Crop mobs are not as ominous as they sound


I read this recently and loved the idea: flash mobs that, instead of sowing confusion, sow seeds. (Or pull weeds, or clear brush.)

The latest foodie/gardener trend, it seems, is for a flock of volunteers to descend on a chosen farm for a day and get more work done than the farmers themselves could do in a month. I have no doubt those are some grateful-ass farmers. Not only can a crowd accomplish tedious tasks that would eat up the time (and wear on the bodies) of a smaller number of workers, but the efficiency of the volunteer management must be unparalleled.

When I lived in Providence, I volunteered weekly at City Farm, a very cool and rather longstanding urban farm. I liked to think I was contributing something, but then I was one of a whole loose crowd of volunteers who would show up for one hour here, two hours there. The farmer, a genial and very knowledgeable grower, told me that he ultimately spent most of his workday giving instructions and checking up on volunteers—not actually farming! This seemed, well, less than ideal. Maybe a crop mob is a better model.

Meanwhile, for the volunteers themselves, I’m sure crop mobbing does satisfy that itch to get one’s hands in the dirt, learn a little something, and commune with fellow humans under an open sky. And if one were a regular mobber, there would be constant exposure to different types, sizes and styles of farm.

Anyone know of this happening locally? I believe I’ve heard of group efforts toward "gleaning," which means going through a field or orchard after the official harvest and picking up all the less-than-perfect or just overlooked produce that remains behind.