Why We Chose to Become a Certified Organic Farm

Exciting things are afoot on the farm for the 2015 growing season!  The farm applied and was accepted last year into a matching enterprise grant program.  This grant is providing half of the funding for our new propagation house which is being constructed this coming summer.  In addition to the grant, this program involved a large amount of technical assistance and business planning.  During the planning process, the idea came about of going for organic certification.

The dance of being an organic practices farm that is not certified has been an interesting one for the past five seasons.  Like many other farmers who are not certified, we spun a myriad of terms to avoid using the word organic in our marketing 10570398_543102479152532_4636554029894150616_n and signage.  ‘Sustainable’ was often our word of choice.  It was great at the farmer’s market when customers inquired about whether or not we were organic and we could respond with, “We’re not certified, but we follow organic practices.”  At that the point the customer knew us and we formed relationships based on their trust that we were farming with integrity.

From an ecological stand point, we are entering into a very scary time for the food chain.  Honey bees, Monarch Butterflies and various song birds are literally the canary in the cage for a large scale experiment in the rampant use of pesticides in the agriculture industry.  We’ve known from day one that our farm is a form of resistance against massive agribusinesses and the chemicals they support.  At the same time, the rebels in us also balked at the idea of shelling out the money and time involved in applying for organic certification.  It seemed to us it was just another agency trying to make money off of our already meager farm earnings.1013992_10151288197019364_1360999945_n

What became apparent during the grant business planning process was that as the farm grows over the next five years, we may not have the luxury of meeting and chatting with every single customer that wants to do business with us.  Without that face to face interaction the consumer has no way of distinguishing between our product, which is produced organically and another farm’s product which they call sustainable, when in fact it could be sprayed with who knows what and grown using chemical fertilizers that are ending up in our waterways and oceans.  We’ve been sensitive to the term ‘greenwashing’ since day one.  It hurts to watch conventional farmers sell plants and produce to consumers and know that the customer is assuming it is organic and ethically grown because they are at a farmer’s market or the product is local.  This is why we always encourage customers to ASK their farmer and not assume they are purchasing an organic product.

So what were we to do as a small farm with limited resources?  We couldn’t follow our plants and produce around with a bull horn yelling, “We don’t spray!” to every customer that comes into contact with our products, especially as our business grew.  We also began to find that many of our potential wholesale customers could not purchase our organic produce for their organic products because we did not carry certification.  So, we took the leap and dove into the long process of applying with Baystate Organic Certifiers.

The application process in itself is daunting to attempt as a small farmer who already wears so many hats in the business.  The only time of year when there is time to go through the process is the dead of winter.  The huge road block with this is that it is also the time of year when the farm has no income AND when many of the material expenses are incurred.

Millie and grace tips Fire CiderEnter team Fire Cider.  This local company has taken their spin on a traditional tonic and turned it into a great example of a successful and ethically run business in our area.  When Fire Cider was founded, they received community support from other businesses and they wanted to be able to extend this gesture to the next generation of sustainably minded scrubber horseradish june 2014entrepreneurs.  They chose to assist a farmer with certification costs because they want to be able to source more ingredients for their product from local farms and not many in our area have organic certification.  They also recognize that the food system needs to be fixed and consumers need to know that the products they consume (whether it’s a tonic or a turnip) is clean, safe and actually good for them.  Coincidentally,  the busiest time of year for Fire Cider Sales, a tonic that supports the immune system, is cold and flu season, the dead of winter.  It was a perfect match.

Shortly after writing the painful check to our organic certifying agency, Fire Cider approached the farm about assisting with our certification costs.  A program already exists which reimburses farmers up to 75% of the cost of certification, but it doesn’t happen until October.  Fire Cider provided us with a loan for the 75% we will be reimbursed for and a donation to cover the remaining 25% of our expenses.

It was surprising for us to hear the great news that someone wanted to help us cover our certification costs, but we reallyIMG_4910 shouldn’t be surprised after doing business in the Pittsfield area these past 5 years.  Through all of it’s struggles, this community is emerging as a resilient and innovative area with a strong pulse in the sustainable food and business movement.  We’re excited to announce that we are now certified with Baystate Certifiers as an ORGANIC producer.  Thanks so much to everyone over at Team Fire Cider for lending a hand at just the right moment, we can’t wait to get growing in 2015!

CSA Pickups Begin

Week one of our produce CSA started last Saturday with the following going home with our shareholders:20140619-155953.jpg

Chioggia Beets with greens

Swiss Chard

Siberian Kale


Bunching Onions

Spring Garlic

D’Avignon Radishes

We hope everyone enjoyed these spring delights. As is the case every season, share boxes will vary in size throughout the year. The beginning of the season tends to be on the lighter side and the volume grows throughout the summer and into fall. This coming Saturday we are headed to markets with these delicious items:


Collard Greens


Peas – Predominately Snow peas and a few sugar snap.

