In 2008, a few friends with an ambitious idea launched the very first Crop Mob, in which young, landless farmers "raided" a North Carolina farm that October, harvesting 1,600 pounds of sweet potatoes in just a few hours. The raid shaved weeks of labor from the farm's workload.
The event attracted media attention, including this Indy story, and the group continued its work for the sake of their mission, not fame. National press followed, including write-ups in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
The project spurred a nationwide movement that led to 66 mobs across the country and influenced much of the young farmer trend. Each month, 20- and 30-somethings, some in heavy-duty work boots, others in well-worn Chuck Taylor sneakers, voluntarily dig into the dirt in the name of sustainable communities. Each city varies in its mission: Seattle, for example, focuses on community gardens. The latest mob announced today formed in Denver, Colo.
"While we knew we had a good idea, we had no idea that there would be 66 crop mob groups at this point," said Crop Mob co-founder Trace Ramsey. "We were hoping to get a few groups in North Carolina and go from there. The response has been amazing."
Crop Mobs have unfortunately been labeled a trend and, like any trend, have people wondering how legitimate these "kids" or this "fad" may be. Ramsey responded to such scrutiny on his blog last summer:
"Crop Mob is a very sexy idea right now. As such it is subject to an intense scrutiny of its methods, its participants and its goals. “White, hipster slackers participate in a real life Farmville” might as well be the new media headlines. From what I have been reading lately, you would think that what started as a way to get young and landless farmers together has turned into just another urban fad for the fixed gear bike crowd. This is untrue and utterly ridiculous. Is there anything that a group of young people can do that can’t be turned into something that it is not?"
Today, Ramsey and the group maintain their vision and continue working in North Carolina.
"The success of Crop Mob is one of the most fulfilling things that has happened for me personally. I know that all the other folks who have been involved since the beginning feel the same way. Implementing a model of reciprocity on any level, within any context, has been a goal of mine for a really long time. I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time to get involved with the idea of Crop Mob and manifest that goal."
He added, "We look forward to continuing our work here in the Triangle while mentoring other groups to get started."
To get involved or to start your own mob, visit www.cropmob.org