Moie Crawford & New Morning Farm
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
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
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.
||It might 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
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 sale.
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
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 with freshfarmmarkets.org
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.
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.
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
Finding (and keeping) your own piece of concrete
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
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
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
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 be afraid.
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 be afraid.
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.