New Entry opened its training farms to the public during their 5th Annual Open Farms Tour August 2nd. Guests visited with four New Entry graduates at four farms in Dracut, to learn about what motives New Entry farmers, discuss soil conditions, market outlets, pests, irrigation and everything else that affects the day-to-day life of our farmers. Visitors included CSA members, future potential farmers, neighbors and other supporters of New Entry farmers.
Visitors began the tour with a trip to White Gate farm, to visit Rechhat Proum (2004 graduate, originally from Cambodia). Rechhat has farmed at Whitegate since 1999. As Richhat proudly displayed his harvest-ready bitter melon, garlic chive, and Asian cucumber, guests inquired as to how much time he spends in the fields. His response? “Oh, I cannot start to count the hours! Farming is a lot of hard work.” In addition to selling produce into the World PEAS CSA, Rechhat and his wife sell their produce to local Asian grocery stores, and to local farmers markets.
Next, guests visited farmer DC Denison (2011 graduate) at the Smith Farm site (about 1 mile from Whitegate Farm). In addition to their farm work, DC and his wife Gretchen open their Cambridge home each Wednesday to host a World PEAS CSA distribution. Also, as World PEAS shareholders, they receive a weekly box of World PEAS fruits and vegetables. DC reflected on what it means to be involved with New Entry at so many different levels – “We spend many hours in the field carefully cultivating our kale crop. We harvest it and deliver it to the CSA packing and distribution site in downtown Lowell. The next day, the World PEAS delivery truck stops at our house to drop off the CSA boxes for distribution to shareholders in our community. Our friends and neighbors arrive to pick up their shares. As shareholders, we get to enjoy a share as well. Gretchen and I open the box… and there is our kale! “
Next, visitors got a first-hand glimpse into the life of Tim Carroll (2012 graduate), who farms with his family at a nearby site, also at Smith Farm. First, Tim greeted visitors at the Smith Farm wash station, to walk visitors through his meticulous post-harvest handling process. According to Tim “nobody likes to see grass in their baby salad greens. Everything gets washed twice, then spun, then bagged. Thank goodness I have kids to help out!” Guests then followed Tim to his field where he emphasized the need for weed control. “As you can see, my weed control systems are not ideal. Even though several hours per week are committed to weed extraction, we still have trouble keeping up with it. Some areas have more weed that crop… but the ongoing battle continues!”
Guests finished the tour with a visit to Ogonowski Fields, to meet with Joann Robichad (2011 graduate), and her partner Kamal. Guests viewed Joann’s crops of Swiss chard, arugula, basil, tomatoes, and baby salad greens. In addition to selling her crops into the World PEAS CSA, Joann operates her own CSA, in which she delivers shares to her customers.
Before leaving the farm for the evening, guests were treated to delicious appetizers made by the teens from United Teen Equality Center, using produce grown by New Entry farmers.