THIS WEEK'S NEWSLETTER
We have been too busy picking and sorting and packing strawberries to actually take any pictures of them, so here are a few strawberry photos from over the years here at Town Farm. They are absolutely delicious, they are as plentiful as the have ever been, and they are already almost done. This is the last week of flats. Call or text if you want me to hold one for you. It will also be--sadly--one of the last weeks for shaved ice until we return with ice and strawberries next year. All of which is to say, come and get them! Can't wait to see you tomorrow at Tuesday Market!
--Ben 413 262 5489
Hello Dear Friends,
We're back with strawberries (wickedly good ones, thanks to the heat!) and we can't wait to see you at Tuesday Market. Find us there tomorrow and the following Tuesday and the one after that. (We'll have shaved ice, too, of course.)
Here is Wiley during the weekend heat wave loading in one of our flats!
And yes, we will have flats available for freezing and jam-making this season. A flat is 8 quarts, and they cost $54/flat. Three or more flats are $48/flat. Call, text, or email me if you'd like to reserve any flats. They can be picked up at market or you can reserve them to pick up later in the week at the farm. If you're getting 3 or more flats and live in the vicinity, I'm happy to deliver them.
See you at market!
Here's my #: 413 262 5489
Hi Everyone –
You might think I have a stockpile of photos of my kids with strawberries, all taken at the same time and deployed as needed throughout the season, but no! Each photo represents a new instance in which we felt called upon to record both the size and the apparent (and quickly confirmed!) deliciousness of a particular strawberry. Here is Wiley helping out again this weekend (with dear old Hana helping out in the background!).
We will be back at market with tons of berries this week, and -- as many of you have already asked -- we will have flats available for freezing and jam-making. A flat is 8 quarts, and they cost $50/flat. Three or more flats are $44/flat. Call, text, or email me if you'd like to reserve any flats. They can be picked up at market or you can reserve them to pick up on Friday at the farm. If you're getting 3 or more flats and live in the vicinity, I'm happy to deliver them.
See you at market!
Here's my #: 413 262 5489
Hello Farm Towners,
It's been quite a while since I've written, but I can't let the beginning of June go by without reminding you that we will be at market all month, loaded with some of the best strawberries that can be found anywhere. I should know, since I recently ate fresh strawberries for six straight days in the south of France, and since I have now eaten so many of our own in the last four days that I can hardly stand up. Here is Wiley out in the field, helping to pick them for this week's market.
And if you want to see a couple pics of the markets Silas and I visited in southern France, click here.
OK, can't wait to see you at Tuesday Market!
Hello good people,
As most of you know, Town Farm is on sabbatical this year, while Oona researches seed-saving and works on food accessibility for Hampshire County farmers markets, and while Ben writes essays and teaches chemistry (yikes) and French (double yikes) to the nine-year-old. We are also, of course, managing Tuesday Market, which starts its season today with a glorious spread of spring food. And while I am well aware that there are in this valley many skilled farmers capable of growing a delicious carrot or a tender salad mix, I know of no one who's had the brave and bold ingenuity to wedge finely-shaved ice into a cone-shaped cup, and to mix home-grown fruit and organic sugar into a delectable syrup, and then (so brave! so bold!) to pour that syrup on top of that ice. So there you have it, no vegetables this year, but come see me and my boys at market today (and most, but maybe not all, Tuesdays this season), where we will spin you the most delicious, most fruity, most real shaved ice available anywhere. Hope I see you later today!
FYI, I'll be sending updates from time-to-time, telling about the goings-on over here at Town Farm, and certainly I'll remind you about our stupendous strawberries -- which we will be selling at Tuesday Market in June -- but I won't be sending a newsletter every week this year. If you want to receive the Tuesday Market newsletter, or even get text message reminders about market, you can sign up here.
Hello Friends –
Seems like every year about this time we send an email telling about changes we’ll be making at the farm for the following year. How the farm is expanding or shrinking or reorganizing or whatever. Well, this season is no exception. In fact, I’m writing to tell you about some of our biggest transitions yet. After seven years of growing good food for all of you good people, we’ve decided that it’s time to take a year off from producing vegetables. To explain with any accuracy how we arrived at this decision would require several diagrams, maybe a couple flowcharts, some bar graphs with vertices representing soil fertility, burnout levels, the sweetness of our carrots, the spaz-level of our children, and the number of half-read books in our household. But to spare you the pain of deciphering such graphs, I’ll say this:
We are so proud of everything we’ve accomplished on the farm over these last years (plus, of course, starting Tuesday Market, which we’ll be happily continuing to run). There is not much that can compare with the satisfaction of pulling forty different delicious crops out of the ground, making them into a beautiful display, and then selling them to the individuals, the families, the weirdos who value the food as much as we do. That’s the first thing. The second is that – in the midst of the utter mania of running a thriving vegetable operation – Oona and I have learned that neither of us are single-minded enough (not even double- or triple-minded enough) to shepherd a bustling farm through year after year of steady, uninterrupted-yet-constantly-improving production. The same curiosity and insatiability and impatience that led us to start the operation in the first place, and to try again and again to get it right, now leads us in new directions.
