Red Planet grows chemical-free vegetables at the historic Mathewson Farm in Johnston, Rhode Island. We’ve always been independent but we also believe in hyper-local food and collective endeavor. Since our inception we have been lucky enough to find support within a vibrant local food community. If you are reading this there’s a good chance that you’ve been a part of the struggle for good vegetables grown in Rhode Island dirt, and you’ve been a friend to us. We really can’t thank you enough.
These first 7 years at Red Planet have been exciting for us. Sometimes a little too exciting. For one thing, we’ve had to change location three times! It’s hard to keep the details straight, but each year consisted of clearing, nurturing or gardening some new patchwork combination of the following venues:
a rock strewn but idyllic hayfield ½ mile down a dirt trail in North Rehoboth.
a bullet casing strewn Federal Hill back lot, which we turned into a compost-strewn greenhouse.
a trash strewn Olneyville hillside, which we are trying to strew with awesome.
a loamy paddock on the holdings of a South Rehoboth blue-blood (and our subsequent flight, in terror.)
an abandoned Federal Hill garden, with some unique but hard-to-describe challenges.
a 300 year-old farmstead in Johnston which has been owned by the same family since 1780, and they’re really great people who want to keep their farm a farm and not make it into a huge Rite-Aid.
As you know, this is a good way to develop a plot line for a quirky novel, but not a good method of organic gardening. Any business has start-up costs, and farming particularly so. If you’re unfamiliar with the business of sustainable farming, imagine spending your life savings and a year of your life opening a restaurant, then imagine moving the place across town after only being open for 6 months, oh, and you have to buy all new tables, chairs, dishwasher… maybe you get to keep the stove. It’s analogous to what we’ve done once a year or so, and it’s been a thorn in the side of an otherwise great market-gardening business.
Starting from scratch so often has taught us a lot: we’ve learned to be pretty lean as a business, and we’ve learned to grow vegetables intensively on small urban plots. But this constant movement has kept us from recovering our start-up debt or achieving financial stability.
With our amazing opportunity in Johnston, things are finally feeling more stable. Jenny, Missy and Chris, the owners of Mathewson Farm, are really happy to see the land being farmed again, after being untended for over 20 years. And we are glad to finally be in a situation that truly makes sense for us. The fact that this farm is being preserved is thanks to years of Jenny’s hard work and determination, which resulted in the department of agriculture purchasing the development rights in late 2008. This achievement guarantees that the land will be preserved for agriculture. All of us want to see this farm become a vibrant part of the community once again.