MDAR offers three course levels for participants who are 1) thinking about farming, 2) gearing up to start, with secure access to land, or 3) already operating Massachusetts agricultural enterprise. Our courses are not offered online because participants confirm greater benefit when they have a peer group to share ideas with over several consecutive weeks. Enrollment is limited to facilitate discussion. Attendance by the registrant (or an informed substitute) is required at all scheduled sessions. Fees are kept low through MDAR support, and a partner may attend at no additional cost.
Explorers – For those who are just thinking about getting into farming or are expanding a hobby to an income-generating scale: “Exploring the Small Farm Dream” offers guidance and feedback to help make informed decisions about whether or not to take the plunge – and how to proceed in the first stages of feasibility. Five sessions over 6 weeks on weekday evenings. Cost per enterprise – $100. Amherst 2014 November 5, 12, 19, December 3, 10 – and Marlborough 2015 March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
Planners – For those a step beyond Explorer who have a strong sense of what they intend to do and where: “Planning for Start-up” is a gut check before making significant investments of time and money. It requires completion of Explorer, or equivalent programs and experience. Planners have already made the decision to farm on a revenue generating scale, and have secured the land and initial finances to do so. Six sessions over 8 weeks on Saturday mornings. Cost per enterprise – $150. Amherst Only 2014 November 1, 8, 15, 22, December 6, 13
Established Farmers – For those already operating a commercial agricultural enterprise and in need of a comprehensive business plan. “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” offers a chance to assess, regroup, plan 5 years ahead and finance expansion, or clarify transfer/succession. The course draws on peer experience, Instructor knowledge and guest speakers. This course is USDA/FSA certified for “Borrower Training”. Graduates may qualify for individual post-course technical assistance. Ten sessions over 11 weeks on weekday evenings. Cost per enterprise – $200. Dates and location to be determined between November and March 2014-15
We offer each course once per year, sometimes both in eastern and a western locations if local demand exists. Registration is rolling, so those who have completed an application (no payment until enrollment is complete) receive priority when locations and dates are finalized.
Email information/application requests to firstname.lastname@example.org
While preparing to write my first SEMAP Spotlight, I figured it would be a good idea to visit C.N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater early afternoon during a weekday. Anyone who has traversed across Southeastern Massachusetts during the autumn in search of fresh fruits and vegetables is well-acquainted with just how active farm stores and stands can be on the weekends. What struck me as I walked into the farm store was how many people were out shopping and picking midday…not a deluge, but a good, constant stream. “Come on the weekend,” the cashier said. “The cider donuts are legendary.” Ma’am, you had me at “cider donuts”. Putting aside my daydream of the farm’s homemade apple cider donuts, I met with Chris Smith and Caryl Guarino, the brother and sister duo that run C.N. Smith Farm, our SEMAP Spotlight Farm for October.
Third generation farmers, Chris and Caryl represent the culmination of over 80 years of family farming in East Bridgewater. With more than 60 of their 93 acres in production, they employ anywhere from 7 to 10 part-time farmers and a few full-timers as well. They also farm another 20 acres offsite for corn and squash. “Understand what the customer wants, and adapt,” Chris replied when I asked them both the secret to their success and longevity. Not a completely novel concept, but one that’s not always easy to accomplish. C.N. Smith Farm, however, has a proven history of adapting. When it was founded, they focused predominantly on poultry and eggs. When Chris and Caryl’s father assumed leadership, his passion was strawberries. These days, a panoply of fruits, vegetables, and berries are grown here, but clearly “pick your own” is a huge part of the equation.
The PYO fruits and berries at C.N. Smith include strawberries in June and July, blueberries in July and August, raspberries and peaches in August and, of course, apples from Labor Day to Columbus Day. Chris pointed to the greenhouse filled with Halloween decorations adjacent to the store and the large selection of jams and other prepared foods as an indication that, while apple picking is coming to an end, there’s always something going on. Additionally, Caryl is in charge of greenhouse production at the Garden Center, and they offer a wide variety of heirloom vegetable plants, perennials, annuals, topiary and growing supplies. They also carry fruit trees and bushes through partnerships with other farmers and growers. As we approach the colder months, visitors to the farm can find a large collection of their winter squash and pumpkins.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention cider, and anyone who has picked up a gallon of their fresh, pressed-on-the-farm apple cider knows just how good it is. It’s like drinking a glass of autumn, and this year C.N. Smith is also selling a hard cider as well. “We successfully went through the processes with the state and federal government agencies and put our first commercial batch on the shelves about two weeks ago,” Chris said. Needless to say, all 50 gallons were gone pretty quickly. Fear not. They are pressing more! Call or come by to check availability of either kind of cider.
