“Farm to Clinic” Model Brings Healthful Bounty to One Oregon Community

First appeared in Holistic Primary Care

A unique partnership between health clinics and small farms in Portland, Oregon, is proving that helping people make the connection between their food choices and their health can lead to meaningful changes.

In 2015, the Multnomah County Health Department and Zenger Farm began a project called CSA Partnerships for Health, to address the growing challenge of food insecurity.

In a unique “farm-to-clinic” partnership, Zenger Farm, a small organic farm near Portland, OR, brings fresh, healthy produce to low-income patients at a community clinic.(Image courtesy Bryan Allen, Zenger Farm)Clinic patients—many of whom have had very limited access to healthy food in the past–become part of the farms’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and, each week, pick up their share of locally grown, organic food at the clinics.

In the course of just one year, this innovative program has grown to include four small farms that now partner with four health clinics in underserved Portland neighborhoods.

Project manager Bryan Allan, who works at Zenger Farm, observes, “Picking up food at the health clinic reinforces the idea that food is the basis of good health.”

At each health center, twenty-five families are able to participate in the program, which is funded by grants from Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating Active Living Program (HEAL) and Oregon Department of Agriculture. Practitioners and community health workers at the participating clinics identify patients whose health conditions would benefit from dietary changes and then make referrals to the program.

Each family pays $5 per week and receives $20 worth of vegetables. Depending on the farm, the CSA season runs between 20-23 weeks.

Health by the Season

As is the case with most CSAs, the produce that is available each week changes along with the growing season.

For example, one week a participant’s CSA share could include zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, broccoli, basil, cucumber, onion, eggplant, Red Russian kale, split peas and some red potatoes. The next week, some of those items could be out of season and different later-season vegetables take their place.

This variation is part of what makes the program tick: participants learn to cook in harmony with the seasons–a valuable skill, and one way to make healthy eating more affordable.

Many people overlook the reality that out of season produce has to be shipped long distances, often from South America. In addition to carrying a heavy carbon footprint, it is usually more expensive.

Locally-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables can be a much cheaper option, and that’s an important factor in low-income communities that typically face a dearth of full service grocery stores and farmers markets. These neighborhoods are usually crowded with fast food restaurants offering inexpensive but nutritionally empty food choices.

When healthy food can be found, it is often more expensive and of poorer quality than found in wealthier neighborhoods. The CSA option puts fresh, healthy produce within reach of people with the greatest need but the least access.

Just getting a variety of vegetables is a positive healthy step for some families. “Wealthier families aren’t afraid to buy veggies that kids may not eat, but poor families can’t afford to do this,” noted Zenger Farms’ Mr. Allen.

Cooking for Health

Providing vegetables to poor families will have limited impact if the people do not know how to cook them. The CSA partnership program not only exposes people to vegetables to which they may be unfamiliar but, importantly, it teaches how to use them.

On a weekly basis, each of the four farms distributes newsletters to the program participants that include recipes spotlighting that week’s featured vegetables. They also provide skill sheets that can be kept on their refrigerators for easy reference. These cover topics such as ‘how to store veggies’, ‘how to stir-fry’ and ‘seasonings and how to use them’.

The goal, according to Allan is to “teach people to cook with what they have on hand.” In addition, four times per season, the program offers a food demo or hands on cooking classes at facilities near the health clinics to facilitate the clients’ culinary education.

So, does the program work?

An evaluation in 2015 by Portland State University using pre- and post-surveys as well as focus groups provides some early evidence of success.

A “farm-to-clinic” share from Zenger Farm’s produce (Image courtesy Bryan Allen, Zenger Farm)

Many participants reported losing weight since beginning their participation in the CSA, and they applauded the social aspect of the program. One member noted that the CSA pick-up was the only reason she got out of bed that day.

Another participant reported that she walked two miles to pick up her produce–a real win/win; not only is she obtaining fresh fruits and vegetables, she’s also upping her physical activity as a result of the program.

Ninety percent of the program participants reported that they now liked vegetables that they did not like at the start of the program. Broadening one’s diet to include new types of vegetables is an important precursor to changing eating habits.

For their part, practitioners at the participating clinics are glad to have a new option to help patients deal with chronic diet-related diseases, and appreciate being able to refer patients to a food-based program instead of having to just write another prescription.

CSA Partnerships for Health would like to see this type of system adopted in other parts of the country, and offers a tool kit to help other groups establish similar programs. The kit includes skill sheets, lesson plans, worksheets, samples of member recruitment materials and a memo of understanding.

In return, the Partnership asks that new groups report back some basic statistics such as number of participants and pounds of food distributed. For further information, contact Bryan Allan atbryan@zengerfarm.org .

Tackling obesity and the chronic health conditions to which it leads requires a multi-faceted approach. Using the CSA model to change eating habits is a viable starting point. Helping people develop new tastes and improve their food choices may take time, but can lead to real changes in their health.


Julia Powers is a nutrition consultant and writer based in Hingham, MA. After earning her masters in nutrition at the University of Bridgeport, she opted to further her education at the Maryland University for Integrative Health, where she is enrolled in the nutrition internship program. She also completed a ten-month mentorship program in Functional Medicine & Clinical Nutrition, with Dr. Liz Lipski. In addition to her private consultancy, Julia Powers Nutrition, she is a frequent contributor to Edible South Shore, and South Coast magazines.


First appeared in edible South Shore & South Coast?

Celebrating family holiday traditions can be joyous… maybe a little too joyous, you realize the next morning. A hangover is never fun. Ever. When you awaken with a throbbing headache, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue (as well as a big dose of regret), you want one only thing—to feel better. Obviously, the best course of action is to avoid this unique brand of misery in the first place. Although we’re all well-schooled in drinking responsibly—being mindful about and limiting alcohol consumption, drinking plenty of water between drinks, and never drinking on an empty stomach—sometimes you over imbibe and pay the price with a hangover. Understanding why your body feels the way it does will help you determine what you can do to bounce back as quickly as possible.

During a hangover, your body is feeling the effects of:

  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to a headache and dry mouth. Frequent urination also depletes electrolytes, contributing to the headache as well as nausea and fatigue.
  • Low blood sugar. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop, leaving you shaky, moody, and fatigued.
  • Toxic by-products. When overwhelmed with too much alcohol, the nutrients needed to metabolize the alcohol become depleted, causing acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product of alcohol to build-up in your body, leading to fatigue, headache, malaise, and an upset stomach.

