Mob a Crop at Crop Mob

by Brittany Grace

Have you ever mobbed a crop?

Think open land, organic farms, impromptu horticulture lessons, weeds as high as the Bank of America tower, and pot bellied pigs. Think philosophical conversation about chicken slaughtering. Think making friends while learning about ground tomatoes and tasting fresh, raw okra for the first time.

Crop Mob is primarily a “group of young, landless and wanna-be farmers” who meet up and converge on a farm to help it out with whatever may need to be done – weeding, harvesting, building greenhouses – that hasn’t been done because the farm only has so many hands. It also empowers the mobbers, farmers, and the community they have between them. Mob activity took hold 2 years ago in North Carolina;  since then, it has been gaining momentum around the country.

What is spectacular about this is it has been completely grassroots: a few emails go out, some people voice their love for the group, more people sign up, more people mob a crop, farmer is happy, volunteers are fulfilled. Rinse, repeat.

Upon hearing about it this summer, I was intrigued and decided to sign up for one at Indian Ridge farm, about an hour north of Atlanta. Adrian and I got up early that morning to make our trip, which included a few U-turns,  a spilled box of granola, one 360 degree, 20 minute trip, one gas station stop, and one run through the Kroger grocery store to find a clean bathroom.

We got there late and frantic, concerned that the other Mobbers would be put off by our lack of directional aptitude, but instead, everyone greeted us warmly, and we spent hours weeding crops and making new connections and friends. The culmination of the day included a picnic of fried catfish, hushpuppies and salad provided by Atlanta’s new farm-to-table darling, Miller Union. The convenience of disposable plates and utensils is shrugged off in favor of the environmentally conscious, bring-your-own-plate-and-utensils MO (although my new and industrious friend Alan never brings a literal plate. He just washes off his Frisbee and uses it instead).

This is similar to Alan's idea - a biodegradable "UFO" plate you toss into a tree like a frisbee after you eat off of it.

We then hiked through the woods to a sunny spot of rushing river to cool off before heading back to the city. At the end of the day, physically bushed from the hard labor that comes from bending over a crop in the sweltering sun for hours, I felt good. There was salt on my lips from the boiled peanut purchase from a roadside stand visit on our way home. There was dirt beneath my fingernails from fervently pulling weeds. And there were a whole group of people who better understood what it takes to get the local, organic food they love.

At the next Crop Mob, I washed the petulant sleep from my eyes on an early Sunday morning to make the drive to Burge Organic Farm, a farm that holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and has been in the same family since 1809. I got to chat with Corey Mosser, the farm manager, about the sprawling place (900+ acres!), and he enthusiastically told us about the history of the land.

He also explained the origins of the African winter squash we harvested.

And expounded on the presence of heirloom garlic growing wild in a field that he estimates has been growing for the past 100 years. We even got to take some home.

More friends were made. More great food was eaten – that is how Mobbers are rewarded; we work for good food! We will also gladly work for good beer. As an extra reward, Folksy Brews, a local home/microbrewing operation, treated us to the best ale I’ve had all year – a honey basil creation. The congenial Mike Lorey, man of many hats who coincidentally is also a Mob Leader, is the man behind the beer. This is another reason the Mob is super cool: we get to talk about our hobbies and interests and share them with people who have different, equally cool things going on.

This process of working, and learning, and communing, and eating, occurred yet again at the last Crop Mob I was able to attend. We built greenhouses, hayed a field for fall, and weeded again. We even had some press come. A band called the Barefoot Hookers provided musical entertainment that made some of us abandon our plates of local chicken and fresh Muscadines to dance in the dirt.

As I drove back to the city listening to Old Crow Medicine Show with more dirty fingernails and a small, uneven sunburn from haphazard sunscreen application, I noticed a feeling similar to a blissful yogi moment, or  the moment after a perfect power nap on the beach. I realized that our bodies and minds need to be outside, need to get dirty, need to connect with our land in a way that makes us understand  and appreciate where our food comes from and what it takes to get it on our plate. Or frisbee.

You needn’t be a part-time farmer to have a good time a Crop Mob. Hell, you don’t even need to know how to keep a plant alive in your windowsill. Just come ready to learn and meet rad people who also want to learn. You will come away replenished.