As for those directions, here’s the briefest of summaries: I am now devoting the majority of my (admittedly limited) attention to homeschooling Silas. Something that needs to be done. And Oona has decided to take a number of months to study and investigate and ask a lot of questions, in order to make the farm into something that can sustain itself (and our family) for the long haul. She’s researching seed production, she’s learning about alternative economic models of food production, she’s processing herbs, she's visiting the farms of friends. She'll be organizing a seed-swap this winter, so let her know if you're interested in being part of that. And wish her luck as she puts her mind and heart into re-envisioning the best ways to grow crops on these several marginal, overworked, for-decades-misused-but-still-magnificent acres of Northampton farmland.
So that’s the story. It’s the end of an era here at Town Farm. Our last market of the season is this Tuesday. Come say hello and goodbye. Get some of those sweet, sweet carrots (order a $25lb bag if you like). We sure hope to see you there, but – if we don’t – we’ll look forward to seeing you around town. Have a great fall!
Here are a few favorite pictures from the last bunch of years –
Some FAQs for the farmers:
But who is going to make and sell shaved ice? Well, Ben will, of course. Maybe. Probably. If he’s that crazy.
Who is going to pick all those raspberries and strawberries you have planted? Ben, too. Maybe. Probably. If he’s that crazy.
Is Tuesday Market going to still be the awesome place to get food and see friends and feel excellent and impassioned about the world? Yes. Definitely. It’ll be even better.
Is there anyone else you want to thank? Why yes, actually. Without Hana and Andrew (and all the crew-members who preceded them) this farm would be an unruly tangle of weeds, all of our tools would be lost, and there would be no food. None. And without Kaity our boys would by now have mounted several successful coups of our household, if not the area at large.
Hello Friends –
In case you didn't see my recent column on farming, parenting, climate change, etc. in the Gazette, here it is. Of course, as many of you know, Oona is the primary working farmer around here these days (along with our sturdy, sesquipedalian* crew), which explains not only how I have time to write a column for the paper, but also to discuss gravity and climate change – among a thousand other topics – with my kids. Thanks Oona. Thanks kids.
PARENTING IN GEOLOGICAL TIME
I'm driving in the pickup truck with my eight-year-old. He’s worried. He has recently skimmed an article in a scientific journal about the earth’s gravitational force – how it is is weakening – and he has worked himself into a rather anxious state. Not having seen the article myself, I do my best to reassure him, saying it’s nothing he needs to worry about. “This is geological time, bud,” I explain. “These are changes you’ll never see. This isn’t happening in human time.”
“Well, what is an example happening in human time?” he asks.
“Global warming,” I say. “Climate change. Happening as we speak.”
And there you have it. I have just attempted to talk my son out of worrying about the weakening of the Earth’s gravitational field by reminding him of the imminent terrors of human-induced climate change. I bet there’s a diagram in the Bad Parenting Handbook illustrating that maneuver.
But it’s true. Climate change is happening as we speak, and its early effects are becoming apparent to many of us who are involved in agriculture here in New England. There is plenty to be concerned about. Farmers throughout the region are dealing with growing seasons that are both too wet and too dry, a significant reduction in native pollinating insects, erratic storms of great intensity, new infestations of pests like the spotted-wing drosophilia, and a slow but undeniable increase in seasonal temperatures.
Farmers are a resilient bunch, so it is informative to spend time with them as they begin to accommodate their growing practices to these changes. Not too long ago, at a workshop about cover-cropping, I was part of a conversation about climate change and planting zones, which are shifting northward as the planet warms. For a moment in the midst of this conversation I was filled with a surprising sensation. It was a kind of awe – a sudden awareness of being present during a period of profound change, among a group of intensely practical people who were continuing to do their work right in the midst of these changes. Part of dealing with trauma is the act of bearing witness, and the farmers I have learned from are deep in the thick of it, experiencing these vast, global transitions on a daily, weekly, first-hand basis.