While there is no magic hangover cure, here are some strategies to help alleviate the symptoms:

  • To counteract the effects of dehydration, drink plenty of fluids, both before bed and the next day. Coconut water is a great choice since it also replenishes your electrolytes. Think of it as a sports drink without all of the artificial ingredients.
  • Eat! To stabilize blood sugar, skip the greasy, fatty food that has become standard morning-after fare. Instead, choose a meal that contains a mix of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
  • Ginger tea can calm an upset stomach, as well as provide necessary rehydration.
  • Vitamin depletion. Because the enzymes needed to break down alcohol require B-vitamins, these vitamins may become depleted with excessive alcohol intake. To give the body the nutrients it needs to metabolize the alcohol, eat foods high in B vitamins, such as whole grains, dark leafy greens, eggs, dairy, meat, nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, broccoli, avocados, and bananas. Cysteine, an amino acid, is also needed to metabolize alcohol. It is found in eggs, seeds, dairy, meat, and some whole grains.

One strategy to dodge a hangover is to avoid alcohol with high amounts of congeners, which are toxic chemical by-products of alcohol fermentation. Red wine and dark liquors such as whiskey, bourbon, and brandy have higher amounts of congeners than white wine and clear liquors like vodka.

The holidays are too busy to lose a day to nursing a hangover. While prevention is the best approach, if you do over-imbibe, here are some recipes that will help bring you back to center.


Goji Berries May Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy

goji berries 1

Tasty and nutrient-packed, Goji berries might a have a role in preventing retinal damage associated with diabetes.

Also known as Wolfberries, Goji berries are the fruits of the shrubs, Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense. These two closely related species are native to both Asia and areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

For over two thousand years, the fruit and root bark of the plant have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The orange-red berries, which are oblong and shriveled like raisins, can be eaten fresh but are more commonly found in a dried form.

Sweet but tangy, Goji berries contain protein, including all of the essential amino acids, iron, and Vitamins B1, B2 and C. They are also a good source of carotenoids, especially zeaxanthin, flavonoids and polysaccharides.

It is the carotenoid content that gives the berries a potential role in preventing diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common and serious complications of both Type I and Type II diabetes.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage retinal blood vessels. As the disease progresses, vision can become impaired and the most severe cases can ultimately result in vision loss.

Dr. Daniel Lin, Assistant Professor of nutritional science, and his fellow researchers at Oklahoma State University of Human Sciences looked to the humble Goji berry to ascertain whether it could play a role in preserving healthy retinal tissue.

In a preliminary rodent study, Dr. Lin and his fellow researchers explored the impact of two of the carotenoids found in Gojis: zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which are highly concentrated in the macula of the eyes of humans as well as rodents.

Reversing Mitochondrial Damage

For eight weeks, the researchers fed one group of mice a diet including 1% Goji berries. A second group of similar mice got the same diet minus the Gojis. Using high performance liquid chromatography, the investigators measured the carotenoid content of the retinal and liver tissue obtained from the two groups of mice.

The mice fed the diet containing Goji berries had a 13.7% increased concentration of zeaxanthin and lutein in both types of tissue.

To ascertain the effect these carotenoids might have on diabetic retinopathy, Lin’s group also examined the retinas of the mice.

Just as in humans, hyperglycemia, such as can be found in poorly controlled diabetes, can lead to oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, a primary marker of diabetic retinal degeneration.

After eight weeks, the retinas of the mice in the Goji berry group showed marked improvement, with a complete reversal of mitochondrial damage and improvements in both mitochondrial dispersion and retinal epithelial pigment granules. As Dr. Lin observed, “the mitochondria get damaged and need to be recycled to prevent downstream damage” and the goji berries appeared to do just that.

Dr. Lin believes his research is the first to show that, “Wolfberry bioactive constituents prevented or delayed the onset of the disease of diabetic retinopathy in an animal model.”

The researchers also found reduced hypoxia in retinal blood vessels of the mice fed the Goji berries. Since hyperglycemia can cause hypoxia andgoji freshsubsequent vascular dysfunction in people with diabetes, these intriguing findings will hopefully encourage further research to determine if the berries will have the same protective effects against diabetic retinopathy in humans.

While the scientists work all of that out, there are plenty of other reasons to become familiar with this nutrient-dense fruit.

US Cultivation on the Rise

Chewier than raisins, and naturally sweet but not too-sweet, these orange-red berries are delicious eaten out of hand or included in a trail mix of nut and some pieces of dark chocolate. They can be used in place of dried cherries or cranberries to top a salad.

The orange-red berries can be added to smoothies, used to top smoothie bowls, sprinkled over oatmeal, or baked into muffins.

Because they also have a tart quality, Goji berries are also a tasty addition to rice, quinoa or grain dishes.

The only slight downside is cost; since they have been dubbed a “super food” in much of the popular press, Goji berries have become quite expensive. Recently, a 16oz. package of organic Gojis was listed for $16.79 on Amazon.com.

However, they can be purchased for significantly less at Asian grocery stores. The bulk of the Goji berries sold in the United States are imported from China but now farmers in California, Nevada and New Mexico and beginning to grow them.

Although Goji berries have been safely eaten for thousands of years, Dr. Lin notes that a few case reports indicate that they may interact with blood thinning drugs. Patients using these drugs should exercise caution before consuming Goji berries. Also be aware that the Lycium genus is part of the Nightshade family, so people with Nightshade allergies or sensitivities may also want to be careful with Goji berries.

Researchers have yet to establish whether Gojis will be as efficacious in mitigating the effects of diabetic retinopathy in humans as they were in mice. In the meantime they make a delicious and nutritious addition to most peoples’ diet.


Julia Powers is a nutrition consultant and writer based in Hingham, MA. After earning her masters in nutrition at the University of Bridgeport, she opted to further her education at the Maryland University for Integrative Health, where she is enrolled in the nutrition internship program. She also completed a ten-month mentorship program in Functional Medicine & Clinical Nutrition, with Dr. Liz Lipski. In addition to her private consultancy, Julia Powers Nutrition, she is a frequent contributor to Edible South Shore, and South Coast magazines.

A Taste of Home

Backyard gardens have gained many new devotees in recent years, however, long before it became hip to grow your own food, two South Shore families had already spent decades tending extensive gardens. They not only enjoyed the bounty of their gardens during the season, but through canning and freezing were able to eat much of their own food throughout the year. While eating healthy was important to them, these two families had other, more time-honored motivations. Pat Pregoni and Pete Rando emigrated from Italy, and the backyard gardens tended by these gentlemen and their families helped bring a bit of the old country to their new home. Like many other first generation Americans, they grew foods from their homeland; not only because it was economical and provided food that tasted far superior to store-bought counterparts, but also to stay connected to the culinary culture of their childhood.

