days of the
week. But I’ve spoken to scores of farmers who
won’t even consider making the trip, despite the lure
of financial reward. Their reasons? There are lots of them,
ranging from the city being dirty and noisy if not downright
dangerous to an aversion to spending any time traveling or fighting
traffic. And some people are reluctant to venture into a place
they don’t know, fearing they will get lost or that city
folks will be hostile. I am here to try and calm some fears.
For the past 30 years, my husband Jim and I have spent most
months doing business in the city of Washington, D.C. And,
in the process of making a living, our world has expanded
financially and culturally. There is little doubt that going
to the city can raise your salary. That is what drove
us to go there. But the increased profits are not all that
kept us there. In pondering the city as a “friend,”
I moved from thinking in financial terms to emotional ones.
The spirit of the city keeps us coming back. We have met people
from all over the world and all over town and have added them
to our lives. We have also gotten to tour great museums and
monuments, and eat in scores of restaurants. And, over time,
our markets themselves have become a part of the city. A part
most city people like.
Country Mouse, City Mouse
I didn’t grow up in a city. I was a small-town New
Hampshire girl and, after leaving home, I moved around a lot,
but never to a city. I lived in sparsely populated New England
villages and in West Virginia’s hills and then I moved
to what seemed to me very rural Pennsylvania. It indeed was,
and still is, very rural Pennsylvania.
But beginning in 1973, after my move to West Virginia, every
week I went to the busiest of metropolises, Washington, D.C.,
and set up in its neighborhoods. And, in time, our markets
became a positive part of the city, which gave me a great
deal of pleasure and a strong sense of satisfaction.
My years of going from country to city have truly taught
me how much our two communities can gain by dealing with each
other face-to-face. By doing business with people in their
neighborhoods, selling them something they want, you really
begin to understand them. And customers like ot talk to you
about what you do.
I can’t count
how many times people have recounted memories to me. “My
grandmother always made rhubarb pie from a big plant she
had for years in the backyard,“ I have heard a thousand
times. More often than not, the memory sparks a happy
The city contains huge numbers of people from all countries
and races who have direct experience with country living and
who think of it with fondness (at least the eating, food,
sustenance part of it). I can’t count how many times
people have recounted memories to me. “My grandmother
always made rhubarb pie from a big plant she had for years
in the backyard,“ I have heard a thousand times. More
often than not, the memory sparks a happy sale.
The former North and South Carolinians buying pounds and
pounds of green beans and the Salvadorans stuffing sacks with
corn to take home and use right away are only some of the
people who appreciate us because they know what the production
of our crops involves. Appreciation is not something received
easily or often in most professions, but the occupation of
farming gives you an edge. There are few people who don’t
consider farming easy work and you gain respect just by attempting
it. I’m not suggesting that you milk the “farmer
image” for all its worth, that you become a caricature
of a rural soul, but simply that you use that good will people
feel toward you to help establish your business. Farmers are
welcomed in every corner of the city.
Entering the city market strikes lots of people as too much
hassle, too frightening or both. Finding a way in is daunting.
But there are lots of ways to go about finding your spot in
the city. If you are within 150 miles of Washington, check
and get information about their five or six different markets
you might consider joining. If you’re not close to D.C.,
choose the closest urban area and then check with the city
government to see if it runs any markets. Check the Chamber
of Commerce or Visitors Bureau to locate private or non-profit
markets, call the food section of the newspaper for a listing
of markets with their months and hours of operation. Another
listing is usually available from the local WIC Program, which
compiles the market list for its clients in the farmers market
buying program (“Get Fresh” in D.C.). States administer
this national program.
can make it very hard to operate a market on public property
and if bucking these rules is out of the question for
you, try going to private schools or churches and ask
if you can join with them in offering a farmer’s
market on their private property.
Or try to make a good spot for yourself. Government regulations
can make it very hard to operate a market on public property
and if bucking these rules is out of the question for you,
try going to private schools or churches and ask if you can
join with them in offering a farmer’s market on their
private property. Try to remember every connection you ever
had with the city in question and use those connections. Maybe
your cousin sang in a special program at one of the city’s
churches in a busy part of town and still corresponds with
the minister, or your sister has an old boyfriend who went
to college with someone who went to a private school which
has a particularly attractive setting for a market. Private
institutions, such as banks, can make their parking lots open
to you on Sundays. Many cities have neighborhood associations
with whom you can discuss possible selling arrangements. And
if you’re interested in the CSA model, consider delivering
to one or several office buildings in a big city. There are
lots of alternatives for urban sales and while I’m not
implying that making these contacts is easy or always smooth,
I am urging you: don't let fear stop you from trying.
Finding (and keeping) your own piece of
Since my mid-20’s the city has been helping me grow
up. Washington is the only big city I have ever known. I started
going there on trips to sell our homegrown produce in the
early l970’s; a turbulent time in D.C. and everywhere
in this country. I have memories of sitting on the back of
the blue Ford pickup on a sweltering hot delivery run to Stone
Soup and Fields of Plenty, two workers cooperatives on 18th
Street. that we sold to regularly. We sold to Bethesda Coop
in Maryland as well, the only one of those three businesses
still in operation today and one that weighed in early on
the superiority of local, organic produce.
