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About Liz Henderson
Please note: Elizabeth has retired from the Peacework Farm LLC but continues her agricultural work as a part-time farm helper, writer, educator, and member of many committees and boards. She also continues to serve on the GVOCSA Core.
Though born in New York City and raised in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, by parents who never even gardened, Elizabeth Henderson has been farming for a living for many years. The seed was planted when she was thirteen and totally out of sync with high school life in the 1950s. To save her from existential despair, her parents sent her to a summer camp on a farm. Twenty years later, with several friends, she settled on an old farm in Gill, Massachusetts, planning to homestead and build an intentional community.
Liz says, "Fed up with the cities, I began thinking about farming in 1978, six years after my husband, Harry, died in a senseless car crash, and I have been working at it full time since 1981. Becoming a farmer is what you would call a radical career change: in my previous life, I taught Russian literature and language at the university level. But on a deeper plane, there is continuity. Inspired and encouraged by my parents, I seek to contribute to the movement for world peace. For me, organic farming and community supported agriculture are a fuller way of pursuing peace as a way of life, learning to live lightly on the planet while contributing to social justice."
Elizabeth, a widow, wanted a healthy place to raise her son, Andrew. Within two years, the farm in Gill was producing and selling enough vegetables to cover expenses. That was Elizabeth's apprenticeship - learning organic farming the hard way. Participation in a study circle with more experienced organic farmers led to the founding of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Massachusetts, and its certification program through which she met Ammie. Andrew has grown up to become a bi-lingual teacher in Spanish and English, and lives with his wife, Midori Sugahara in Oakland, California.
In 1988, Elizabeth moved to Rose, New York, to farm at Rose Valley Farm with David Stern. She has been producing organically grown vegetables for the fresh market ever since. During the winter of 1988 - 89, Elizabeth and David joined forces with Alison Clarke of the Politics of Food to create the Genesee Valley Organic CSA (GVOCSA). The first season, there were 29 members. Rose Valley sold most of its produce to food coops and other markets. Gradually, CSA membership grew to 45, then 88, then 130 shares. When Greg Palmer and Elizabeth moved to rented land at Crowfield Farm in 1998, GVOCSA members helped them build their new farm, Peacework Organic Farm. Today, 95% of Peacework's produce goes to the over 250 households who are CSA members.
For many of her years in farming, Elizabeth has been working actively to increase the dialogue between organic and conventional farmers. She chairs the Wayne County Agricultural Development Board which works to protect farmland and improve the economic viability of local farms. Since she moved back to New York in 1988, she has been on the Board of NOFA-NY. She chairs the Policy Committee of the NOFA Interstate Council and represents the NOFAs on the Steering Committee of the Agricultural Justice Project and as a delegate to the Domestic Fair Trade Association. Her writings on organic agriculture appear in The Natural Farmer and NOFA's New York Organic News. She is one of the authors of The Real Dirt: Farmers Tell About Organic and Low-Input Practices in the Northeast (1994). With her former farm partner, she wrote A FoodBook for a Sustainable Harvest for the members of the GVOCSA. Chelsea Green published her book Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen's Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (1999 and 2007) with a Japanese translation in 2008 and Chinese translations in 2010.
During the winter of 2003, she wrote a Manual on Whole Farm Planning together with Karl North. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) named her one of their first three Farmer Educators in 2001. She is a frequent speaker at agricultural conferences around the US and provides training for other farmers in CSA management, fair labor practices and pricing. As a guest of the Japanese Organic Agriculture Association she did a speaking tour in Japan in November, 2002, returning to the homeland of Teikei (CSA) to do a keynote presentation on CSAs Around the World at the Urgenci conference in Kobe, February 2010. In 2001, the organic industry honored her with one of the first Spirit of Organic awards; in 2007, Abundance Co-op honored her with the “Cooperating for Communities” award; and in 2009, NOFA-NY honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
These days, she splits her time between Peacework Farm and Rochester, New York, where she lives with her partner Jack Bradigan Spula.
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