Born in Calabria, Pat spent his youth surrounded by the wonderful food of Italy. According to Pat, “ninety-nine percent of the people in my village raised their own food,” and working alongside family to grow food was just a natural part of life. By the age of three, he was already helping with the harvest; as he recalls, “you would have your own basket to pick up the olives or chestnuts that had fallen on the ground.” As was the way in his village, he began an apprenticeship when he was five years old to learn his life-long profession, tailoring. After attending school until 1:00 pm, Pat would spend his afternoons at the tailor shop, learning the trade. Despite his young age, his first job at the shop was to press the clothes with an iron heated by hot coals. Pat was a teen when his family immigrated to America and, after graduating high school, he began working at the Hingham tailor shop which he ultimately purchased in 1986. Pat and his wife have been avid backyard gardeners since they married 43 years ago.

Pete Rando, on the other hand, was born in this country in 1918 but moved back to Messina when he was three years old; his father, who suffered from asthma, thought a warmer climate would ease his symptoms. So, Pete spent his childhood immersed in the culinary culture of Italy. They had a family garden, and Pete raised rabbits that would ultimately end up on the family’s dinner table. He also trained as a barber, which was his father’s profession. In 1935, at the age of 17, Pete decided to return to the States, he arrived speaking no English with only $8 in his pocket. Because he had relatives in Hingham, he settled there, eventually opening his own barbershop which has been patronized by generations of Hingham families. He sold the shop in 1982, but even now, at age 96, returns each morning for a few hours to cut hair. Pete jokes about his work ethic, “I used to work half a day, from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. That is half a day.”


To the ordinary backyard gardener, the size of Pat Pregoni’s family garden, and the number of plants they grow in it, is staggering. In the 24 by 48 foot garden of their Scituate home, Pat and his wife Marisa, grow between 75-125 tomato plants, as well as peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and zucchini. According to Pat, “the main thing we plant is tomatoes because we use them a lot—we have tomato salad most of the summer and then my wife boils some, freezes some, and makes her own sauce.” The Pregoni’s yard is also home to 30-35 fruit trees, including apples, pears, peaches, figs, quinces, cherries, and persimmons, as well as two chestnut and four hazelnut trees. Any bounty from the vegetable garden, and any fruit that is not eaten fresh, is preserved, marinated, canned, or frozen.

Each year, between mid-August and mid-October, Pat also forages for wild mushrooms. He collects between 500-600 pounds, which will also be preserved or frozen. Foraging wild mushrooms can be a tricky business and knowledge of the different varieties is crucial. But Pat also employs a test he learned from, as he puts it, “the old timers.” You boil the mushrooms with 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and a few silver coins. If the garlic turns green or the coins turn green or black, the batch of mushrooms is no good and you have to discard it. Another annual ritual occurs each spring, when the couple makes sausage and salami. Although they used to slaughter their own pigs, they now purchase pork butt to make sausage, and hams to make salami. Pat and Marisa make their artisanal meats in late February or early March, when the temperature is consistent. The sausages, which cure for 30-45 days, and salami, which cures for two months, are hung ten feet up in the garage, where Pat says “they get a lot of breeze and dry out.”

Pete’s garden is also a diverse and productive one. When asked what he grows, Pete responds with a grin, “Everything you can mention.” This includes: beans, broccoli, Swiss chard, radishes, lettuce, peppers, eggplants, and of course, tomatoes. As one of his few concessions to aging, Pete has cut back to ten tomato plants from his peak of twenty-four. When it comes to the garden, Pete and his wife, Nellie, have an agreement: Pete does the outside work, and Nellie does the inside work. So for decades, while he tended the garden, she canned and preserved much of its bounty. In the last twenty or so years, as age has slowed Pete down a bit, two neighbors have joined him in the garden, helping with the physical tasks that are an inevitable part of keeping a garden. They also join Pete in another tradition from his homeland—winemaking. Using a 100-year old wine press he inherited from his uncle, Pete and his friends make both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in his basement. And they do what good friends have done for centuries, share the wine among friends.

Pat and Pete are equally proud of their Italian heritage, and of the country that is now their home. Their gardens have provided many rewards, but perhaps the most important is a taste of home.

Web of Life

For those committed to eating locally grown, sustainably raised food, the South Shore and South Coast of Massachusetts are a slice of heaven. Organic farms dot the land and numerous farmers markets connect growers and customers in a fun, festive atmosphere. Hugging our coastline, the Atlantic Ocean teems with fish and, increasingly, sustainably raised animals graze in our fields. However, just twenty years ago, the picture looked very different. The local food scene often amounted to a card table at the side of the road with tomatoes, zucchini, and blueberries for sale. The remarkable progress that has been made is due, in part, to a few visionary pioneers who, through their example, showed us that change was possible. In 1994 Donna Blischke founded Web of Life Farm located in Carver, and for the past twenty years she has been at the forefront of the local food movement. Inspiring people with her commitment and sharing her knowledge, she has helped the local organic food culture blossom.

As Donna recalls, “I remember twenty years ago when I was starting out, having to explain to people what organic was!”

Travis, Donna, and Stephanie Blischke grow food and grow together at Web of Life Farm.

As is the case with many farmers, Donna’s love of growing food has roots in her mother’s garden. Her mom kept a small garden and was committed to growing with no chemical inputs. As an adult, having children was Donna’s impetus to start her own garden. She recalls, “I wanted to grow food for them that was clean,” and remembers how it struck her that if she sold some extra tomatoes, she could make some money, stay home with her children, and still grow good clean food for them. From there it mushroomed. My, how it has! Donna now actively farms three acres and raises a wide variety of animals. She has also passed her mom’s love of growing food onto the next generation; her daughter works with her at the farm and her son, along with several others, helps out occasionally.

Web of Life is a diverse farm, reflecting Donna’s innate curiosity and belief in the interconnectedness of all species. As she says with a laugh, “I see something, I think it is interesting, and I want to leap into it.” Whether it is an heirloom variety of beans or a breed of goats she just learned about, if something piques her curiosity, it often ends up at the farm. The result? Donna grows a broad array of vegetables and fruits at Web of Life Farm, many of which are not found on other local farms; she also keeps bees, goats, chickens, and turkeys. Barbara Anglin, a longtime local foods activist, notes, “Donna does things no one else does.” And each year, in a nod to her Irish heritage, Donna and her two children also plant potatoes. She relates, “We even have an Irish potato harvesting song and I force them to sing it … every year. Losing tomatoes to blight here on my farm made me think of the horror my family must have felt at seeing the only crop that would ensure their survival through the winter, fail.” Web of Life also boasts a small orchard with apple and cherry trees, as well as Concord grape vines. Donna grows both heirloom and non-heirloom varieties of crops and orchard trees because, as she explains, “I love food with a history.” Some of the varieties she grows, including the Esopus Spitzenburg, reportedly Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple tree, are listed on the Ark of Taste, (a project of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity that seeks to help preserve foods in danger of extinction).