We also sold from our own stand at 18th Street and Columbia
Road for 25 years. The diverse and lively Adams-Morgan neighborhood
gave me my first city life experiences. Since we were located
on a very visible and busy corner, troupes of actors would
periodically descend on the area and conduct political happenings.
Political and religious groups passed out literature and buttonholed
passers-by for their names on petitions. To me, it was an
exciting place and time.
We originally sold in a dirt parking lot. When the lot was
sold to a local bank, it was scheduled to change from dirt
to concrete and it was then that I first understood the loyalty
of our city customers.
When the lot was sold
to a local bank, I began to understand the loyalty of
our city customers . . . They forced the bank to carve
out space for us in its plaza and to solidify with a yearly
contract our right to be there.
The bank's original plan had been to permanently remove any
produce vendors from its property, but the community objected
and organized, flooding the bank with phone calls and complaints.
They forced the bank to carve out space for us in its plaza
and to solidify with a yearly contract our right to be there.
A few years after this original concession, the bank again
decided it was time to clear its front yard of vendors and
announced we would no longer be welcome after a certain date.
Behind the scenes negotiations ensued during which a savvy
public relations person at the bank came to realize the action
could cause her institution some real damage. By the time
we arrived at the market on our “last” day, the
bank had done a complete about-face and the plaza was festooned
with banners welcoming us. Bank representatives spent the
day passing our souvenir calendars and mirrors proclaiming
the company’s fondness for the farmers and its pride
in being our sponsor in the city. The bank made sure there
were local newspapers present on the corner to take pictures
of us all together--a happy family. Which was, by that time,
the truth. They were treating us as equals. They were giving
us what mattered to us--a place for our business-- and we
appreciated that. We each learned to appreciate the other.
Loyal customers make more miracles
We have also sold for years in upper Northwest Washington,
first in Cleveland Park, behind the National Cathedral, and
then at the Sheridan School. We ended up at the school with
the help of customers who responded to our problems with overzealous
vending police and found us private land on which to operate.
For years, vending police enforcement was inconsistent and
often unfathomable. The height of crisis was reached one busy
fall Saturday when four of my husband’s workers were
arrested at the market, put in a police wagon and driven downtown.
My husband, Jim, had a vendor’s license, but they
did not. During the arrests, loyal customers taunted the police
for trying to take away their market. After the wagons and
the police left, Jim kept on selling, handling the sales to
a long line of customers by himself.
Four of my husband’s
workers were arrested at the market . . . Jim, had a vendor’s
license, but they did not.
One of the helpers arrested was a polite, pleasant 16-year-old
girl from the National Cathedral School. It was difficult
to imagine in the role of a criminal, but in the week following
the incident, she was visited at home by a social worker.
The social worker wanted to know if she had reformed. “From
what,” her mother responded, “Walking the streets
selling broccoli?” Her mother sarcastically assured
the social worker she would keep an eye on her daughter.
This incident, combined with others and the unpredictability
of our sales situation, made it imperative we find a new spot.
Our friends and customers found one for us at the Sheridan
School, a private elementary school in a residential community.
The school agreed to let us use the grounds and we, in turn,
made three or four presentations a year to different community
groups about farming and marketing. Sheridan got the good
will of the neighborhood’s residents by offering its
property for a community market and we got the obvious benefit
of a safe, beautiful place to sell. This past summer these
same supporters found us another spot in a nearby churchyard
to use for several months while construction work was being
completed at the school.
In 1997, we moved from Adams-Morgan to Dupont Circle for
the opening of the first Fresh Farm market in the Riggs Bank
parking lot off Massachusetts Avenue. The experience at that
location has been community-oriented as well. The market gives
the neighborhood a lively focus every Sunday from 9:00am to
1:00pm and draws people from all over the city who can get
there easily, thanks to the Metro stop immediately outside
the market gates. This market serves 30 farmers, so there’s
lots of city-country interaction. We’ve made friends
with lawyers, artists and farmers, among others, all in one
spot. It’s enriching.
I know many people dread the trucking that urban marketing
inevitably involves, and they mind the traffic and the noise.
After 30 years of making the 2-1/4 hour trip to D.C, I've
learned that while the trip may be irritating in some ways
on some days, the key to continuing with it week after week
is to limit the number of trips you make. Make it a small
part of your workweek, not all that you do. When success comes
with one city market, some farmers are tempted to increase
their number of marketing trips and find themselves on the
road more than off. Don’t burn yourself out or your
won't even feel up to making that once-weekly trip.
Go to the city, and
enjoy it. Financial benefits are undeniable, but they
are not the sole rewards of making the trip. Don’t
Make the travel itself as easy as possible. Have a good truck
(with cab air conditioning a must) so that you don’t
break down, worry constantly or melt; pick days with less
traffic (Sunday is perfect); and go at non-peak times. Prepare
ahead for market to keep stress down. There will always be
some days at market that make you want to quit and after which
you don’t think you can drive home. But for me there
have been more positives than negatives in the arrangement
and I don’t think I’m so unique as to be the only
farmer able to say that.
The reason I wanted to tell the story I’ve chosen today
is to try to convince some of you to open your minds, go to
the city, and enjoy it. Financial benefits are undeniable,
but they are not the sole rewards of making the trip. Don’t
And if you do get caught in traffic, try to remember soon
you'll be back in the country with time for yourself, beautiful
surroundings, a little more money in your pocket and lots
of new things to think about in your head.