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Will bench-press for breakfast: The Farm-to-Gym movement

farm work at the gym
farm work at the gym
Talia Arnow

At Community Table last week, the brain sparks flew when Talia Arnow tossed out the term Farm-to-Gym, which this Examiner had never heard before. We just had to discuss. Hence, this week’s Innovation Interview.

Examiner: What on earth is Farm-to-Gym?

Talia: It’s an idea that’s still being defined, really. Modern Farmer had a piece on it last fall. Basically, Farm-to-Gym explores the linkages and relationships between gym owners, members, and farmers to create a mutually-beneficial sustainable food supply chain.

What drew you to it?

This summer when I moved to Cambridge, I promised myself that I would grow my own food. At my CrossFit gym, the opportunity to build community through food cultivation felt ripe and I’d also read some things on the Farm-To-Gym movement that piqued my interest. Folks in the food world may not realize, but CrossFit is a natural advocate for sustainable, particularly animal, agriculture. The overlapping values are significant.

What kinds of values? What do CrossFit and sustainable farming share?

CrossFit promotes a holistic approach to health and nutrition and the Paleo style of eating, which strongly advocates for sustainably-raised meat – meat that is free-range, organic, and grass fed. You see tons of Crossfitters show up to buy food from farmers markets. Also, CrossFit gyms have formed communities of individuals with common interests around functional fitness- a desire for physical activity that mimics the physical movements of farming.

Can you share some examples of Farm-to-Gym innovations, maybe locally?

Sure. Matt Gagnon up in Tyngsborough is a second-generation farmer and a CrossFitter, so he’s got a foot solidly in each world. Matt knows how CrossFitters eat, he’s in the business of pasture-raised meats, and he’s coping with saturated farmers markets. So he put a meat freezer inside his gym.

Then there are the labor innovations that match fitness supply to farm demand. North Shore CrossFit in Danvers hosted a workout on a farm – an event to help the farmer while getting in the workout.

Where do you see the entrepreneurial opportunities in Farm-to-Gym?

Labor is just one piece. There’s also infrastructure. I think there is the opportunity for gyms to look at their physical buildings and land as a space for growing food or even raising animals or even providing a new market venue for farmers. Besides meat freezers, how else can we focus food in the gym? Is there potential for cultivating food onsite? What about their parking lots?

Many gyms are located in industrial parts of town. Entrepreneurs should assess gym infrastructure and land use as well as people power. We all know how hot the local food scene is these days. Gyms can benefit by leveraging the Slow Food, grow your own and Do-It-Yourself movements to attract potential clients.

Locally, what should we be looking out for?

Farmer/Paleo coach Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf (The Paleo Solution) offered up the idea of every CrossFit gym having its own food ambassador. There are nearly 7,000 CrossFit gyms around the world. These connectors could make a real dent in industrial food consumption.

At my gym, CrossFit Somerville we created an urban agriculture project where we have transformed the unused, dumpy backyard into a garden, community space, and hen house. We have built raised beds (from reclaimed wood from Harvard’s Recycling Center) for growing all sorts of vegetables throughout the growing season, and we have constructed a chicken coop that houses six layers- providing the gym with eggs.

Members contribute time, talent and other resources to learn how to raise chickens and grow vegetables and collaborate in designing, building, and maintaining the infrastructure to support these activities. The hope is that members learn new skills and become inspired to do more.

This Examiner might add: Brooklyn Boulders Somerville shares a wall with Something Gud. I’d keep an eye on those two Tyler Street neighbors as well.

Wanna talk about it? Tweet me at @businessforfood

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