Pioneer Valley Workers Center starting farm co-op

  • Members of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center pose for a photo on property owned by the city of Northampton and Kestrel Land Trust, where the center will soon create a worker-run farming cooperative. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/15/2019 4:50:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Pioneer Valley Workers Center will break ground in the coming weeks on four acres of farmland the organization plans to turn into a worker-run cooperative farm.

The immigrant-led organization is leasing the land — located in Northampton near the border with Hatfield  — from the city and Kestrel Land Trust, which purchased the property last spring. Seven members of the center’s worker committees, many of whom have experience with farm labor, will begin work on the property soon. They intend to grow everything from corn and beans to medicinal herbs and specialty crops like watercress. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Claudia Rosales, of Springfield, who will be part of the cooperative. “The majority of us are Hispanic, are immigrants, and for us it’s very important because through this we can excel and as a cooperative we can all work together.”

Originally from El Salvador, Rosales said she has four years of experience working on farms in the United States. She said that starting a cooperative from scratch will be difficult work, but that she and the others are excited to see their very first harvest.

“We feel like the farm will be a really exciting platform for a lot of organizing and for building economic power,” said Gabriella della Croce, a lead organizer at the Workers Center.

Della Croce said that the farm is meant to begin creating a concrete vision of the world the organizers want to see. 

“Worker co-ops are a model for economic change that are so important, and have been sabotaged over and over again throughout U.S. history,” della Croce said. “What we want is to keep pushing that vision forward, to fight for economic democracy as well as workers rights and immigrant rights.”

The farm is also part of the Workers Center’s food justice advocacy. That activism was recently recognized by the James Beard Foundation, which awarded the organization one of its prestigious leadership awards. Della Croce said that the farm will provide food sovereignty and access to healthy produce for working people, many of whom grow and harvest the region’s produce but then can’t afford to buy it in grocery stores.

Currently, the land is covered with thick grass that will need to be mowed before it is plowed, della Croce said. Servicenet’s Prospect Meadow Farm is partnering with the cooperative to soon plow the field for planting. 

The group of immigrants who will be running the farm have visited several co-ops, from a refugee- and immigrant-run farm in Maine to Real Pickles in Greenfield.

For Rosales, the act of building a cooperative is an exciting and hopeful experience.

“We want to create a new world for each other,” she said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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