Updated: Jun 15, 2021
by 4Squares Residential Group in Partnership with Judi 411
Grow Where You’re Rooted
Welcome to June and the prospect of sunnier days ahead. Here at 4Squares Residential Group, we enjoy letting people in on some of the best-kept secrets of the Medford community, and this month is no exception.
In honor of Father’s Day, we spoke with Erik Jacobs, photojournalist turned farmer, father of two, and founder of the Plough & Stars Project, Medford’s own CSA/Farm Share. Read on to learn more about Erik and what makes Medford home for him and his family.
You and your wife, Dina Rudick, were both photojournalists who traveled the world. What brought you to Medford?
When we met and got engaged, we were working for the Boston Globe and were renting in Teele Square in Somerville. As is currently the issue, affordability was a problem. Medford was a beautiful combination of affordability and proximity to the areas of Greater Boston that we love.
You live in the Hillside area, near Tufts University. What do you like most about your neighborhood?
I love how close Medford and our house are to things like great restaurants and lots of people who we love, but it's tranquil too.
Every morning before the family gets up, I read while sitting by a window. And this morning, I was listening, and I thought, "My goodness, it is quiet in this neighborhood." I've had that thought very frequently. We are very close to urban life, restaurants, shops, and many things are very walkable. There are many people around here, but it is still remarkably quiet. And I love that.
As Medford's farmers next door, the Plough & Stars Project is connected with people in the community. How does your involvement with Medford folks relate to how you feel about living here?
While there weren't any extrinsic or intrinsic qualities that drew us here, we practice investing in where we are rooted and finding the affinity and beauty where we are. We chose to dig in and, over time, have found payoff after payoff. We've met so many fantastic people. Good, hard-working, down-to-earth, curious, and committed human beings right in our midst. While so many of these beautiful people eventually move on, this area seems to attract fantastic people so that well is constantly being replenished.
How has the Plough & Stars Project evolved over the years?
As you know, I left my job as a photojournalist to become a farmer. I spent a year at The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, and following that, Dina and I leased land in Lincoln. For the next four years, we grew vegetables for a community of people and sold our produce from our Hillside neighborhood home.
As children came onto the scene, our life changed dramatically, and I couldn't continue as a farmer because that didn't feel like it was the right fit anymore. I hung up my professional aspirations and decided to plug into the family. We've continued the CSA and now buy produce from other incredible growers who live very nearby as close by as possible and support them.
At the same time, farmer energy has got to go somewhere. For us, not being farmers is not okay. Our Medford home has afforded us enough space in our yard to still dig into that desire. If I were half a mile closer to the city, I would never have as much space for our incredible-sized vegetable garden. We have two hives of bees. We have a grape arbor, peach trees, apple trees, mushroom logs, and our little shade garden. This summer's big project a pond, and we're super excited. I can scratch the farmer itch in my yard. You can do some amazing stuff in a small amount of space, and I think Medford provides a lot of those opportunities.
Parenting in quarantine has presented a challenge for families. You've mentioned in your blog about homeschooling and the lessons that Mother Nature in your backyard affords your family.
We're fortunate in the sense that we're not in a situation of survival when it comes to the pandemic itself. We can work from home, and we're lucky in that regard. There's a little bit of hyperbole there, but it speaks to one of the main lessons that we try to instill in our kids: paying attention to the world and the life that's right around you. When there are constantly new flowers, fruits, and animals emerging all around you, going out into the yard each morning and playing "Bud of the Day" with your kids, makes our day-to-day living here so much more alive and exciting. The natural wonder surrounding us and that we cultivate every day has made all the difference in the world to this pandemic.
What would you say to someone considering a move to Medford?
Medford is, in our experience, a beautiful confluence of affordability, proximity to our favorite parts that the city has to offer, and some beautiful hidden gems, such as the Fells, Wright's Pond, and the Mystic River. Medford has the balance of the urban experience and the quiet and natural splendor.
For parents, the list of gems that Medford offers includes the Medford Family Network, which I find a unique resource. Parents with young kids should consider that when they're thinking about where they want to go.
In addition to the Plough & Stars Project, Erik and Dina also run Anthem Multimedia, a video production company devoted to amplifying the stories of artists, musicians, and socially motivated organizations.
Anthem's many projects include "The Others: Boston Stands with Immigrants," a celebration of the immigrant experience, and "Black As Light," which explores the Black perspective as captured by Porsha Olayiwola, Boston poet laureate.
If you're interested in more conversations with great Medford neighbors, or getting monthly community info - sign up for the 4Squares Medford Newsletter!
Photo Sources: All photos via the https://www.ploughandstarsproject.com/