From the earliest days of the farm, Donna recognized the importance of growing food without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers; Web of Life became a Certified Organic farm in 1994. Today, with organic food readily available, it is easy to forget that just a few decades ago, this commitment was highly unusual. As Donna recalls, “I remember twenty years ago when I was starting out, having to explain to people what organic was!” This type of farming takes commitment, not just to the growing practices but to the paperwork that has to be submitted to the certifying agency. Each area of the farm, including the fields, greenhouses, orchard, mushroom tunnel, and each type of animal, has to be separately certified. Although it is a lot of work, Donna praises Baystate Organics, the certifying organization for Web of Life Farm, noting, “They are a very valuable tool for directing me to the resources I need as an organic farmer–such as which fertilizers or pest control methods are safe and approved.”

Donna and Steph reap and pitch fingerling potatoes.

As a young girl, Donna learned food preservation skills from her mother and she uses these skills to stretch the harvest, enabling her customers to enjoy local foods long past the end of the growing season. Extra tomatoes are made into sauce or salsa, fruit into preserves, and cabbage into sauerkraut. Donna observed, “If we don’t sell everything at the markets, I will find a way to can or jar it.” She even grows heirloom flint corn that is dried on the stalk and then ground into cornmeal. Donna explained, “a lot of times, cornmeal has been stripped of the good parts of the kernel. Ours is a whole grain product.” Nothing on the farm is wasted–after realizing she wanted to find a use for the hair from her goats, Donna bought herself an old spinning wheel and taught herself how to spin yarn. Several years ago, Amish craftsmen built a beautiful barn at Web of Life Farm that includes a demonstration kitchen and homey sitting area. Donna plans to use this space to offer classes, teaching food preservation skills to others. Donna’s preserved foods are welcome additions to her farm boxes and are also sold at the Plymouth farmers’ market.

Donna and Stephanie Blischke mix it up making their heirloom staples.

Pottery: Local Pottery Norwell MA

Barbara describes Donna’s work as an “agricultural ministry.” Although Donna is now focusing solely on farming, for years she helped provide access to local foods by running the Middleborough farmers’ market. Donna also shares her years of wisdom with a close-knit group of friends she calls a lovely group of likeminded farmers. . .it is a collaboration, really.

Reflecting on the dramatic changes in local food culture over the past couple of decades, Donna notes with satisfaction, “People are starting to really look at where their food comes from. It is wonderful to hear people asking questions and learning [that] if a product has an ingredient list two paragraphs long, it is not what they should be eating.” In Southeastern Massachusetts, Donna is one of the people we should thank for helping bring about these changes–as Barbara Anglin notes, “it is good to celebrate one of the veterans.”

Web Of Life Farm
71 Silva Street
Carver, MA 02330-1344
(508) 866-7712

Making The Leap: Farmers’ Markets to Retail

In the last ten years, farmers’ markets have become beloved fixtures in many communities, providing access to locally-grown and -sourced foods, a vibrant sense of community, and inspiration to improve the way we eat. In recent years, they have become something else—a springboard for business growth, as market vendors venture beyond the farmers’ market and begin selling their products in more traditional retail outlets. While not all vendors decide to take this route, it has proved very successful for three market favorites—Baking with Joy, Nella Pasta, and Ruuska Pickles.

Although the three companies followed different paths as they entered the retail market, the move has proved successful for each of them. Baking with Joy bakes more than fifty items from scratch, including cakes, quick breads, cookies, and bars. The products were an instant hit at farmers’ markets and, within a year of its 2006 founding, Baking with Joy was selling its products at the Fruit Center Marketplace, a grocery store with locations in Hingham and Milton. This year, Hornstra Farms also began delivering select Baking with Joy products. Sales growth has been so strong that the company recently moved its baking operation from their certified home kitchen into an 1800 sq. ft. facility located in Rockland. This new space will also be home to their own retail venture, a bakery café.

Nella Pasta on the freezer shelves at Whole Foods in Hingham.

Nella Pasta, based in Quincy, makes twelve delicious and inventive varieties of handcrafted ravioli and linguine, using local ingredients whenever possible. Intriguing pairings such as kale/currant and broccoli/feta/toasted cashew elevate Nella’s ravioli far beyond its bland mainstream counterparts. While Nella Pasta continues to sell both its ravioli and linguine at many area farmers’ markets, they have also achieved widespread retail distribution of their ravioli throughout New England at both local, independent grocers and Whole Foods stores.

Brian Ruuska started his eponymous pickle company in 2011, selling pickles such as Fire Dill and Sweet n’ Spicy at farmers’ markets and a few local, independent grocery stores. After partnering with a larger, family-owned food company, he was able to grow his distribution substantially and Ruuska Pickles are now found at many local, independent grocery chains such as Trucchi’s Supermarkets, and Whole Foods, as well as in stores as far away as Illinois and Texas. As the company grew, Brian decided to stop selling at farmers’ markets and concentrate exclusively on retail distribution.

What led these three very different farmers’ market vendors to make the leap to retail? In each case, it was the loyal customers at the farmers’ markets who encouraged the move. When customers fall in love with a local product, they fall hard! They want to be able to purchase the product during the winter, as well as mid-week, when many of the markets are not operating. As Leigh Foster and Rachel Marshall of Nella Pasta noted, “it was partly the customers asking what stores we were available in that made us realize that we needed to have an answer to their question!” Linda Davis from Baking with Joy echoed this sentiment: “After many customers told us we should sell our products at the Fruit Center, it only made sense to approach them.”

“there is a shock sometimes when it goes from farmers’ market production to a weekly retail store production.” -Mark Mignosa

For entrepreneurs accustomed to selling at farmers’ markets, moving to retail outlets inevitably brings change. Margins are smaller but, hopefully, increased sales offset the difference. And, unlike the farmers’ markets where they are paid immediately, retailers usually require payment terms, often paying the vendors a couple of weeks after the product was delivered. For the newly-minted retail vendor, this new cash flow pattern can require some adjustment.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the loss of face-to-face contact, which is a fundamental part of the farmers’ market experience. As Brian Ruuska commented “[customer] feedback motivated changes in our flavors and recipes, and they really played an integral part in the evolution of my brand.” Now that he now longer attends farmers’ markets, he relies on tastings and Facebook to get customer feedback. Those vendors who maintain a market presence continue to get weekly feedback; as Leigh and Rachel noted, “Getting face-to-face time ensures that we are hearing how people feel about our product, what we’re doing right, wrong, and what they’d like to see in the future.” The sales process itself also changes in retail stores. Instead of providing samples that let the customer taste how wonderful the product is, the vendors have to focus on, as Leigh and Rachel put it, “Creating and designing our packaging so that [it] can sell itself on the shelf.”

