Organic farming at the Holcomb Farm
An exploration by Kathy Mertens
Two years ago I was watching Connecticut Magazine on PBS. They were doing a piece on Organic Farming and Farm Co-ops. This idea piqued my curiosity as I grew up on a farm. I sat there and listened intently on what they had to say. They told of farms in the CT, RI and MA area were the food was grown organically without the use of pesticides and commercial fertilizers. What was even more amazing is the everyday Joe could obtain these fruits and vegetables to serve to ones friends and families. Well being the dolt that I am, I forgot to write down he mane of the farm in CT that was mentioned. After many website searches I finally made a connection, Holcomb Farm in East Granby. My relationship with the wonderful establishment began the summer of 2000.
Holcomb Farm in conjunction with the Greater Hartford food bank runs a wonderful farm co-op. In mid to late spring people purchase a share of the harvest for about $320. Now that seems like a lot of money and it is, but the benefits for that money are wonderful. That summer of 2000 I canned and froze enough vegetables to fill my large chest freezer. When the produce prices rise in the winter at the grocery store I was eating delicious freeze frozen or canned veggies that my family helped pick and preserve.
We would travel to East Granby once a week on our designated pick-up day (Saturday). Upon arriving we would pull out our gathering basket and a box and head to the big red produce barn. There we would sign in and see what veggies and fruits were available for us to pick ourselves. Once we decided what we would go into the fields to pick we would check and see what was available in our weekly share. The u-pick items are as much as you want. The items that are part of your share are limited but you get more than enough. We usually got a half of bag of assorted lettuce, then we could get another bag and a half of the other veggies. These were whatever was in season, for example we brought home cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, onions, leeks, potatoes, pumpkins, collards, carrots and hot peppers to name a few. We could also pick herbs and one bouquet of flowers. We were even treated to sunflowers and brussel sprouts at the end of the summer.
My kids have had limited experience with growing produce so this was a great experience for them to see where the food they eat actually comes from. We were also given the opportunity to volunteer to help keep the garden. Unfortunately since we live in Uncasville we were not able to volunteer. All of the fields are weeded by hand so there are lots of weeds as no herbicides are used. The crops are fertilized with manure and compost plays an integral part of the farming process. They even have displays of various kinds of compost enclosures. Another of our favorite things was the informative mini-classes they held the kids enjoyed the one on honeybees. I liked the taste testing they offered with the produce that was there and the recipes they had for the taking. They also hold an annual harvest fair complete with craft show.
The people that work the farm are interns from different college agriculture programs. There is a husband and wife team that actually own and work the farm as overseers. Then there are the many co-op owners that volunteer to come and help out for an hour or two a week. Besides the family time, the wonderful produce and the overall experience I was pleased to know that Holcomb farm sends produce weekly to the Great Hartford Food Bank. All the produce at the end of the pick-up days is taken to the shelters in Hartford and distributed to the needy families in the area. In turn people from the food back work at the farm as well as some of the families that the food bank services.
If anyone would like more information on this Farm or other Co-ops please follow the links that are below.
http://www.holcombfarm.com Holcomb Farm
http://www.hartfordfodd.org Hartford Food Bank
http://www.life.ca/subject/gardening.html Additional Organic Gardening resources
Submitted to and posted by Anthony Benoit
December 13, 2001