Jamestown woman opens new farm on North Road
Linda Del Buono didn’t start out wanting to be a farmer. She grew up in Jamestown and attended the University of Rhode Island, where she majored in textiles. In her college years she would spend time working in nurseries, but those jobs would end abruptly when the peak planting season ended around July 4.
After graduation, Del Buono realized that she wanted to be involved in farming, but her time in nurseries was so short she wasn’t deriving enough satisfaction from it. After considering her options, Del Buono accepted an internship at an organic farm in Wakefield.
Despite the fact that she knew little about farming, Del Buono felt confident she could handle the manual labor involved. She also knew that it would be a good learning experience because the internship lasted from April through October.
“It really opened my eyes,” Del Buono said. “I was growing for the community. It felt like a really positive thing.”
Del Buono spent two seasons at the Wakefield farm. It was then when she began to think about whether she could start her own farming business. She met other farmers, and opportunities began to open up for her. One of the farmers she met was Pat McNiff of Pat’s Pastured, whose operation was in Jamestown before moving to East Greenwich.
In 2011, McNiff asked Del Buono to be the vegetable farmer on his land. She was given a free lease and control of everything from ordering to planting. The financial responsibility was Del Buono’s as well, but her vegetable business was under the umbrella of Pat’s Pastured. She thinks about it as an incubator for her ideas.
“Pat was able to pave the way for me to set up my own creation,” Del Buono said. “Luckily it went very well for me.”
While farming more than half an acre of McNiff’s land, Del Buono learned that having your own business was a lot more involved than working for someone else. While it can be daunting, she said she liked the fact that at the end of the day, she got all the credit for her labor. Being an independent woman in a male-dominated field made her feel proud to represent young farmers, and share her story with the next generation.
“I wanted to call the shots,” Del Buono said. “I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted it to be my idea.”
Del Buono, who also works at the Secret Garden in Jamestown, became determined to find land to farm in the town where she had grown up. That didn’t prove to be easy, as she was turned down several times. Eventually she located a plot on North Road between the reservoir and Carr Lane that met her needs.
“The land is expensive and there’s not that much cleared space. I’m fortunate to be on the island this summer.”
Del Buono, who is calling her business Good as Gold, plans to offer door-to-door service for local customers who want to purchase her produce. She relies on her mobile phone to take orders via email (goodasgoldri.gmail.com), text messages or phone calls (255- 0762) while she’s in her field.
“I want the people of the community to know that I’m a farmer, but I’m there for you when it comes to the food. I like the idea of having a connection with my customer.”
Planting began this year on March 16 in a greenhouse on land owned by Del Buono’s brother. She decided not to use any propane to heat the greenhouse in an effort to control costs. Among the crops that Del Buono grew in the greenhouse are collards, beets, kale, swiss chard, onions, leeks, scallions, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. She also grows nasturtiums, which are edible flowers. Arugula, turnips, salad mix, squash and radishes will be added to the menu soon.
Del Buono is a believer in organic farming, and while the land in Jamestown is not certified organic, she will observe organic practices, including the use of untreated seeds. No sprays will be used on her crops. Now that the land has been plowed, she has begun to transport her produce.
“I’ve always worked on organic farms, so that’s all I know,” Del Buono said. “It’s important to me.”
Farmers markets are part of the plan for Del Buono as well. She will bring her produce to the Wickford market this summer. There is also the prospect of a Jamestown farmers market in the pavilion at Fort Getty this summer. The Town Council considered the idea at its May 6 meeting.
Salad mix and other items should be available for purchase by the end of May, or the beginning of June. While Del Buono’s field cannot be seen from the road, she does plan to have a chalkboard that will be visible. She wants her hometown to know that she is open for business.