The pick-your-own season comes to an end in spectacular fashion at the annual Harvest Hoedown on October 11th to the 13th from 10am to 4pm. All are welcome to join in apple picking (subject to availability of crop) and enjoy live music, moonwalks, pony rides, hayrides, pumpkin picking and enjoy yummy treats from the C.N. Smith farm kitchen!
As I stood in the store with Caryl and Chris and wrapped up my visit, I noticed a man in his 30s with a young child. They were carrying a pumpkin and I’d bet dollars to cider donuts that they were fixing to carve a jack o’lantern when they got home. “I have parents of young children who come up to me and tell me that they came here with their parents when they were young to pick apples or buy pumpkins,” Chris said. “It happens all the time.” It stands to prove that while adaptation, especially in the challenging landscape of Massachusetts agriculture, is important, the connection to the earth we experience when we pick an apple and the warmth and joy we feel when we share a glass of cider with friends or load the perfect carving pumpkin into the family car are timeless.
Whether you’re a farmer, a gardener, or just looking for something to do over next week, there’s an Ag. Event for you! Monday, October 6th is a forum on the Massachusetts Food Systems . This event will discuss ways to strengthen our food system and reduce hunger and provide more access to fresh, local food. Come with questions and your ideas. This should be a thought provoking seminar. That same evening, we will be hosting our October Twilight Event at Skinny Dip Farm. Ben and Hannah Wolbach will be hosting a great workshop focused on growing and harvesting fall root crops. Our Twilight events are great for gardeners, farmers, or anyone interested in growing!
Looking for something the whole family can enjoy? On October 11th and 12th Makepeace will be hosting the 11th Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration. There will be demonstrations of the wet cranberry harvest, cooking, music and a tent filled with crafters. Also make sure to take a paddleboat ride on Tihonet Pond!
Can’t make time to get out of the house? Attend a webinar! eOrganic will be hosting a seminar on Using Cover Crops to Achieve Multiple Goals on the Farm on October 14th. These talks are great for those with a busy schedule, lasting about an hour with an additional 30 minutes of Q & A. These seminars are archived, so even if you can’t watch it live, it will be available for you anytime at a later date. The October talk is the first of the season; check out upcoming webinars here.
These events are all fun and educational. Hoping you’ll be able to attend at least one!
Unique Farming Opportunity in Eastern Massachusetts.
Crystal Spring Earth Learning Center is located in Plainville, MA. This special property has a rich history as a sanctuary for the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Since 1949 the resident Sisters have hosted educational, spiritual and agricultural activities on the 42-acre site.
With a commitment to sustainability and harmony, the Sisters seek a farming tenant who shares their commitment to revitalizing the land. The farmer or farm couple will be offered a long-term, affordable lease for at least 12 acres of mostly open prime farm soils. Other portions of the property are suited to pasture, perennial fruit and/or other tree crops. Thirty-two acres are protected and the property abuts Town conservation land. There is no active farming there now.
The farm portion is appropriate for a small-scale, diversified farm operation. Types of enterprises might include a CSA, permaculture, small livestock and/or poultry, demonstration or community gardens and agro-forestry. The location offers good access to markets and a supportive local community. There are several modest farm structures, plus access to water and electricity.
Various scenarios are possible, including a farmer providing compensated property management services and/or farm-related educational programs. The farmer(s) could live off-site or in a small cottage on the property through a rental agreement.
The two resident sisters are also seeking compatible tenants for the large main house, part of which is rented by Red Tomato, a nonprofit producer marketer.
An open house is scheduled for November 22nd. For further details and information on the application process, contact Kathy Ruhf at email@example.com.