“Customer feedback motivated changes in our flavors and recipes, and really played an integral part in the evolution of my brand.” -Brian Ruuska

For products that distinguish themselves, in part, by their handcrafted nature, ramping up production to meet increased retail demand can be a challenge. Mark Mignosa, store manager of the Hingham Fruit Center, which carries many products with farmers’ market roots, notes, “there is a shock sometimes when it goes from farmers’ market production to a weekly retail store production.” Delivering products to a wider geographic area can also prove to be a challenge. Because it is a frozen product, Nella Pasta had to find a frozen foods distributor, which was challenging for a small company. But, establishing a relationship with the right distributor can also translate into much wider retail distribution than a vendor could hope to achieve selling solely at farmers’ markets.

For their part, grocers are eager to meet demand for local products, and it is often the customers themselves who request that a farmers’ market favorite be carried. Mark Mignosa notes that the Fruit Center Marketplace welcomes local products: “As soon as they [vendors] come to the door, we are in the ‘we-want-to-bring-it-in stage.’” It is a win-win situation—customers are thrilled to be able to find their market favorites at the grocery store, and according to Mignosa, “some of these items are just cookin’ off the shelves.” Grocers will often go the extra mile to help market vendors make the transition to retail stores. In 2011, Brian Ruuska called Trucchi’s Supermarkets and mistakenly got the CFO, Ann Trucchi Condon, on the phone. She did not make buying decisions but, as she recalls, “I could honestly hear the determination in his voice.” Impressed, she put him in touch with the deli buyer, who loved the taste of his pickles and, after explaining a few steps he needed to take first, agreed to carry Ruuska Pickles in one store. They proved such a hit that the pickles are now carried in all six Trucchi’s locations. As Ann reflected, “Trucchi’s Supermarkets began with entrepreneurial spirit and we recognize the importance of nurturing it within our community.”

“Do it!” urges Linda Davis of Baking with Joy.

What advice to these market vendors have for others contemplating this move? “Do it!” urges Linda Davis of Baking with Joy, because it “gets your product out to a wider range of people.” These products have a devoted following and, for those vendors who want to grow beyond what is possible at farmers’ markets, moving to retail is a logical next step. As Brian Ruuska observed, “Retailers LOVE local companies because customers are asking for them!” So, folks, keep asking!

Baking With Joy
(781) 335-1002

Nella Pasta
(617) 268-0002

Ruuska Pickles

(978) 372-8010


Fruit Center Marketplace
Hingham, Milton
(781) 749-7332

Trucchi’s Supermarkets
Abington, New Bedford, Taunton, Middleboro, West Bridgewater
(508) 824-7514

Lobster Tales

…no seafood is more emblematic of the bounty of our coastal waters than the lobster.

Farmers of all stripes—from fruit and vegetable growers to those who provide us with beef, pork, and chicken—make eating local a healthful and pleasurable experience. But aren’t we forgetting someone? Despite our proximity to the sea, many of us often miss one of the most obvious sources of local food—the ocean. And, when we consider the hard-working folks at the foundation of our local food economy, fishermen are too often left out of the mix.

For Massachusetts residents, no seafood is more emblematic of the bounty of our coastal waters than the lobster. According to Beth Casoni of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, there are approximately 800 active lobstermen in the state who each fish between 200–800 pots. Lobstering remains one of the few professions dominated by small, family-run businesses. And, in a way that harkens back to a different time, it is a craft that is often passed down through generations. Children—usually sons—learn to lobster from their dad, who, in turn, learned from his father. But in recent years, the industry has changed, forcing many families to adapt in order to remain in business.

The past decade has been tough for these fishermen: lobster prices have dropped significantly while costs have continued to rise. To understand the price pressure, you must first know a bit about the lobster. Each summer, lobsters molt, or shed their shell, in order to grow. These lobsters do not have the same market value as their hard-shelled brethren. During the past decade, Canadian processors have purchased increasing numbers of these inexpensive soft-shelled lobsters from Massachusetts lobstermen. After processing them and freezing the meat, the Canadian companies ship this frozen lobster meat around the world, effectively shrinking the market for the more lucrative hard-shell lobster. Craig Keefe, a Scituate lobsterman, explains, “This is where the commercial lobstermen take the hit. It keeps the prices they are getting for the lobster low, while our expenses are ever increasing.” Ironically, as Casoni noted, after processing, the package that contains the frozen meat from Massachusetts lobsters “is now stamped ‘Product of Canada.’ “

Keefe has been lobstering commercially for over twenty years but got his start much earlier. He began pulling traps at age five with his dad, who was a part-time lobsterman. The chance to work alongside his father, which he still does, was one of the factors that drew him into the profession. As his wife Danielle said, “It [lobstering] is in his blood.” After trying several other types of fishing, Craig returned to his roots, concentrating primarily on lobstering. He now owns two boats, but after he had been fishing successfully for many years, lower lobster prices and changing regulations prompted Craig and Danielle to expand their business in new directions. Last year, they opened a stand-alone seafood counter at Previte’s Market in Weymouth, and in early 2014 they launched a second location inside Crocetti’s Market in East Bridgewater. To date, their largest undertaking is the recent opening of their own retail location in Scituate, the Scituate Lobster Pound.

Of course, the primary attraction of this charming store is the lobster and other local fish, such as cod and flounder, caught by Craig and other local fishermen. But it also features prepared foods such as lobster rolls, lobster pizza, lobster mac and cheese, and seafood salads. In addition, the Keefes sell a wide array of local products from Hornstra milk to Nella Pasta. Danielle commented, “We try to offer many wonderful local foods in one place and it is what people seem to like.” Their commitment to local foods runs so deep that even the lobster rolls are served on rolls baked by Duxbury’s My Little Bakery. The smallest customers are mesmerized by the store’s circular saltwater aquarium featuring crabs, starfish, lobster, and other treasures of the deep.

Tim Field, of Revolution Lobster in Westport, is another lobsterman who followed in his family’s footsteps. His mom grew up in a fishing family and his dad, Albert, has been lobstering since the late 1960s. When Tim was young, he would lobster with his dad during the summers, and after high school graduation he began fishing full time. Although he first fished on draggers and scallopers, he eventually returned to lobstering and now, at age 29, he owns two boats, the Revolution and the Rock and Roll.

