Urban living has its perks, but sometimes, the old fire escape garden just isn’t enough. Now, when the mood strikes to dig in the dirt on a larger scale, wannabe farmers can now simply join a Crop Mob and get to work on somebody else’s land.

Crop Mob is a monthly event that spreads mostly through word-of-mouth and the web, wherein volunteers meet up on a local small farm and spend a few hours doing the kind of work that would normally take the farmer months to accomplish.

Since sustainable agriculture tends to be far more labor-intensive than than industrial agriculture, a lot of farmers can use the help. On a recent foray to Okfuskee Farm in Silk Hope, North Carolina, about 50 volunteers moved a mountain of soil to nearby greenhouse beds for farm co-owner Bobby Tucker.

New York Times reporter Christine Muhlke tagged along and spoke to Rob Jones, a prominent participant, about what both the volunteers and the farmers get out of the experience.

“It’s not sustainable physically, and it’s not sustainable for people personally: they’re working all the time and don’t have an opportunity to have a social life. So I think Crop Mob brings that celebration to the work, so that you get that sense of community that people are looking for, and you get a lot of work done. And we have a lot of fun.”

Based in the Triangle area of North Carolina, which is rich in small sustainable farms, Crop Mob volunteers have plenty of opportunities not just to plant and harvest crops and do other manual labor, but to learn, network and just plain have fun.

And the idea is spreading like wildfire – Crop Mobs are sprouting up all over the country, from Oregon to Maine, and the Google group has over 400 members.

“Because part of Crop Mob is about community and camaraderie, you find there’s nothing like picking rocks out of fields to bring people together,” Jones told The New York Times.

Crop Mobs: Wannabe farmers dabble in sustainable agriculture
Crop Mobs descend on small sustainable farms to dig, harvest and build community in a North Carolina-based movement that's sweeping the country.