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Saturday, May 25, 2024
Troy Farm April 5 2024 3

A worker at Troy Farm plants bell peppers on April 5, 2024. 

'Just give it a try’: Troy Farm tackles food insecurity, empowers young farmers

Troy Farm, Madison’s oldest urban farm, illustrates how organic agriculture is still cutting-edge even in cities.

Troy Farm is not the typical acreage of land with a farmhouse or endless rows of crops. Instead, Madison’s oldest urban farm is geared toward youth engagement and food insecurity in the city. 

A 26-acre property owned by Madison Area Community Land Trust, Troy Farm is an organic vegetable program that’s been operated by the larger Rooted nonprofit since 2001. The nonprofit raises money to promote agricultural education and deliver weekly to community centers on Madison’s north side from June to October to reduce food shortages, Troy Farm director Paul Huber told The Daily Cardinal. 

“With the help of the community center directors, the produce is laid out farmers market style so people can select what they want and in the quantities they want,” Huber said in an email.

Rooted also hosts events at Troy Farm, including a plant sale on May 11 where people can purchase vegetable, fruit and flower pants using their Electronic Benefits Transfer or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds.  

Additionally, people can take advantage of their double dollars program, which provides a bonus of $20 each week when participants buy produce or plants. At other events, Rooted offers food vouchers to community center residents and pay-what-you-can meals.

Troy Farm also educates the younger generation of growers through their Kids’ Garden programs, which serves Madison Metropolitan School District students, according to Brontë Adamson, Troy Farm kids’ garden manager. Schools, individual teachers, summer camps and community centers can schedule one-time field trips or recurring weekly visits during the April to October growing season.  

“It's really fun. [Kids] get to take home a lot of produce, and they get to eat a lot of good veggies,” Adamson said. “The raspberries are always a hit. They take home collard greens or flowers or herbs for their family. A lot of kids like to bring home mint.” 

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Garlic grows at Troy Farm on April 5, 2024. 

Huber also said Troy Farm is certified organic. The farm reduces the use of toxic pesticides and tilling, a farming method which breaks up soil by turning it over. Instead, the program encourages crop rotation, a method in which farmers plant crops to protect the soil and replenish nutrients for future plantings. 

The farm also composts and applies manure from their chickens, Marshmallow and Olive, as fertilizer, Huber said. Their compost system involves collecting from restaurants around Madison and putting the leftovers with a mix of wood chips in buckets. 

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Chickens at Troy Farm are photographed on April 5, 2024. 

In January, the farm ended its community supported agriculture program (CSA) because it became financially and logistically unsustainable, according to the Cap Times.

“We definitely had a difficult decision that we thought long and hard about,” Huber told the Cardinal. 

Huber told the Cap Times that CSA served about 400 people and accounted for 80-90% of the farm's work. He said seasonal hires that supported the program would be scaled back, opening up half an acre of land for other uses. 

Huber told the Cardinal that Troy Farms plans to develop their community engagement process and connect with Northside residents to ensure their services are “on point.” 

“It’s very rare to have this kind of space in the middle of the city,” he said. “[We] want to make sure we're doing it right. That could mean that we bring the CSA back. But we couldn't really get that kind of feedback and do that full deep dive while running the CSA at the same time.”

In the meantime, Huber praised the farming industry and said it empowers young people to get immersed with it. 

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “There's a lot of different things to be involved in or not, but just being informed about [the] kind of different challenges we all face from climate change to that kind of decline and participation in agriculture, farming needs support from different angles and policy and all that stuff.”

“I want to say, just give it a try. It's great, it's fun and it's a great community of people.” 

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Ava Menkes

Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.

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