In 2007, the last two lobster dealers buying directly from the boats stopped coming to Westport, forcing Tim to make some changes. Since bringing his lobsters to New Bedford presented both logistical and cost issues, he decided to start selling directly to customers. After buying a refrigerated truck and obtaining the necessary permits, his family worked together to make the venture a success. Tim and his dad fished while his mom, Debbie, and girlfriend, Lauren Bernardo, made restaurant deliveries and handled retail sales from the truck, which they would park at farmers’ markets and local convenience stores. Business was doing so well that Tim opened a retail store, Revolution Lobster, in Westport in November 2013. Although it was a big move, as Tim said, “In business, you are either growing or you’re dying.”

Lobster Sauce for Pasta & Baked Stuffed Lobster. Photo by Michael Hart

The store offers lobster, dry scallops, quahogs, steamers, littlenecks, and other freshly caught seafood and shellfish, in addition to some local South Coast favorites, such as Scrumbs seafood topping mix, made in Mattapoisett, and Sampson Farm potatoes, which are grown right in Westport. These potatoes also make an appearance in Revolution Lobster’s popular clam boil. Lauren uses social media to bring customers into the store, often posting updates on which freshly caught fish are in stock or recipes featuring their delicious seafood.

Although he doesn’t have children, Tim said that if he did, he would be happy to have them join the business as long “as they wanted to and knew the business has its challenges.” The Keefes have three sons, ages three, five, and ten. When asked if he hoped they follow in his footsteps, Craig said, “sadly and honestly no. I show them how it works and how to fish but we want them to have another career. It is a tough way to go.” Massachusetts has a proud tradition of lobstering, but its lobstermen are facing tough times. For those of us living on the South Shore and South Coast, let’s remember lobster and seafood are the quintessential local food—healthy, delicious, and sold by small family businesses that need our support.

“We try to offer many wonderful local foods in one place and it is what people seem to like.”

Revolution Lobster Seafood Market
655 State Road Suite 108
Westport, MA 02790
(508) 675-0131

Scituate Lobster Pound
259 Stockbridge Road
Scituate, MA 02066
(781) 545-0027

Scituate Lobster seafood is also available at:
Previte’s Market in Weymouth
Crocetti’s Market in East Bridgewater.

Growing up in Ohio, Julia Powers thought lobster was reserved for special occasions. After living on the East Coast for many years, she now cooks with lobster much more regularly, using it in everything from risotto to lobster avocado club sandwiches.


Hamming It Up

Amy and Sam Hainer are able to sell cuts of meat from their pigs at Pokatimus Farm.

Story featured on ediblesouthshore.com

New homeowners often have big plans for their backyards—a stone patio, a garden, or perhaps a pool. When Amy and Sam Hainer purchased their Norwell home four years ago, they too had big plans for the space out back. But, since their property is bigger than most—five acres to be exact—their plans were a little more ambitious. Amy dreamed of having a farm. So, after years of often grueling effort, Amy and Sam fashioned a small-scale farm on their property. Named Pokatimus (POH-cah-TIH-muss), the Algonquin word for the white oak trees that dot the property, the farm is home to six pigs, five goats, five chickens, and a robust garden. Along the way, the Hainers developed a new passion, becoming intrigued with the culinary tradition of charcuterie. And, since they were raising their own pigs, it was a match made in, well, hog heaven.

Both Amy and Sam were raised in Norwell. Neither is from a farming family, but early on Amy felt a great kinship with animals. As a child, she wanted to be a veterinarian, and after college she lived on a New Zealand sheep farm, happily pitching in with shearing and other chores. That farm also raised chickens and grew vegetables. According to Amy, “I was getting all my food right there. I didn’t have to go food shopping except for the basic essentials like flour. That was a big influence on how I wanted to live in the future, being able to sustain yourself on your own piece of property.” Luckily, Sam came to share this goal and they launched Pokatimus early in 2010.

Now, like many farmers, the Hainers live dual lives, working full time in other professions while farming in their off hours. In fact, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture about 50% of farmers report something other than farming as their primary occupation. Amy is a Senior Designer/Project Manager at Peabody Office and Sam is Director of Finance & New Business Development, Higher Education at Harvard Business Publishing.

As the Hainers were starting their farm, they found the Livestock Conservancy website (www.livestockconservancy.org), which introduced them to heritage breeds. The Conservancy aims to preserve rare livestock breeds, so that genetic traits that have been bred in these animals over hundreds of years are not lost. Because industrial farms generally raise only a couple of breeds, usually chosen for their high production of meat, milk, or eggs, preserving genetic diversity has become increasingly important. The preservation work being done by the Livestock Conservancy resonated with Amy and Sam, and thus over the years Pokatimus Farm welcomed several rare breeds, including Arapawa and San Clemente goats; Tamworth, Tamworth/Saddleback cross, and Ossabaw Island hogs; and Buckeye and Partridge Plymouth Rock chickens.

This commitment is not easy or cheap; the Hainers often had to drive hundreds of miles to purchase these rare breeds and pay the steep price that reflects the scarcity of these animals. The Ossabaw Island pigs they raised this year cost $200 each. As Sam pointed out, “If you purchased pigs from the guy down the road, you’ll probably pay $50-75 a pig.” They believe the premium price is worth it, both for the higher quality of the meat and to help in the important work of preserving rare breed animals. The lives of the animals on Pokatimus Farm are worlds away from their industrially raised brethren; with large pens in the woods, the pigs are free to roam and root and the goats to run and buck.




Pokatimus pancetta preparation.

Pokatimus (POH-cah-TIH-muss)
Charcuterie appealed to the Hainers because, as Amy said, “we were raising these animals and didn’t want there to be any part of them that became waste.” Charcuterie is a centuries-old method of food preservation that evolved at a time when meat was scarce. Frugal cooks learned to use every part of the pig to help keep their families fed, including the cheeks (to make guanciale), the head (terrine), offal (terrines and pates), stomach (pancetta or bacon), and legs (hams and prosciutto). There are two primary methods of preparing charcuterie: wet curing, or brining, and dry curing. Salt is a critical part of the preservation process, and various herbs and spices can be added to change the taste profile. Over the centuries, different cultures have put their own spin on charcuterie, which is how the German frankfurter, Polish kielbasa, and Spanish chorizo evolved.

