Rooted, a nonprofit dedicated to “collaborations rooted in food, land, and learning,” emerged in January 2020 from the joining of two community-based nonprofits: Community GroundWorks and Center for Resilient Cities. One of the organization’s longest-standing projects is Troy Farm.
Troy Farm is part of the 26 acres of land Rooted stewards on Troy Drive along with Troy Kids’ Garden, Troy Community Garden, and an organically managed prairie. Troy Farm, which has been growing fresh organic food on Madison’s north side for more than 20 years, is membership based with a modified community supported agriculture (CSA) model. Members sign up for farm credit ahead of the growing season and then use that credit at the Troy Farm stand on Thursdays or at the Northside Farmers’ Market on Sundays.
Since Troy Farm is part of Rooted, the farm’s work is able to extend as a social enterprise beyond growing food for members. Thanks to a long-standing partnership with the FairShare CSA as well as donor and partner contributions, Rooted can offer subsidized farm memberships and free produce boxes to income-qualified families, including those who are experiencing job loss as well as other factors.
In addition to the farm’s more than 180 annual members, Rooted provides boxes of produce during the 20-week growing season to families who qualify. In 2021, 78 such boxes were distributed to families free of charge through partnerships with Sherman Church, Lake View Elementary School, Bayview Foundation, Packer Community Learning Center, and Vera Court Neighborhood Center as well as the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, which Rooted operates on Madison’s south side.
“We also donate a lot of produce to Healthy Food For All,” says Paul Huber, Rooted’s farm director. Healthy Food for All, a food recovery project in Dane County, collects vegetables from Troy Farm as part of their work ensuring local children and families can access affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food. “Every week, they come and pick up excess produce that didn’t sell at the market or make it into a produce box, and they deliver it to food pantries, community centers, and apartment complexes.”
All of these community connections and partnerships add up to more vegetables in more households all season long. In 2021, Troy Farm distributed 30,000 pounds of produce beyond what was purchased at the market.
Between food for members and additional food that goes back into the Madison community, Rooted is growing a lot of vegetables. Still, the Troy Drive site has more arable land than Rooted uses. The organization is honored to share some of the farm space and tools with local partners. In 2021, TradeRoots, a group of farmers and chefs with roots in Wisconsin and West Africa, and OM Grow, a group within Occupy Madison, grew food alongside Rooted’s farmers.
Taylar Foster, Rooted’s farm manager, sees Rooted’s access to land and farming equipment as opportunities for others in the community. “Resources, equipment, and tools are expensive, and land can be hard to find. We are able to grow food on this great land, why not share resources, infrastructure, and tools that we’ve already invested in?”
Sheena Tesch, deputy director of Northside Programs, says, “These collaborations are an opportunity to expand the resources that this land can offer more broadly on the north side and to further serve the community and connect with our neighbors in a long-term way.”
For many years, Troy Farm has offered additional ways for community members to grow alongside their farmers through the Urban Farmer Training Program. The farm trainees have paid positions through which they gain hands-on experience prepping the growing beds and seeding plants in the greenhouses in spring, completing the final harvest in autumn, and everything in between. They work alongside the farm crew and volunteers and participate in workshops run by Rooted staff and community partners on everything from pest control to food justice. Taylar notes, “The farm can’t run without our trainees and volunteers.”
While it may seem that Rooted’s Troy Farm is spreading roots across a diverse array of programs, it’s the focus on community support that unites all of the efforts. “I think community support is a two-way street,” says Sheena. “Yes, Rooted supports the community with fresh food and grower training, and the community supports Rooted through farm membership, volunteering, and donations. But it’s more than that. We support each other by building community together through connections and relationships with neighbors, other farmers, and other organizations.”
After the safety precautions of 2020 resulted in fewer in-person interactions, these connections became extra special to Rooted. This past summer saw the return of Rooted’s famed Thursday Nights at Troy, including live music, the Troy Farm stand, and meals prepared by local chefs using Troy Farm vegetables.
“Troy Farm means something different to everyone who comes here,” says Taylar. “But everyone gives something to our community and gets something from our community. Without community support, we wouldn’t be doing any of this. We need volunteers and worker shares and farm trainees to help us grow vegetables. We need people to buy our vegetables. We need community centers to help make connections and interpret farm materials and help to distribute food. We need neighbors helping to pick up veggies for each other. There’s a reciprocity and a liveliness to it all.”
Renata Solan is the communications director for Rooted and the Wisconsin School Garden Network.
The land that Rooted stewards on Troy Drive is open for the public to visit and explore. You can also become a Troy Farm member, purchase plants from the annual Troy Farm plant sale, grow food at Troy Community Garden, join the Urban Farmer Training Program, register for a family field trip, come to a Thursday Night at Troy dinner, and donate to support Rooted’s work bringing vegetables to more households. For more information, visit rootedwi.org or email email@example.com .