BY JASON WENTWORTH
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.