Beets with Greens- Detroit Dark Red and Chioggia

Salad Greens- Mostly Red Oakleaf because this is the variety that the deer seem to like the least out of all of the varieties of greens they have desecrated this spring.

Cheriette Radishes

Spring Garlic


We are still busy planting here on the farm. The winter squash, eggplant and pepper are all still waiting in the greenhouse for the next rainy day. Fall seeding is almost finished up for Kale and Collards. The next planting of beets is not looking nearly as nice as the first, so savor those beets and greens while we have them!20140619-160052.jpg

The farm has picked up a third market. We will be driving to the Winthrop Farmer’s Market for eight Sunday markets this summer. Opening day went very well for us. And yes, part of the draw is the beach trip that happens after the market.🙂

We still have lots of lovely plants growing in the greenhouses too so please think of us if you need to fill any space in your gardens as Spring turns to summer.

These days on the farm we sweat A LOT and work ridiculously long days that
string along for weeks. Our shoulders are tan and sore. The bounty of food for the season is just beginning and it never seems like there is enough even though there always is. Planting is not yet finished and seeding is continual. The jungle of weeds is just barely at bay thanks to constant hand and tractor cultivating. It all seems like an endless whirlwind until suddenly we are at rest again in November. Please, if you can, remember to thank all of your farmers this time of year. We are tired, but still so happy to grow you food.  See you at the markets!





New for 2014: CSA Plant Start Shares!

We’ve added vegetable and herb start CSA Shares to the farm for the 2014 season and are very excited about it!  Read all about how it works here:  CSA Plant shares information.  The deadline for signing up for a plant share is April 1st.  We’ve also found the time (thank you winter) to update our CSA Vegetable share information for 2014.  We have made the decision to hold our prices at the same rates we offered in 2013.  We will also be mailing out paper brochmay-10ures to those of you who have been members in the past.  We encourage you not to wait if you are interested in signing up for one of our shares this season.  The CSA model of farming makes the farm financially viable for us as it provides funding when we need it the most, early spring.  This is when most of our investment in seeds,soil and infrastructure happens.  It is also a time of year when we have very little product and are not attending farmer’s markets.  You receive a $15 early bird discount on our produce shares if you sign up before March 15th.    By purchasing a share from our small farm you are keeping your money within our local agricultural community and providing yourself with food security for an entire growing season.  You can relax knowing that your plants and vegetables are being grown with integrity using organic and sustainable methods.  Please let us know if you have any questions about our plant or vegetable share options.  We are looking forward to seeing everyone this spring!

Summer Farming- CSA Shares Week 5

basketsThe summer rains seem to be letting up a bit in our corner of the hills in West County.   This spring has been a fun and productive one for the farm.  CSA Shares have been moving right along and are now in their fifth week of pickups.  This time of year, shares and market wares include Kale, Swiss Chard, Salad Mix, Summer Squash, Garlic Scapes, Salad Turnips, Basil and Broccoli.  Our old versatile friend the Potato is back this week too!  Earlier this spring we had great pea and radish crops but like so many flavors of the growing season, these delicious treats only lasted for a few weeks.  Don’t worry, the radishes will return this fall!   We are enjoying our new ‘market style’ CSA pickups, where members have free choice with what they take away in their shares each week.  Our punch card shares have been working out as well, these members only pickup when they want to and can take as little or as much as they like each time, just don’t lose those punch cards! 🙂

The excitement IMG_6919of the new Downtown Pittsfield Market has continued on into the summer.  At the end of June we took a fun trip to the “big city” of Chicopee to make an appearance on WWLP’s “Mass Appeal” to discuss the new market and cook up some of our delicious eggs and veggies live on camera.

We’ve done several farm tours this season so far.  The downtown market manager took the time to write this wonderful article about our little farm after their visit.  We also met with the founder of an exciting new project, Localcycle.   They will be working with the farm by connecting us to institutional buyers who want to offer local food in their dining facilities.

Speaking of working with the farm, Alex and I are lucky to have some help this season.  Last year’s live in apprentice, Tyler, has started his own farm in Windsor this season.  He came out several times this spring to help with our larger plantings and went home with lots of seedlings for his own patch.  We also have had steady help from a Boston transplant, Justin.  It has been so nice to have helpers during our busiest time of year.  They seem to be enjoying all of the yummy farm food too!

Our fall crop of Brassicas is coming along in the greenhouse.  Once they are in the ground, we will be finished with field transplanting for the year, whew!  Now begins the season of weeding, cultivating and harvesting.  All of this rain has brought on a bumber crops of bugs as well.  Tomatoes in the hoophouseWe  are trying to harvest those guys off of our plants, by harvest I really mean staring at them and wishing they would go away…  Let’s hope they don’t affect our potato and squash crops too much.

