June Farm Spotlight: Medway Community Farm

BY JONATHAN GRAY

Since 2009, The Town of Medway has been leasing out a small 7-acre parcel of farmland carved out between Winthrop Street and the Chicken Brook to the Medway Community Farm, a nonprofit enterprise that has much broader goals than simply growing high quality and nutritious vegetables. Over the years, what was originally a very small growing operation has blossomed into a true community resource, providing both food and education for the Medway community. Back in May, I stopped in at Medway Community Farm to see what all the buzz was about (pun intended, they have close to 20 beehives on site).

The Medway Community Farm stand at 50 Winthrop St.

At the farm, I first had the chance to chat with Seth Terramane, the Farm Manager. We sauntered over to the new farmstand where Seth told me all about the many ongoing projects at the farm including construction of a wash station to comply with the FSMA produce safety requirements (as well as to make the post-harvest processes more efficient), the development of a Flower CSA & herb garden led by his wife Christine, and his own personal side project finishing off a tiny home Christine & he began building prior to working at MCF.

The Farm’s under construction wash station to make their post-harvest more efficient.

Seth’s background, like many farmers, did not start with agriculture. Terramane received a graduate degree in Literature & Writing and taught courses at University of New Hampshire before pursuing a career in medicine, stopping just short of going for his MD and instead transitioning into agriculture. He is still having an impact on public health, albeit in a different way. “In fact, my mentor that I had when doing research said that ‘you’ll just be making people healthy from a different angle,’ and I liked that,” said Terramane. Christine and he had been growing on their own for some time and it took him awhile to realize that he preferred working with his hands to working in an office, “and I think every come-to-farming type of person has a similar experience as myself.” The more he learned and researched on his own, he realized our current food system is geared more towards unhealthy food instead of healthy food. He enjoyed the opportunity to help change that. Seth has been farming for 4 years now, having previously worked at Stearns Farm in Framingham, Allandale Farm in Brookline, Vanguarden CSA in Dover, and Lindentree Farm in Lincoln.

The MCF main farm site overlooking the Chicken Brook.

Christine Terramane, Seth’s wife, stopped by with their 17-month-old Daughter Addy midway through our conversation. Christine’s first and foremost focus is to be in charge of the “Big Boss,” Addy, in addition to taking charge of the new flower CSA & perennial and medicinal herb garden. The ultimate goal of the herb garden will be to hold workshops for the members and public – because, in her words, “there’s more than just sage, thyme, oregano, and rosemary” – and creating a place for members to go, educate more people about herbs, all the things you can do with them, and how simple it is to incorporate into your daily self-care routine is important, especially given the farm’s strong educational component.

Visitors to MCF will also find a small display sign near the parking lot and entrance to the farmstand with arrows pointing to another sign – starting a self-guided tour of the property and taking visitors for a walk around the entire 7-acre parcel while explaining the many different aspects of the farm.

The start of the MCF self-guided farm tour

One of Medway Community Farm’s most significant programs, however, isn’t even on the farm. It is at places like the Burke Memorial School Garden, which is managed by the Medway Community Farm in partnership with the faculty at the Burke Memorial Elementary School. Brittany Overshiner, now a farmer at Upswing Farm in Ashland, was the original founding farmer at Medway Community Farm and was the original driver behind the Farm to School Program at MCF. Kevin Overshiner, Brittany’s husband and co-farmer at Upswing Farm reminisced on his wife’s work creating a farm to school program in Medway, “Brittany’s school programing was a labor of love and tapped into something fundamentally important when it comes to the educational connection to local farms, countless kids have had the opportunity to visit and benefit from the preservation of that space or received her visits at school. That she did it while building the farm itself was something special to watch.”

I visited the Burke Memorial Elementary School grounds to see a large wooden sign with a well-maintained garden neatly kept adjacent to the school’s south-most playground. With financial backing in the form of a grant from the Medway Foundation for Education, the Burke Memorial School Garden is a learning space for the kids. Alison Dempsey, MCF’s Education Coordinator works closely with the school faculty to ensure each class has a garden bed of their own – with the compost, seedlings, and resources provided to make it simple and fun for the kids.

Each class has their own garden bed at the neatly kept school garden.

Danielle Witter, a teacher at Burke Memorial School, says that the strong farm to school connection was a major factor when deciding to accept a 2nd Grade position at Medway back in 2015. “It is so important for children to know where their food comes from; the opportunities for 7-10 year olds to grow and sell their own produce is an unforgettable experience that teaches them the value of supporting local farms.” She said the teachers at Burke Memorial “are grateful for the continued dedication of Medway Community Farm to educating our community’s youngest citizens about the joys & importance of agriculture.” The kids at Burke Memorial are fortunate to have hands-on experiences growing produce in the garden adjacent to their school, take field trips to MCF in the Spring, and even to sell the same produce they grew in the garden at an annual Burke Memorial School Farmers Market put on with the help of Alison Dempsey during the last few weeks of school each year.

Alison Dempsey cheers on Ms. Witter’s 2nd Grade Class as they sell their produce.

Medway Community Farm’s mission statement includes an emphasis on “learning from the land.” Whether you stop by the farmstand and decide to go for an impromptu self-guided tour of the farm, or you are a second grader in a Medway Public Schools garden – with the help and assistance from many at MCF, you will have the opportunity to do just that.

Medway Community Farm is located at 50 Winthrop St, Medway, MA 02053

Learn more about the farm at www.medwaycommunityfarm.org