As the days lengthen and warmer temperatures pull us outside, those with an interest in gardening often can’t wait to plant their first seeds in the ground. Days are counted til one can pick the first tomato. So why do we expect the cycle for local food producers to be any different?
Thanks to modern technology, consumers have become accustomed to purchasing any fruit or vegetable they want at any time of the year, which has resulted in our disconnection from the seasonal rhythms of food production in our own backyard. Home gardeners know that spring and fall are perfect times for herbs and leafy greens, and that cucumbers or peppers won’t be ready to harvest until the hot days of July or August. Yet we expect our regional farmers to somehow leapfrog the normal growing cycle and have a selection of fresh produce ready to eat on the first warm days of spring.
The reality is that spring is when local fruit and vegetable growers often experience the dearth of produce in their growing year. Stores of late fall root vegetables have grown thin, and the pantry is empty of canned fruit one may have put up last season. While many Connecticut growers have been planting since March, neither the air nor soil are warm enough to make much to harvest available before sometime in June.
Cooler days have lingered both this spring and last, making farmers wait a few extra weeks before even the earliest crops of lettuce, radishes, spinach, beets, onions or kale are ready. This led to a dilemma recently when Massaro Farm was asked to provide Beecher Road School with a vegetable for students to ‘taste test.’ The farm had plenty of chard available but the school chose chives over chard, believing the students wouldn’t eat the ‘bitter greens.’ Science has proven that produce harvested and eaten in the season its actually grown often yields not only sweeter flavors, but higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals. Chard, as it turns out, is an amazingly versatile green, equally good raw as it is sautéed or stewed. Isn’t the lesson for all of us that eating produce from a local grower forces us to occasionally try something we might not habitually pick from the grocery store shelf? This act is a gentle reminder that contrary to expectations, our favorite fruit or vegetable is NOT actually in production 12 months out of the year. Eating from local sources not only reconnects us with nature’s normal rhythms but protects open space, brings jobs to our town economy and is a conscious act to mitigate the environmental impact of factory farming. After all, it wasn’t so long ago we had to wait until June for strawberries, or that tomatoes weren’t available until July or August. It turns out that getting your fruits and vegetables at a local CSA (community supported agriculture) or farm stand is one of the simplest and best things you can do for yourself and your community.
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This year, Massaro Community Farm will be celebrating its tenth season as an organic vegetable farm and community space. Though it makes slight changes in what gets planted each season, the farm is planting its first perennial crops of rhubarb and asparagus this year (harvests will take a year or two). And for the first time, Massaro Farm will be open for farm stand hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting May 25th, where you can find organic seedlings, fresh produce, jarred products and flowers produce for sale. You’ve been forewarned: The season starts out slowly but stick with it for the best heirloom tomatoes you’ve ever had! Visitors will notice several other changes at Massaro in 2019, including a new sustainable parking area and pedestrian entrance that will better separate farm visitors from vehicles. Two large tents will provide much-needed cover for guests and staff, not to mention the increase in educational programs taking place at the farm. Visit the farm’s website to check out activities, like beekeeping, canning or home-grown teas, as well as new educational sessions for children as young as aged two. Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter (www.MassaroFarm.org) which contains information about buying produce, events and registration info. Follow us on social media for day-to-day updates, including the farm’s newest rabbit additions. There’re even still a few slots to subscribe for a seasonal vegetable and fruit share, where you might get some of those vegetables you’re not sure about. Don’t worry, farm staff is happy to share recipes with you. See you down on the farm!