So now back to the pickup truck, where I’ve just reassured my son that climate change will transform the earth long before he floats away due to a lack of gravity. He asks some detailed questions, and – although he’s heard most of it before – I can feel his anxiety rising. He is an intense lover of wildness (as are so many kids I encounter). He knows the peril faced by the wild creatures of this planet. Now he wants to understand better what it will take to stop the warming of the earth immediately.
And here it is again – right in the pickup – another moment of awe. To be in the presence of this child who will grow to adulthood in the midst of the most tremendous changes the planet has seen for thousands of years. To be responsible for this child. To help him learn the skills and resolve and flexibility that will be required to thrive in a fluctuating world. To ride next to him in human time and geological time simultaneously.
The eight-year-old and I are making ourselves ready to go down to New York City for the People’s Climate March later this month. If all goes as intended, it will be the largest rally for the climate in history. We are going because we want our world leaders to do everything they can to get real about the imminent and undeniable impacts of global climate change. Not just to talk about it (although even that would be an improvement on the current state of things), but to take bold and transformative action. We are also going to make a stand for Climate Justice, knowing that whatever effects we in New England experience due to climate change, the people of the world’s poorest nations will be impacted in far more devastating ways. I personally am going to the march with complicated feelings of fear, exasperation, and remorse about what’s already been done to our atmosphere. But I wouldn’t be going if I hadn’t also experienced these moments of awe – the thrill of being here, now, at this fraught moment in history.
The People’s Climate March is Sunday, September 21st. Maybe I’ll see you there.
OK, thanks for reading that. We are very excited at Town Farm about our scrumptious fall broccoli, not to mention the exceptional heirloom tomatoes and green beans still coming in, and also not to mention the super sweet delicata squash arriving tomorrow at market for the first time. Hope to see you there.
And if you happen to be at market between 3:30 & 5:00, you'll find Silas selling pumpkins from his patch. He's had an excellent crop of both edible pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns this year, as you can see in the photo below. Plus, he's doing bike deliveries to households in Northampton & Florence if you don't want to lug one of these home yourself. Remember, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but not while you're carrying one of these magnificent pumpkins! Email us if you'd like a delivery.
*Sesquipedalian is an actual word meaning "someone who uses long words," and it's used here as a gift for Andrew, our crew member who has a knack for it. But does he read to the bottom of the Town Farm newsletter is the question...
Hi Everyone –
Silas is writing this week's newsletter. Here goes:
I, Silas, son of Ben, and my little brother Wiley, will be selling vegetables (me) and flowers (Wiley) from 2:30 - 4:00 at Tuesday Market. You'll be able to recognize us. We're only kids. I will have extremely delicious and healthy cherry tomatoes – and carrots – and onions – plus one other thing that I do not care to eat one bit but you might like very much (hint - it's green).
40% of all sales will be donated to stop climate change by planting trees.
Plus, Wiley will have beautiful flowers that only cost 50 cents (but he likes tips).
Also, I will have pumpkins for sale in September and October. Buy them at market, or get them delivered by bike! I will have these varieties:
Long Island Cheese
Musque du Provence
Blue Pumpkins (delicious)
You can sign up now if you want a pumpkin delivery. I'll let you know when they're available. Deliveries to Northampton are $1.00 and to Florence are $1.50.
Wiley at Market
Hi Everyone –
Here's Oona talking animatedly to a group of young women from all over the country about the joys of growing seeds and about starting Tuesday Market.
Here's Wiley helping make shaved ice.
Come see us at market this week, where we'll have loads of green beans and other summer vegetables, and where we'll also be launching the market's new recycling trailer and stage, built by none other than our great friend Stephen Yoshen.
Hope to see you there!
It's wild berry time here in Northampton, and we are pleased. I hope you've had the chance to enjoy the black caps and mulberries along the bike path and elsewhere in town. The boys and I are ever on the lookout for the perfect mulberry tree. If you have coordinates on a good (publicly accessible) one, please let me know.
Here on the farm the red currants have ripened. We make these into our distinctive & delicious red currant syrup, which we pour onto our shaved ices at Market. It's Oona's and my favorite flavor, and so far as I know there's nowhere else anywhere that you can get yourself a homemade, hand-cranked, red currant shaved ice!
Now's the moment for sugarsnaps. They are at their peak, and their season is ever so short, so come find them at Market, too, alongside the carrots, beets, fresh onions, summer broccoli(!), and abundant greens.
Hope your days are marvelous in this first burst of summer!