Common ground – The farmer and the musician
From HOMEGROWN.org contributor Duncan Wilder Johnson
He was sick of it. You would be too. Frustrated by people who never pulled their weight, press and radio types who absolutely loved your band but never followed through with any air time or ink, and scenesters who were too concerned with their haircuts and t-shirts. Most of all, there was little to no money in music. Let’s face it, unless you were Keith Richards, being in a band sucked.
So, Steve Parker quit his metal band, Strange Flesh, in the early nineties. All told, they released a vinyl 7” and a couple of cassettes, toured the United States three times, and played almost every weekend around New England. Steve even booked hardcore and metal shows for other bands at The Rocket (now Club Hell) in Providence, RI.
Steve’s heart just wasn’t in music anymore. Fifteen years since leaving the band, he says he doesn’t miss it at all. I must say though, after listening to Strange Flesh, they were pretty damn good.
Steve didn’t want to work for someone else. The mere thought of entering a cubicle everyday completely disgusted him. Self-employment was the only solution, but doing what?
How about farming.
Many a rocker might consider farming to be, well… dirty and not glamorous. Yet, how much more DIY could one be? Farming applied the business model and lifestyle that classic Hardcore Punk bands like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys lived in the 80s. These bands didn’t rely on the establishment to dictate their operation. They released their own records, booked their own tours, and did their own publicity.
So why not grow your own food? Why not grow food and sell it to a community, much like Dischord Records has documented a music community (with bands like Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Makeup and more) and sold it to the world at large.
Farmer Steve began farming at the Verrill Farm in September of 1990, selling rhubarb to Boston restaurants. Then he moved to the Gore Estate in Waltham, MA, renting the property for 2 years and growing beans, peas and tomatoes predominantly. After the Gore Estate, he farmed at The Lyman Estate, also in Waltham, and employed local rock musicians to work the land with him. In 2000, Farmer Steve bought 20 acres in Lunenburg, MA and has farmed there ever since.
Farmer Steve, a burly, callous-handed, sunburned man greeted my friends and me one weekend afternoon in the late spring. As the sun set behind the tree line, we sat on the back of his box truck, awe inspired and slightly jealous of how he runs his business and lives his life. Parker works the Lunenburg land seven days a week, growing spinach, beans, peas, tomatoes, greens, carrots, squashes and pumpkins. In the winter he chops and sells firewood. Although he sells at the Union Square Somerville and Central Square Cambridge Farmer’s Markets, most of his income is derived from a CSA. Three nights a week, Farmer Steve drops off crates of whatever he had picked that week for his shareholders in Cambridge and Somerville, MA. Most of the shareholders buy in after answering his ads on Craigslist.
A CSA works much like an email list or a download service in the music world, except the product is hand delivered.
For the most part, Farmer Steve’s crops are grown chemical-free using livestock manures. Spraying pesticides is kept to an absolute minimum. In Steve’s opinion, crop rotation is the best technique when dealing with insects and disease. If spraying is absolutely necessary, he uses low toxicity, organic sprays.
After we walked around his farm, seeing his various crops and where he planned to have an apple and peach orchard, Farmer Steve cut a head of spinach right from the ground as a gift for us. We placed it in a plastic shopping bag and drove home in envy of Farmer Steve Parker. We think his farm is the coolest thing: totally DIY, completely sensible, and absolutely self-reliant. Oh, and the spinach was pretty damn good too.
828 Lancaster Ave.
Lunenburg, MA 01462