In the next few weeks we will begin harvesting what is shaping up to be a great tomato crop from the hoop house and the field.  Cucumbers will be coming in and the cabbage too.  We hope all of our CSA members and market customers are enjoying the great flavors of early summer.  We’ll see you at the markets!

Spring Plants!

Spring time in the propagation house has arrived!  In a just a few short weeks we will be carting our seedlings off to market.  We are accepting pre-orders via email this year.  You can find us at the Downtown Pittsfield Farmer’s Market or the Lanesborough Mall Market on Saturdays starting May 11th.  Missed the market?  Head to The Creamery in Cummington to find our plants.  You can also wander all the way out to the farm to pick up your garden starts if you prefer!  We grow our seedlings in certified organic potting mix and use only certified organic fertilizer.    Our greenhouse is heated with a combination of thermal mass and wood stove. (Also long nights spent awake feeding said wood stove.)  We have chosen optimal varieties for our New England climate.  Many are heirlooms that are also known for amazing taste. We try to ensure the best possible beginning for your garden starts!

Vegetable Starts in 6 packs $3.50
Brussel Sprouts
Red Cabbage
Gr Cabbage
Swiss Chard
Lacinato Kale
Curly Kale
Purple Kale
Red Russian Kale
Siberian Kale
Salad Mix
Romaine Lettuce
Green leaf Lettuce
Red Leaf Lettuce
Red Onions
Yellow Onions
White Onions
Hot peppers(Cayenne, Anaheim, Habanero, Jalepeno, Poblano etc )
Sweet peppers (Lady bell, Red bell, yellow bell)

Tomatoes in heirloom and hyDSC_3178brid varieties; Valley Early Girl, Moskvich, Black Krim, Grape, Cherokee Purple, Garden Peach,  Pruden’s Purple, Yellow Brandywine, Green Zebra, Sweet 100, Romas etc.  The tomatoes come in 2″ pots for $2 each. Sun gold and Mariana Sauce tomatoes are available in six packs for $3.50 as well.

Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Cucumbers, Melons (several varieties of each) in 2″ pots $2 each

Annual herbs in 4″ pots $3
Basil ( purple, thai, genovese sweet)                                                                    DSC_3241
Curly Parsley
Flat Leaf Parsley
Perennial herbs in 4″ pots $4
English Mint
Chocolate Mint
Garlic Chives
Purple Sage
Tri Color Sage
Lemon Verbena
Hidcote Lavendar
Anise Hyssop
Seascape and Jewel Strawberries in 4″ Pots (everbearing, dayneutral) $4
Geraniums in 4″ pots $4
Large 10″ Wave Petunia Hanging Baskets $15
Small 8″ Wave Petunia Hanging Baskets $10
Elderberry Bushes $17
This is arguably my very favorite time of year, tending and propagating all of these tiny plants and watching everything come alive outside once again for spring.  We look forward to seeing you all at market!

Thank You 2012 CSA Members!

Hello Everyone!  Alex and I want to thank you so much for supporting our farm in 2012 and sharing the harvest with us.  We are very pleased with the way our season turned out and were happy to provide you with the fruits of our labor.  This season brought unprecedented variety to our CSA boxes, so we especially hope that your bellies are happy.   Please let us know if you have any feedback.  We are always trying to fine tune our CSA practices so we want to hear about what works for you.

Worthington Pickup members  we missed seeing you all very much every week and sharing  the excitement of the newest recipe discovery.  However,  Our time with our growing boys is precious and they change so quickly.  We really enjoyed having a day off (?!) On Sundays where we did not have to do farm activities and could be present with our family.   Thank you! 

We hope everyone enjoyed the website postings about CSA boxes and farm life.  When we started there were visions of lush photographs of each week’s shares and complicated recipes with pictures.  But, due to the hectic nature of farming combined with little ones there was often a bit of rushing with the posts.  (See pickups 19 and 20.  Oh wait, those don’t exist.)  Hopefully it was helpful to have the contents of your shares listed, sometimes all of those root vegetables are hard to identify!

We have updated our sign up information for the 2013 season and you will also be getting a letter and brochure in the mail shortly.  Your early season support allows us to purchase seed and soil amendments. This helps make the farm financially sustainable for us.   We would love to have you back for another season of growing, cooking and eating in the spring.  Stay cozy this winter!

CSA Shares Week 18

FROST WEEK!  We were very busy yesterday scurrying around the farm getting everything together for the first hard freeze of the season.  we found the following items out in the field for you this week.

Collard Greens

Siberian Kale- If you haven’t tried last week’s kale fritter recipe with this variety try it this time.


Daikon Radish

Carrots-  These just seem to get sweeter as the weather gets colder.

Swiss Chard

Sugar Pumpkins



Japanese Eggplants- This is the end of a delicious crop this year.

Enjoy everything this week!

