Monday, October 12, 2009

CSA Farm Visit!!

I am SO excited about what we did as a family yesterday! We visited our CSA farm, Stillman's Farm, in New Braintree, MA. Last Monday was our last CSA box pickup, and the farmers had extended invitations to all members to visit the farm. We *finally* got around to it today, and I'm so glad we did.

To get there from our house took about an hour and change, mostly highway miles with some state highways as well. Like driving in the Boston metro area, there is no straight way to get anywhere else in Massachusetts either. Once we were off of the Mass Pike (I-90 for the non-Massachusetts residents), we were surrounded by beautiful country hills, fall foliage, and all that New England imagery you see in movies when the characters have nice vacation homes in the country.

I fell in love when we pulled up to the farmers' home. The Stillmans live in a picturesque white colonial farmhouse with lots of add-ons from a rich history. The house sits at the top of a small hill from which you can see some of the fields. Immediately surrounding the house are beautifully maintained gardens and very old wise trees, gnarly and full of character. I felt such peace and a sense of home and warmth just standing there breathing it all.

Genevieve greeted us, gave us some ideas of where to look around, what produce would be good for picking, and perhaps most important - a map. We started at the raspberry fields - rows and rows of raspberry bushes with bright red berries just asking to be picked and enjoyed. Caleb and Ellie had a fantastic time picking the berries. They probably ate about a pound of them as Aaron and I picked some for home. The berries weighed themselves down and began to squish each other, so we reluctantly moved a few rows over to the apple orchard. The apples actually glistened on the trees. We picked about a bushel and a half of Empire and Cortland apples before returning to the car to lighten our load a bit.

On our way back to the car, we met up with Glenn (Genevieve's husband) who answered our many questions and pointed us to the best places for broccoli, squash, and tomatoes. Aaron also asked about potatoes, and we learned about the flooding problems which reduced their potato crop this year. Glenn also expressed surprise and congratulations that we managed to grow about a dozen tomatoes in our backyard. I was honored and touched to get a compliment from an actual farmer.

Glenn also mentioned that they had some pigs we could visit on our way to the vegetable fields. I don't think I've ever seen such happy pigs ever, and my uncle raised pigs for many years. My uncle was kind to the pigs, but I don't remember seeing the pigs look joyful, and the Stillman pigs had a twinkle in their eyes. The kids enjoyed meeting the pigs as well as the other animals (chickens and 2 border collies), but we had serious vegetable picking ahead.

To get to the broccoli fields, we passed by more kale than I've ever seen in my life. Not only was there a ton of kale, but there were several varieties too. We also passed many rows of brussel sprouts. Aaron thought it was interesting to see the similarities between kale and brussel sprout leaves as well as similarities between those and broccoli. We snapped off several bunches of broccoli, went back for some brussel sprouts, and decided we would finish up with tomatoes and squash.

The Stillmans and their crew had picked all of the tomatoes the night before due to frost. They had sorted the tomatoes into large boxes in a gigantic greenhouse. I think most grocery stores could fit at least half to 2/3 of their produce section in this greenhouse. We chose a few nice tomatoes, explained a bit about greenhouses to Caleb, and returned to the barn where we earlier had seen a true cornucopia of squash. From the squash harvest, we picked up several delicata squash (a favorite here), a few butternut squash, and 1 or 2 squash we didn't know by name.

When Aaron and I talked about visiting the farm, we guessed we would spend about an hour there. By the end of our visit, we had spent 2.5 hours there and didn't feel at all ready to leave. We thanked the Stillmans again for sharing their home and work with us. We promised to share recipes and return next season.

If only next season weren't so far away...

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