BY NICKI ANDERSON
A smooth snowy blanket covers the fields at Heart Beets Farm, fresh for Opal, the farm’s two year old Australian Cattle Dog, to dodge and dart through frantically in all her ebullience. Inside the greenhouse, kale, spinach and lettuce enjoy their own blankets of row cover, keeping them warm enough to survive the freezing temperatures. With the sun shining on a clear, crisp day, we sit with Head Farmer Steve Murray, formerly of Kettle Pond Farm, to learn more about his story and his new farm.
Although this may be the first year of operation for Heart Beets Farm, it’s Steve Murray’s eighth year farming in the South Coast region of Massachusetts, and his sixth year growing food at 181 Bay View Avenue in Berkley, MA.
While studying physics at UMass Dartmouth, Steve became disgruntled with the academic tendency to emphasize discussion and theory as opposed to activity and production, and therefore was inspired to start interning at nearby Kettle Pond Farm in Berkley. He initially worked weekends, until school ended and he became employed full time on the farm. When the farm manager left at the end of that year, Steve was asked to become Farm Manager after only one season of farming! And he’s been at it ever since, innovating all the way. Since then, he’s more than doubled CSA membership, worked to revitalize and remineralize the soils, and, most recently, started farming under his very own business enterprise: Heart Beets Farm.
Initially, Steve admits the farming strategy at Kettle Pond took more of a “let’s see what happens” approach, “farming for hobby” and less for business. Fortunately, he had the opportunity to work two years with Derek Christianson of Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth, where he gained not just a deeper understanding of soil fertility, but also a more proactive approach to achieving economic sustainability. Steve brought this experience back to Kettle Pond, where he put more effort into focusing on financial viability as well as sustainable growing practices.
Today, Heart Beets Farm grows a diverse mix of organically certified vegetables on two and a half acres while hosting a healthy flock of chickens and some swine. Steve and his wife Sarah host a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Spring, Summer and Fall, providing flexible options for those new to the CSA model, looking to try it out, or for those who might not have the time and/or resources for a longer commitment. In addition to serving their CSA members, Heart Beets Farm sells to local restaurants and caterers, at the farmer’s market in Taunton, and at their home-based farm stand. And when able, they donate produce to Our Daily Bread.
You can also find Heart Beets Farm produce at How on Earth, located in Mattapoisett, MA, where Sarah worked as Store Manager until recently returning home to raise their first child, Juniper, who was born this past November. How on Earth also serves as a CSA pick-up location. In the future, Steve would like to see Heart Beets Farm grow to 10 or even 15 acres, offering more CSA shares and more variety.
2014 is a big year of firsts for the Murrays, as new parents and business owners. Their dedication to their business and community remains strong, and Steve remains committed to growing the best food he can, using the best practices possible. And as their website assures, “everything you loved about Kettle Pond Farm will remain the same through Heart Beets Farm: same great vegetables, farmer and location, just a new name and new owners.”
Farm Name: Heart Beets Farm (formerly Kettle Pond Farm)
Owners: Steve & Sarah Murray
Location: 181 Bayview Ave, Berkley, MA
Contact Info: 508-822-6919 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Year founded: 2014
Specialty: Certified Organic Vegetables
Total acreage: 2.5 rented on a 35 acre property, with plans to cultivate up to 15
Staff: 2 farm interns, seasonal
Steve provides consulting on soil health, and can assist growers with soil testing, garden planning, improving nutrient density, and more.
Where and How they Sell:
On-farm Farm Stand
Taunton Farmers Market
Donations to Our Daily Bread and other local food pantries
CSA: Spring, Summer and Fall shares, plus a “Beyond Organic Share” where the investment goes straight to the farm’s fertility improvements, and a “Capital Commitment Share” to support their future plans of investing in new tools, equipment and infrastructure. Steve plans to purchase a new high tunnel, tiller, and tractor for the farm in the next year, if possible. The Spring CSA season is set to begin on April, 28th, 2014 and lasts 6 weeks until the beginning of the Summer CSA. Pick-ups are on Mondays from 2pm-7pm at Heart Beets Farm. They offer one share size for the Spring CSA. Visit their website for sign-up instructions.