CSA week 17

After a soggy week we were thankful to have a sunny day to harvest!  It’s hard to believe that we only have three more weeks to go for summer CSA.  We hope you are all continuing to enjoy everything.  This week’s shares have the following contents:

Turnips- Purple topped

Black Radish

Broccoli- The fall planting is always so sweet, enjoy this stuff.

Carnival Winter Squash-  This variety is similar in flavor to the Acorn Squash and it also makes a pretty fall decoration.

Red Potatoes

Salad Mix- Don’t be scared if you find blades of grass in your salad mix!  :)  We do a large scale wash, but always recommend that CSA members invest in a salad spinner to wash with as well.


Sugar Pumpkin- For eating, carving or throwing.  (As demonstrated by two small children at the farm.)

Siberian Kale-  We have been loving the kale fritters!   The Siberian variety works very well in this simple recipe.  Chop and steam 10oz. or so of kale.  I like to either chop it quite fine, or put it into the food processor for a few pulses.  Mix the kale with 4 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (or equivalent if you don’t do gluten), Cumin, salt and pepper.   You can also include finely chopped onions if you like.  Mix everything together and place small balls of mix in a large frying pan in the preheated oil of your choice.  We use a combination of butter and Sunflower Oil for pan frying.   Once they have settled into the oil flatten them with a spatula and flip over when first side is evenly browned.  These are amazing with a nice dipping sauce of tomatoes, sour cream and a touch of chili powder.

Swiss Chard-  You could also use this in the above recipe.

Have fun cooking for the week everyone!  There is something very sweet about the cold crisp days and a warm stove top of farm food.  Hooray for fall!

CSA Week 16

Hi all!  Sorry we didn’t get a post up for last week’s harvest.  We go into no frills mode over here when both of the wee ones are sick along with Mama.  I think I am on day 11 today, although the days have all melted into one big stuffy mess.  Alex has been farming solo while I nurse the kids and myself back to health.   he managed to come up with a great fall share this wee:

Salad Mix

Spaghetti Squash-Cut these in half and bake face down on an oiled baking sheet at 375 until soft.  Scoop out into a casserole dish, mix with butter(optional) and pour tomato sauce over top. (You all have some frozen from a few weeks ago when we were sneaking those extra pounds of tomatoes into the shares, right?) Top with whatever types of cheese you have around and salt and pepper.  We like to use Mozzarella and Parmesan.  Return to the oven until the dish is bubbly and the cheese starts to brown.   You can also use Pesto in place of tomato sauce for this dish and it is fantastic.


Sugar Pumpkin


Black Radishes

Collard Greens

Japanese Eggplant

Broccoli-  Making a return appearance with the maturing of the fall planting.  We are always proud when we can get this final planting of broccoli to produce before the end of CSA season.

We have had a really wonderful growing season this year in our new fields along the Deerfield River Valley.  We have so much bounty this fall that we have decided to do a simple Winter CSA box.  Please follow the link to learn more.  Very simply put, we are charging $75 for 50 lbs of organic winter storage crops.  All will store well in your own kitchen, pantry, refrigerator or basement root cellar.  I know some of you may have stock piles you have been starting from your summer shares with us so if you don’t need anything don’t worry!  If you could, please help us spread the word and send friends to our website if they are interested in a storage crop share for the winter, we’d really appreciate it!

Wish us luck getting everyone healthy for next week!

CSA Week 14

It’s Friday harvest time! Your shares have the following this week:

Japanese Eggplant

Cubanelle Peppers

Cayenne Peppers- Salsa ?

Tomato array🙂

Collard Greens -Here is a recipe for stuffed collard greens from the New York times.   I tend to be really bad with following exact ingredients or amounts with recipes.  I think the main idea with this one is to grab some sort of nut, whatever herbs you have around, rice and tomato.  Personally we tend to throw random pieces of cheese into this dish as well!  Don’t forget, if you are not cooking the collards with some sort of meat, use plenty of butter and even a broth to help break down the leaves as it cooks and give them that melt in your mouth taste.  Don’ be afraid to leave them simmering for a long period of time.  Collards are a prehistoric plant dating back to the ancient Celts, Romans and Greeks.  (and probably farther for all we know.) Channel your ancient ancestry and eat some greens!

Swiss Chard

Hakurei Turnips-the first of our fall planting, these are the sweet and tender ones that you can eat raw or roasted.

Red Potatoes- I am making a nice batch of potato salad as we speak.

Basil- this is the end of it I believe.


Summer Squash- Cube and put in your stuffed collard greens.

I am not making any promises about extra stuff not being thrown in your boxes this time of year so look out!   Next Saturday we will be dropping off shares in Worthington and Pittsfield but are taking the week off from attending the market.  If you are a part time Pittsfield member and want to pick up next week please email us so we can set up a drop off point for your produce on Saturday.  Have a great week everyone.