Recently, this age-old craft has undergone a renaissance, with artisanal charcuterie makers all over the country reintroducing people to these delicious foods. In order to learn how to make the many and varied charcuterie products, the Hainers read many books and Amy travelled to New York City to take a series of classes at the International Culinary Center. There was much to learn. For example, making dry-cured charcuterie is a delicate balancing act where both temperature and humidity must be frequently adjusted as the meat ages, and each step is important to ensure both taste and food safety. But just one taste of their prosciutto is testament to the fact that the Hainers have mastered this art.

The Hainers dream of one day selling their charcuterie to the public, but at this time they can only make it for their own consumption and to share with family and friends. Although their pigs are slaughtered in a USDA-certified facility, in order to sell their charcuterie products, the meat would then have to be prepared in a USDA-approved processing facility. Unfortunately, there is no local certified facility that will dry-cure meat from small-scale producers. While there are companies doing this small batch work for farmers in Vermont, the added transportation costs make this an unrealistic option for the Hainers. As interest grows in artisanal charcuterie, let’s hope that more USDA-approved facilities doing this kind of work will be established in our area.

Luckily, the Hainers are able to sell cuts of meat from their pigs and, each fall, their loyal customers gather for the annual sale. This fall, thanks to the culinary cachet heritage pork now enjoys, a Boston restaurant purchased three whole Pokatimus pigs.

Both Amy and Sam acknowledge it is difficult to raise animals with such loving care, knowing they will ultimately end up as food. But, as Amy says, “When eating a factory farmed pig, you feel guilty about the life they have had.” Thanks to the way they were raised, the Hainers have no such guilt about their pigs. Amy put it best: “We know they have had a great life.”

Julia Powers has long been a fan of charcuterie and the rich flavor it adds to soups, pastas, and braises. In the spring, when tender greens finally make their reappearance, she likes to serve salad topped with crisped prosciutto and blue cheese. Ah, heaven.


Photos by Michael Hart

The Land of Monks and Honey

At Glastonbury Abbey,Chef / Farmer John Gauley & Brother Dan are mindful of their commitment to help others and share their bounty with those in need.

For most of us, preparing dinner is part of our daily routine. However, in our scramble to get dinner on the table, it’s easy to forget that the choices we make about food reflect our values in a very tangible way. Glastonbury Abbey, located in Hingham, is home to a community of Benedictine monks who, along with their long-time chef, John Gauley, make choices about their food that express key values held by their community — simplicity and a commitment to social justice. Because of the many benefits of local foods, from superior taste to a smaller carbon footprint, much of the produce used at the Abbey is grown in its garden or purchased from local farms. John takes this commitment to local food even further: he raises goats and bees whose milk (well, really, cheese) and honey help feed the monks. And, mindful of their commitment to help others, the monks share their bounty with those in need.

Founded in 1954, Glastonbury Abbey is set on sixty acres of rolling wooded hills dotted with rustic stone and timber buildings. It is home to twelve monks who live in the Roman Catholic Benedictine tradition, devoting their lives to prayer and contemplation. Despite the sense of peace and tranquility that pervades the grounds, it is a lively place. Annually, 1000 people attend retreats at the Abbey and 3000 visitors participate in the Abbey’s spiritual enrichment programs on subjects ranging from calligraphy to Buddhism. People of all faiths also come to the Abbey to enjoy its beautiful grounds, walk the stone labyrinth, listen to an outdoor concert, or attend the popular lecture series, “Listening to Other Voices.”

For twenty-two years, John Gauley, who is a layperson, has been the chef at Glastonbury Abbey, feeding the monks as well as the many guests who join them for conferences and retreats. And, oh, how he feeds them! John bakes bread daily — oatmeal bread studded with cranberries and candied ginger and a flax loaf with an oregano and romano crust are among the favorites. His main dishes are equally impressive — cauliflower and butternut squash stuffed shells with a sage and blue cheese sauce and salmon glazed with maple syrup and tamari are two of the standouts. But John knows his audience. “When the kids are here on retreat, I’ll make pizza. They love it.”

Although John is not a religious person, he is deeply spiritual and feels like he has found his home at the Abbey. “They [the monks] are like my family,” he says. “I love them. Some people say they like their jobs, I love mine. . .the values, the community, the support.” And the feeling is mutual. When asked about John’s cooking, Brother Dave, one of the monks, said, “The food is always of superior quality, healthy and well-prepared.” John believes strongly in sustainable eating and he has spearheaded many of the efforts at the Abbey that support that belief.

“Listening to Other Voices.”

“Listening to Other Voices.”

Eighteen years ago, after learning about the critical role bees play in pollinating plants, John established his first beehive at the Abbey. After taking a beekeeping course through the Plymouth County Extension Service, he continued learning from noted bee expert Gunther Hauk. John is committed to raising bees organically — without the use of chemicals to treat mites and hive beetles, or antibiotics or sugar syrups to supplement the hive. Now, he has fourteen hives: one in Weymouth, four at Hingham’s Weir River Farm, and the remaining nine at the Abbey. John says the bees remind him of the Abbey: “The hives are a community, working together for the common good.” The honey produced by the hives is used in the Abbey’s kitchen, and if the hives have been productive, the extra honey is sold in the Abbey’s bookstore. In 2010, three hundred pounds of surplus honey was sold. However, in 2011, there was no extra honey to sell; production was down because last year’s above average rainfall washed away much of the nectar.

Up a short path from the hives is a rocky outcropping that is home to the Abbey’s eight Nubian goats. With the help of a few neighbors and some of the monks, John cares for the goats, which have lived at the Abbey for four years. “The goats add a lot to the Abbey,” according to John. “They have brought a lot of families in. The kids love to feed them.” Currently, there is one goat milking and John uses the milk to make cheese such as marinated feta. He is also experimenting with Gouda, blue cheese, and fresh chèvre.

The gardens are the cornerstone of the Abbey’s efforts towards sustainable eating. Uphill from the chapel, the monks’ garden provides many of the vegetables used in John’s cooking. There is also a fragrant herb garden right outside the chapel. The herbs are used both in cooking and to make soap that is sold in the bookstore. John’s latest project is the community garden. Set in a clearing at the top of a steep hill, the garden, ringed in fieldstones, is divided into twelve plots. At the center of the garden sits a stone bench that is a perfect spot for reflection. In summer, flowers will encircle the garden, both to enhance its beauty and to provide blossoms for the chapel. Neighboring parishes and families will be invited to adopt a plot in the garden, either for their own use or to grow fresh produce for members of their parish in need.

The community garden is just the latest example of Glastonbury Abbey’s commitment to social justice. For many years, the monks have hosted monthly Sunday Suppers, where they invite people in the surrounding communities who are struggling financially to join them for dinner. And, twice a month, the monks provide dinner for the residents at Father Bill’s shelter in Quincy.

