Sorn Un is a successful farmer and graduate from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Like many of the farmers enrolled in the New Entry Program, Sorn immigrated from Cambodia, along with his wife Chantu Cham, their daughter, and roughly a dozen other family members and friends. Sorn was a farmer in the Batambang region of Cambodia, growing an array of mixed vegetables similar to that which he currently grows in MA, including amaranth, mustard greens, water spinach, Chinese broccoli, bok choy, and Asian cabbage. When Sorn first moved to the states, he arrived in Amherst MA, where he stayed for three years, before moving to Providence RI, and eventually settling in Lowell.
Sorn is a great farmer, but he can’t be a great farmer without good farmland. The value of farmland in MA is the highest in the nation, coming in at over $12,000/acre. This cost is often prohibitive for many beginning farmers and established farmers like Sorn. Many, therefore, take advantage of farmland for lease, but good farmland for lease can be hard to come by.
Enter Christine Barensfeld, a woman with a dream. Married to John Hagerman and mother of two school-age daughters, she purchased a 17 acre historic farmstead in Boxford, MA two years ago. Christine has a dream to turn the land back into a historically accurate 19th century working farm. She grew up around horses in Western PA and looks forward to having a variety of livestock, including draft horses, sheep and chickens. She also wants to have vegetables grown on the land, but Christine knows that her expertise does not lie in horticulture. Christine took New Entry’s Farm Business Planning Course, so became familiar with the program and asked the organization if they knew of any farmer who could grow vegetables on her land. The match was made.
Christine and Sorn met and after several site visits during the winter, they signed a license agreement in April, allowing Sorn to grow vegetables on a ¾ acre plot of Christine’s land. Christine brought in 400 sq yds of compost and manure to prepare the land for Sorn to grow vegetables. She does the tractor prep-work that Sorn needs, but other than that, he's on his own as an independent vegetable farmer. Their agreement is for one year and after that trial period they will both evaluate their experience and decide on the terms of a longer lease agreement. Christine is happy her land is being cultivated and Sorn refers to Christine as the “number one land owner”.