NEWS, Va. — Lara Haner has been a gardener since
childhood days when she helped her mother plant Swiss
chard and tomatoes.
decades later, she still nurtures that green thumb, only
now as the director of a group of gardening volunteers
— Tidewater Crop Mob — who lend a helping hand in
a flash mob assembles suddenly in a public place,
Tidewater Crop Mob purposely descends on a farm to
assist local farmers with anything from planting trees
and clearing out weeds to harvesting garlic, planting
potatoes and cleaning out a goat barn. They also help
out with community projects like a spring planting of
450 trees at a regional landfill.
and everyone, including church, school and club groups,
as well as families with kids, with an interest in
agriculture is invited to participate in the monthly
daylong events — nicknamed MOBs — that are promoted
on the group’s social media page — Facebook@TidewaterCropMob.
side-by-side with farmers and consumers builds a better
relationship of understanding and trust," says
Lara, 37, of Hampton, Va.
green-thumbed volunteers are a community that helps
empower and support local farmers through their
Crop Mob began as Norfolk Crop Mob, started by Bryn Bird
four years ago. Lara encountered the group after reading
food and farm books by authors Michael Pollan and
Barbara Kingsolver, and then attending a Sustainable
Living fair in Norfolk, Va., where she saw the group’s
sign "Wanna be a farmer for a day?"
did, so she signed up.
her leadership, volunteers now cross cities and counties
to help throughout Hampton Roads and to Virginia’s
research about the difference in food justice between
cheap available food and wholesome local food and how
local farmers can ‘make it’ when big box stores can
sell products for half the price and most of the time
half the nutrition," she says.
felt I could do more than purchase at farmer’s
markets. I wanted to be an active participant in my food
everyday life, Lara is an occupational therapy assistant
swim coach with Virginia’s Hampton City.
a farm field, she’s always behind a wheelbarrow. In
her spare time, she’s on the computer, drumming up
interest in an upcoming MOB.
biggest challenge is getting volunteers to show
up," she says.
participation is free, no money needed.
Also, no experience is needed -- just a willingness to
work. Sometimes, depending on the job, a farmer will ask
you to bring an extra shovel or rake, Lara says.
Lifting and bending is occasionally part of the
are very grateful for any assistance," she says.
director, Lara reaches out to farmers, explaining the
group’s intentions. Then, she and farmers in need of
helping hands decide on a project -- fixing fencing,
planting or harvesting, even processing turkeys.
22 volunteers recently spent the day helping at the
Brown Chicken Brown Cow Farm in Suffolk, Va. Owners
Nicole and Brian Stewart, along with toddler-age
daughters, bought the 9-acre farm in January with the
goal of selling duck and chicken eggs and
wool. They needed help with 1½ acres overgrown
with inedible plants, some of which are poisonous to the
animals -- chickens, geese, cows, sheep, goats, guinea
hens and turkeys — that graze in the pasture
are thankful for this amazing community resource,"
says Nicole, who maintains a farm blog at
and tools, no chemicals, were used to clear the land.
ground was just soft enough even the little ones were
pulling out the weeds," Lara says.
volunteers participate is as varied as the work they do.
hard work for a good cause," says Debbie Storrin, a
volunteer from Newport News, VA.
is a great way to connect to our community and to also
teach our son, Truitt Flippen, to understand and
appreciate what goes into getting our food from the farm
to the table," says Allison Jarvis of Norfolk.
end the day on a festive note, the owners cooked a hog,
provided drinks, paper plates and all the fixin’s and
volunteers brought side dishes.
a good way to meet people with similar interests, build
a sense of community around sustainable agriculture, and
contribute to the success of local farmers." says
Lauren and Dan Ruane of Portsmouth, Va.