Springdell farm to spring to Boston
LITTLETON, Mass. — Thursday morning, it was raining. But a steady stream of customers lined up at Springdell Farm to buy daily-picked vegetables and fruits at the roadside stand, where hundreds of orange pumpkins marked the season.
The 80-acre farm, around since 1931, draws customers from Westford, Groton and Carlisle as well as Littleton itself. It also serves local restaurants, schools, markets and community events, said owner Jamie Cruz, who busied herself displaying pumpkins.
Still the farm, whose owners are all women, isn’t done branching out. This Sunday, for the first time, it will bring its produce to Boston for the Boston Local Food Festival, one of 16 farms that will participate in the third annual event.
Presented by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN), it will take place at The Rose Kennedy Greenway from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is expected to attract 40,000 to 50,000 people.
“We want to get some more business,” said Heidi Van Auker, retail and marketing manager at Springdell, which also raises livestock and poultry.
“The biggest thing is to get information out about things we do, to get people check out our website, to know that we’re there, to see what we’re doing and where their food is grown.”
That’s what the festival aims for – bringing attention to local growers by giving a chance for city residents to sample and buy their food.
Nicola Williams, chief architect of the event, said SBN aims to generate increased demand for locally-produced food, support the growth of local farms and food-related businesses, and increase the availability and access of healthy local food to urban communities.
Vendors are selected based on SBN’s basic local food requirements – foods are grown and produced in New England states with Massachusetts as the first preference, foods are affordable with a maximum price of $5 per portion, and food containers are recyclable and compostable.
Inside the two-compartment Springdell Farm stand where herbs, vegetables and fruits are displayed colorfully and neatly like in a supermarket, Auker shuttled between the check-out counter and freezers behind which meats, milks and cheeses are stored.
“Are you all set?” Auker said to a woman who put in front of her three green zucchinis, three yellow squashes, two yellow bell peppers, five orange chilli peppers, nine gala apples, a head of purple cabbage, a box of shiitake mushrooms and a dozen of cukes.
“Yes, I am.”
“So it’s $21.59.”
For Springdell Farm’s customers, the slightly higher price for produce doesn’t matter.
“The food is probably not cheaper but it isn’t an issue for me because I like the fresh food,” said Claire Gersh of Westford, who has shopped at the farm for 10 years. “It tastes good. I’d like to know where my food comes from. I get most of my groceries here.”
Gill Faulkner, who left the stand with a big basket full of vegetables and meats, echoed Gersh’s comment.
“It’s such a good quality,” Faulkner said. “They do their best to produce the best quality for us with no preservatives.”
Faulkner, who also lives in Westford, is among 210 members of the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a partnership between local farmers and people living in nearby communities. CSA members pay a local farm upfront in return for a share of the farm’s harvest each week, said Auker who also manages CSA.
“Like shareholders with no legal bidding documents, we support the farm to buy the seeds for next year’s seasons and spread out their produce as well. We get our shares every week in the summer and every other week in the winter,” Faulkner said.
CSA, according to Auker, benefits both the farm and local people, and the number of returning customers keeps rising. For next summer season from April to October, CSA attracted 300 members, some 50 percent higher than last summer, said Auker.
It was over 1 p.m. The rain lingered in Springdell Farm. Cruz and three farmers were still in the vast fields behind the stand, carrying carrots, pumpkins, potatoes, kale on motorized wagons and packing them into plastic containers in a shack, where CSA members come to pick their shares.
Auker said they wouldn’t prepare the produce for the festival until Saturday night because “we do everything within 24-hour as a rule.”
Most of the produce displayed in the stand would be brought to the festival, she revealed.
“We select vegetables because they are beautiful and good for the aesthetics and pasture-raised meats because that’s what a lot of people are looking for when they go to the festival like that,” she said.
“We’re going to the festival with hopes to educate people that we’re a really diversified family farm,” Cruz added to Auker’s comment.