Pick a Farm to Pick Your Own

By Christy Bassett, The Organic Food Guide Coordinator

This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 September Issue Newsletter

organic apple orchard

Few things are as magical as when you first discover that food actually does grow on trees (… and on bushes, in dirt and amongst leaves). The edge of the New England woods in many of our backyards is home to wild raspberries and thorny tangles of blackberry brambles. I’m sure I’m not the only one who as a child first recognized the familiar fruits from the refrigerator, but took a minute to place them when seen on the vine. When my mom placed one in her mouth, and then told me it was okay for me to do the same, I broke out in a giddy smile, immediately storing the vital information in a part of my brain that was reserved for survival skills. This is where food comes from.

I like to think that my children have a better grasp on the origin of their food supply than I did at their age. They have grown up with green things growing in the garden and family time spent weeding, watering and harvesting. But still, there is something special about visiting a farm with one hundred year old apple trees or multiple fields of blueberry bushes that speaks a little louder to your soul. Each year we make a point to visit our local fruit farm at various times of the year. July is for strawberries, August for blueberries, and September for apples, and of course, October for pumpkins. If we were more prepared, we could catch cherries, raspberries and peaches as well. And perhaps next year will be the year that we will be. (Fingers crossed.)

Kids love farms where they can pick their own fruit. The hustle and bustle of other families herding their own small people to the farm store for berry boxes, bushel bags or wagons loaded with crates adds to the excitement of an experience that only happens once a year. Then there is the searching for the perfect specimen, the picking of several that don’t quite make the cut, and the taste testing of the plumpest, sun-warmed offerings.

I wouldn’t let my children eat just any fruit off the field though. The threat of lingering pesticides or funky fungicide residue has my protective instincts in overdrive. This is why we look for organic farms for pick-your-own experiences. However, it is increasingly difficult to find local farms that grow fruit organically, as disease and pest issues are a major threat to fruit yields in Massachusetts. Being an organic farmer requires an immense amount of knowledge and experience as it is. But organic fruit farmers are really in another league of their own.

At NOFA/Mass, we are proud to be in the company of some of the state’s best organic fruit growers. And lucky for us, they have listed their farms on The Organic Food Guide so that we can find them. If bringing your family to a safe, fun, educational farm is high on your priority list this year, visit www.theorganicfoodguide.org to find an organic farm close to you that offers pick-your-own harvesting. Your children will remember the experience far longer than an afternoon in the sandbox. And you may just get some jam out of it.

The Organic Food Guide is project of NOFA/Mass. Organic and sustainable farms, businesses, restaurants and grocers can list their products for free on the site. Visit www.theorganicfoodguide.org to find out more.

Farmstands Across Massachusetts Offer True Farm to Table Experience

By Christy Bassett, The Organic Food Guide Coordinator

This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 July Issue Newsletter


(Photo courtesy Kimberly Mahr – Creative Commons License)

For me, weekdays are filled with necessary tasks where ignoring distraction is crucial to productivity.  A mid-week adventure may be five minutes in my backyard taking a closer look at the green beneath my feet.  Plantain, clover, beetles, brambles and sometimes even a little grass can help open my eyes to a world that does not necessarily need me to thrive.  But weekends… weekends are for exploring.   Our family likes to combine our weekly grocery shopping trip with time spent together visiting land where people are in touch with thriving local ecosystems.  Summer is the perfect time to do that, since many seasonal farm stands open their doors for the beautiful weather.

Farm stands offer the opportunity for consumers to visit the source of their sustenance.  It’s a simple open-ended invitation by the farmer to stop in and see what they’ve been up to without having to set time aside for formal introductions or guided tours.  You can usually learn a lot from a trip out to a farm itself, rather than purchasing the same products from retail stores or even at farmers’ markets.  Take a peak at the gardens, watch the animals in their home environment, observe the pride of the producer in their property.  Things aren’t always perfectly manicured or even peaceful on a working farm, but there is almost always a strong sense of life and bounty that is felt when you are standing on fertile ground.

In New England, we also have the perk of having some of the oldest working farms in the country.  NOFA/Mass member Appleton Farms, established in 1638 and now owned by The Trustees of Reservations, has been maintained by nine generations of the Appleton Family in Ipswich, MA.  You can visit their farm Dairy Store or Visitor Center for the full farm experience.  Hutchins Farm, another long time NOFA/Mass member, has been growing organic fruit and vegetables in Concord, MA since 1973. Their farm stand is open to the public from Tuesday – Sunday: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.  A rich history that flows through family generations can been seen and felt throughout the Commonwealth.

Besides connecting the consumer to the farm itself, visiting a farm stand also benefits the farmer.  Many growers are strapped for time and travel expenses.  By going to the farm, instead of relying on others to bring their products closer to you, you are allowing them to spend their time close to home, tending to the never-ending list of chores or simply enjoying the natural life they’ve built around them.  Less investment of resources by the farmer often allows prices to remain affordable for the consumer and provides the grower with better income.  Keeping farming profitable for those that protect our local agricultural property is a wise investment for all of us.

The Organic Food Guide can help you find farm stands that are open for business near you.  Search by location, product, organic certification and more to pinpoint your next day trip.  Your children will enjoy seeing the animals, running on open land, and picking out fresh healthy food.  You may even start a weekly family tradition, as I did, while exploring the backroads of Massachusetts and supporting local farmers.

Know of an organic or sustainable farm that should be listed in The Organic Food Guide?  Ask them to create a free listing today, courtesy of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter.  And if you appreciate this service, consider becoming a NOFA/Mass member today.

The Organic Food Guide: Connecting Food Lovers and Food Growers

By Christy Bassett, NOFA/Mass Membership & The Organic Food Guide Coordinator

This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 June Issue Newsletter

children in field

Maybe you have a thing for Swiss chard, kohlrabi, or arugula.  Perhaps you recently discovered garlic scapes and can’t get the spicy green snap of them out of your mind.  You’re longing for the unique explosion of flavor from a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato.  It’s okay, we are too.  And we’re here to help.

The Organic Food Guide is the solution to your food cravings! www.theorganicfoodguide.org is a place where you can find organic and sustainably grown food, services and products close to home.  Search from our database of over 200 Massachusetts farms, restaurants and small businesses that are either certified organic or that have taken our Sustainability Pledge.  Want to try a CSA? No problem – find farms in your area that offer CSA shares.  Prefer to peruse a farm stand straight at the source or visit a farmers’ market for variety?  Select your locale and search for it.  You can even find farms and orchards that offer “pick your own” produce for the full farm experience.

If you are a retailer or own a restaurant, we make it easy for you to find local farms that sell their organic products at wholesale rates.  (And then you can list your business on The Organic Food Guide too!)  You are an intricate and important part of our food system.  Small businesses that round up products from small farmers that don’t have the time or means to sell their products to a more concentrated population provide financial and moral support to our hard-working growers.  More and more people are choosing to buy locally and responsibly grown food.  We can all be a part of this movement.

For all of the reasons that we love buying organic, The Organic Food Guide has something for everyone.  If you would like to list your farm, business or restaurant please go to the website and submit your listing today.  Listing or searching on The Organic Food Guide is free.  NOFA/Mass is proud to offer this resource, funded through the support of members and donors like you.

If you would like assistance setting up or editing your listing on The Organic Food Guide please contact Christy Bassett at [email protected] or 978-575-4084.