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Urban farmers growing rural watermelons at Hazzard Free Farm

By Tedd Snowden, Market Manager

Community Partners

Angelic Organics Learning Center, Hazzard Free Farm, organic watermelonOn May 13th, a crew made up of residents from Blackhawk Courts, Eco Advocate participants, and the Rockford urban Learning Center staff headed out to Andy Hazzard’s farm to plant watermelon seeds for a future harvest. Andy is owner of Hazzard Free Farm located in Pecatonica, IL. In April, she participated in our Business Summit as a guest speaker and was eager to support the youth’s entrepreneurial efforts. As a result of her enthusiasm, we entered into an aggregation agreement whereby Andy offered some land at her farm for us to grow watermelons.

Getting Acquainted with Hazzard Free Farm

On our first day, we were all eager to arrive at Andy’s farm because none of us knew what to anticipate. Upon arrival we were greeted by Andy’s farm dog that ran along the side of the car to make sure we knew where we were going and to announce our arrival. Andy and her team joined us shortly and, after receiving instructions on how to use the manual seeder, we were off and running. The team made quick duty in getting the seeds planted and was finished in no time at all.

After planting the seeds, Andy gave us a tour of her farm, during which we had the opportunity to see the many different types of vegetables growing in the hoop house as well as the more than 100 recently acquired chickens. We also encountered the guniea fowl that freely roam the property.

Tending the Melon Patch

Angelic Organics Learning Center, Hazzard Free Farm, organic watermelonOn June 14th, the Youth Leaders and an Eco Advocate student returned to the farm and we were amazed by how much the melons had grown since our last visit. During this trip, we removed weeds (with dreams of melons dancing in our heads) from around our watermelon seedlings and re-seeded in those areas that had not grown in. Controlling the weeds around the watermelons gave them the space they needed to sprawl across the ground with no competition. Andy said that from this point forward, the melons would start to grow rapidly.

Bringing the Melons to Market

Our final visit to the farm will come sometime in August or September when we receive the call from Andy letting us know that it is time to harvest!

Through this aggregation arrangement, Andy has donated the space to grow the watermelons while we provided the labor to maintain and harvest the fruit. In return, we will receive 75% of what we harvest and she will take the balance. The residents of Blackhawk Courts will sell the watermelons at their farm stand and the Youth Leaders will include them in the CSA shares. We would like to thank Andy for partnering with us in this effort and we look forward to future collaborations.