The monks at Glastonbury Abbey choose to live simply, in solidarity with those in need, and the food they eat reflects this choice. With the help of their chef, John Gauley, they are able to eat in accordance with their values and enjoy delicious food at the same time. Now that is divine!

Glastonbury Abbey
16 Hull Street
Hingham, MA 02043
(781) 749-2155

Julia Powers lives in Hingham, just down the road from Glastonbury Abbey. She is happy to have neighbors who share her commitment to local, sustainable food.

Photos by Michael Hart

Young Farmers

Amy Baron greets “Bill” and the kids at Weir River Farm in Hingham, MA.

While it was once a common occupation, farming is now considered an unusual career choice. As Amy put it, “it is outside the realm of doctor, lawyer, teacher.”







“I couldn’t see myself not being outside and moving around and being active.”-Adam Tedeschi at Second Nature Farm in Norton, MA.

Help wanted: recent college graduate seeking a job providing independence, a deep sense of satisfaction, and plenty of manual labor. Love of nature, a desire to work outdoors, and a passion for food are essential. Must be willing to work long hours for relatively low pay in sometimes challenging conditions. If interested, apply at a small farm near you.


Given the hard work and low starting salary, it is surprising that one of the world’s oldest professions is undergoing something of a renaissance among young people. The 2007 U.S. Agricultural Census (the most recent available) shows that in just five years, the number of Massachusetts farmers age 35 and under increased more than 60%—from 210 in 2002 to 341 in 2007. In order to find out why farming appeals to this generation of young adults, I spoke with three farmers: Adam Tedeschi (age 27) of Norton’s Second Nature Farm, Rory O’Dwyer (age 32) of Langwater Farm in Easton, and Amy Baron (age 32) of Weir River Farm in Hingham.

From an early age, all three farmers loved nature and being outdoors. While at college, Adam, a graduate of Wesleyan University, worked at the student-run farm and spent summers working at a perennial nursery in Norton. When asked what drew him to farming, Adam said, “I loved combining physical and mental work. I couldn’t see myself not being outside and moving around and being active.” For Rory, who farms with her brother Kevin and sister-in-law Kate, her nascent love of agriculture began with her mom’s garden. After graduating from Providence College, where she developed in interest in food politics, she got a job at small farm to see, as she put it, “how it really works.” At the end of the summer she left for “a grown-up job” but lasted only two weeks before she realized that she “had fallen in love with farming.” Over the next several years, she honed her skills and then started Langwater Farm with her family members. It was also a backyard garden, in this case behind her college apartment, that got Amy, who has a biology degree from Tufts, interested in agriculture. A course in urban community gardening and a five-year stint at City Sprouts teaching school children about growing food followed. All three farmers spent several years as apprentices on farms, gaining valuable experience.

While it was once a common occupation, farming is now considered an unusual career choice. As Amy put it, “it is outside the realm of doctor, lawyer, teacher.” Initially, some of their parents had reservations, health insurance and the ability to repay student loans chief among them. While Amy’s parents remain somewhat unsure of her choice, both Adam and Rory’s parents are enthusiastic supporters of their career paths. In the economic balancing act that comes with starting a small farm, parents often play a large role. Adam says of his parents, “they have been crucial to my success and getting this farm off the ground. Family is huge.” Rory says her mom “has been amazing. She has done so much for us, so much of the behind the scenes work.”


Rory O’Dwyer, sister-in-law Kate, brother Kevin, and Madison of Langwater Farm in Easton, MA.

Another challenge for young farmers is finding themselves socially isolated from their peer group, many of whom live in the city. Farming is a profession with notoriously long hours and, as Adam says, “when something starts at 10 pm, that is like an hour past my bedtime.” Rory echoed this sentiment. “People were really offended when I didn’t want to hang out. They love coming to the farm, they love when I bring food but they don’t like that I spend all my time here.” However, many young farmers have found a way to stay connected with their peers through Eastern Massachusetts CRAFT, a group of beginning farmers that gathers monthly at different farms for a discussion followed by a potluck dinner.

Historically, young people followed their parents’ footsteps into farming, and, as Rory noted, this offered many advantages because, “you had land to come into, you had infrastructure. You had been working on your dad’s farm since you were three or four so you didn’t have a big learning curve.” Because many of today’s young farmers do not come from farming families, they face the dual challenge of gaining skills and raising the capital necessary to start a farm. One approach many young farmers take is to lease farmland: this is what both Adam and Rory do. When Adam first went out on his own, he leased a quarter of an acre to start a small CSA. As he recalls, “It started with three tools I got at Home Depot and my sister and my parents helping me. It has taken a lot of dedication and perseverance to build up the farm.” Rented land certainly lowers the barriers to entry, but it presents farmers with a conundrum: they often have to invest in infrastructure, such as barns, washing stations, and storage areas, to make the farm profitable, but investing capital in land that they do not own requires a leap of faith. While many young farmers hope to one day purchase the farmland that they lease, the steep cost of land in Southeastern Massachusetts makes this a daunting challenge. As Adam noted, “we need farms in Southeastern Massachusetts. We can’t have all the young farmers here going to Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire because that is the only place they can afford.”

Seedlings burst from greenhouse trays at Langwater Farm.

These three farmers share a love of, in Amy’s words, “making food and feeding people.” And, they are willing to work long, hard hours in order to pursue their passion. Their chosen profession has many challenges, but some, including lack of access to capital and prohibitive land costs, hit young farmers particularly hard. However, for anyone who values local farms and the positive impact they have on our communities, it is vital that these young farmers not face these challenges without our support.

The easiest (and most delicious) way to support these farmers is to join their CSA program or patronize them at one of the farmers’ market they attend. Langwater Farm also has a farm stand, which is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

If appropriate, landowners can also explore the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ 61A tax incentive program, which gives preferential tax treatment to landowners who commit to using their property for agricultural purposes. With lower tax costs, this land is then more affordable for beginning farmers to buy or lease. At one time, small farms were a vital part of the fabric of the South Shore, and with our support, these young farmers will contribute to the resurgence of such farms. We are all the better off for it.

Young farmer reviews young seedlings.

All three farms offer a CSA program and participate in local farmers’ markets. For more information, please see below:




Langwater Farm

209 Washington Street/Rte. 138

North Easton, MA 02356

(508) 205-9665


Second Nature Farm

Norton, MA 02766


Weir River Farm

Turkey Hill Lane

Hingham, MA 02043

(781) 740-7233


Julia Powers lives and writes in Hingham. She appreciates young farmers for their energy and enthusiasm, not to mention their delicious food.


Photos by Michael Hart