The Athens Farmers Market Farmer for a Day Program is an opportunity for people to get hands-on experience working at a local farm for a day. The program was the idea of Ed Perkins, president of the Athens Farmers Market executive committee and owner of Sassafras Farm, 10940 Lightfritz Ridge Road, New Marshfield.
“(Farmer for a Day was) just a way to learn and experience a wide range of farms in this area,” Perkins said.
Adam Blaney removes frost-stricken cabbages from the greenhouse on his farm in Albany, Ohio, on March 2, 2020.
Sassafras Farms grows herbs, vegetables and small fruits year-round. Each day at the farm is different. Farmers for a day would join Perkins in a variety of activities –– from weeding to transplanting to harvesting and market preparation.
The program is going on its third year. It’s been a way for students who are interested in farming to see what it’s like, Perkins said. Though there have been participants, Perkins wishes more people would take advantage of the program.
“We want more people to participate,” Perkins said. “It’s a way for us farmers to connect to the community.”
Perkins added that Farmer for a Day has a wide range of participating farms.
“If somebody is interested in farming, they could get a wide variety of experience,” Perkins said. “(There’s) all sorts of things: orchards, apples, peaches and pruning; chickens and collecting eggs, herb growers, picking herbs. There's a maple syrup farm, too.”
Blaney Family Farm, 29760 State Route 143, Albany, is a vegetable farm that participates in the Farmer for a Day program.
Adam Blaney, of Blaney Family Farm, said his farm wouldn’t really exist without volunteering. He didn’t grow up gardening, but he fell in love with the agricultural lifestyle after a volunteering experience in West Virginia.
Adam Blaney plays with his dog, on his farm in Albany, Ohio, on March 2, 2020.
Blaney Family Farm is a newcomer to the Athens Farmers Market. This past February marked its one-year anniversary. Blaney Family Farm had a successful first year, Blaney said.
Blaney Family Farm is built on the idea of farms being a part of the local economy. The farm is a member of Community Supported Agriculture, a method for purchasing products directly from farmers.
“Our goal is to build community through local agriculture,” Blaney said. “Everything we do, we want to do through (the) local community. To us, a farm is a great place for which a community can be built around.”
Blaney stressed that a “local mindset” is very important for Blaney Family Farm. Blaney said buying produce from him puts shoes on his children’s feet –– rather than outsourced produce from a corporate grocery store.
Blaney Family Farm provides lettuce and greens to local businesses like Kindred Market, 284 E. State St., and the Lake Hope Lodge, 27331 OH-278, McArthur.
Like Sassafras Farm, tasks for each day at Blaney’s farm varies. But one thing’s for sure: participants can expect to be treated like family for a day at Blaney Family Farm.
“If people come out and work, (they’ll) eat breakfast and lunch with us and our family,” Blaney said.
Participation in Farmer for a Day has led to internships and job opportunities, Becky Clark, promotions director for the Athens Farmers Market, said. In fact, most farmers are happy to have visitors.
“Most (farmers) are willing and excited to show people around,” Clark said.
For Clark, Farmer for a Day is a way for people to get outside of Athens and see how people are making a living out of food and farming.
“Farming is cool,” Clark said. “It connects people more with (their) local food system.”
“It’s a way for us farmers to connect to the community.”- Ed Perkins, president of the Athens Farmers Market executive committee and owner and operator of Sassafras Farm
A list of Farmer for a Day hosts can be found online. The list is not entirely up to date, as Blaney Family Farm has not yet been added. Contact the Athens Farmers Market for full information.
The Athens Farmers Market sets up on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 9 a.m. to noon, respectively, at the East State Street Mall, 1000 E. State St. Currently, vendors are set up both inside and outside the mall. The market is year-round.