Whether it’s a desire to get out and enjoy the weather, or the pursuit of fresh produce, there’s no doubt that mid-summer is the time of year most people associate with visiting Massaro Community Farm. With 57 acres to explore and enjoy, there is plenty to see and do at this neighborhood, organic vegetable farm. The 2018 season brought weekly volunteer groups from area organizations, youth employment, school collaborations and some expansion, as the farm works to make visits safe and pleasant for guests.
Started in 2010 with a sizable grant from USDA and many individual contributors, the farm is now celebrating its ninth season as a diverse growing operation and education center. Massaro’s growing operation now encompasses ten acres, including many favorite crops such as organic strawberries and heirloom tomatoes. Originally created to provide weekly vegetable subscriptions – or CSA shares – the farm now sells its fresh produce at four farmer’s markets and to area restaurants. If a full CSA share is too much produce, the farm recently received town approval to run a farm stand offering produce for sale to less frequent customers. Hours will be announced on our website shortly.
As a community organization dedicated to education and food donations, many activities take place at the farm each week, starting in March and continuing well into November. As soon as harvesting begins in spring, the farm maintains its commitment to donate at least 10% of produce to predetermined hunger relief partners. These partners have changed over time as we endeavor to accommodate the many requests the farm receives. Current season recipients include Columbus House medical respite program (New Haven), FISH of New Haven, Salvation Army (Ansonia) and Woodbridge Human Services. In 2017, the farm’s fresh produce donations topped 10,000 pounds for the first time, bringing the cumulative total of produce donated since inception to more than 53,000 pounds.
Monthly workshops for adults continue to include the very popular backyard beekeeping sessions that take place six times throughout the year, inviting both novice and expert beekeepers to get up close and personal with bee management. Beekeeping workshops, led by members of CT Beekeeper’s Association, were the inspiration for teacher Linda Decesare to persuade Amity High School to add beehives to its alternative education program. A variety of workshops for adults are offered monthly and included a series this past winter with Woodbridge Town Library. The farm also collaborated with the Sustainability Task Force to found Food Discussion Circles, a self-guided group focused on world health, clean energy, etc. An upcoming workshop, The Bartender’s Garden, on September 20, 2018 will instruct folks on making home-made infusions and tinctures for use in cocktails.
Youth education on the farm continues to expand under the tutelage of Education Director Corey Thomas. The farm maintains its curriculum-based field trips for grades K-12, started in 2012, but has started a youth employment program in this summer. Five teens, ranging in age from 15-18, from surrounding communities have been hired to work alongside farm staff for the summer, where they’ll receive instruction on a variety of farm skills in addition to job training. This year has also brought more collaboration with area schools. Massaro sold produce to Beecher Road School in May for a special farm taste test and accepted cafeteria food waste for composting under a pilot collaboration with the town’s Sustainability Task Force. We anticipate more sale of our produce to schools in the coming months.
Currently, the farm is excitedly planning its eighth Dinner on the Farm, the annual farm-to-table feast that takes place every Labor Day weekend. While September can often represent the end of summer for backyard gardeners, fall remains a prolific time of year for growers, and cooler temps offer a wonderful backdrop to experience the farm, walk the trail, take a workshop or enjoy our all-inclusive meal exquisitely prepared by Zinc chef and owner, Denise Appel. Menu and other event details can be found on the farm’s website.
As with any business, the Massaro Community Farm remains constantly vigil of current operations and future growth. It doesn’t anticipate production to expand greatly. However, staff and volunteers on any given day can number 10-20. This doesn’t include subscribers picking up vegetables, field trips or deliveries that can all be happening at once. At the same time, community support is key to the long-term success of the operation. After several years of careful consideration by a dedicated committee, the farm recently presented a plan to the Town Planning & Zoning Commission to add more parking, pedestrian pathways and handicapped parking. The farm is pleased to have the approval of the commission, which will separate pedestrians from vehicular traffic and take advantage of one of the steepest slopes on the farm currently riddled with large boulders and poison ivy. The farm intends to level this slope using some of its own fill from clearing another field and construct a 20-space grass parking area north of the two-story red dairy barn. The additional parking area will be constructed in such a way that the field could be brought into production at some later date. The farm plans to break ground on this project in early fall of 2018.
Engagement and volunteer opportunities are bountiful at Massaro Community Farm. For more information, please visit the farm’s website (www.MassaroFarm.org), sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter or call the farm office at (203) 736-8618.