Fresh farm produce a benefit to all
Island farm stands offer season’s best
Many of the farms rely on word of mouth rather than formal advertising to sell their products since supplies are limited. Searching out these local stands results in enjoyable rewards of vegetables and herbs that are grown with no commercial fertil-izers or pesticides.
Bob Sutton from the James-town Community Farm encour-ages residents and visitors to “support all agricultural prod-ucts” that raise revenue to sustain valued farmland on the island.
“We are the caretakers of your watershed,” Harry Chase at Hodgkiss Farm says of the farm-ers on the island.
The Jamestown Community Farm has a special mission to pro-vide fresh produce to local organ-izations that help feed those in need.
According to Bob Sutton, a co-ordinator of the program, produce from the cultivated three and a half acres is distributed to a num-ber of area organizations and food kitchens including the Martin Luther King Center and Salvation Army in Newport, and the Senior Center in Jamestown.
Lynda Sutton, also one of the leaders of the volunteer effort, says, “We only sell enough to cover costs for the following year.”
The limited supply is sold on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. until noon, at the entrance to the farm on Eldred Avenue, off East Shore Road. The community farm offers delicious wildflower honey in addition to vegetables and herbs raised at the farm.
According to Sutton, volun-teers average between 10 and 15 helpers an evening, but more are always appreciated. Call 4230910 for more information.
Mardi Gras is the friendly farm dog greeting customers who stop by the produce stand at Hodgkiss Farm. A sign informs passers by on North Main Road that the stand is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Gail Chase, who farms five of the 150 acres of property, says that bi-color corn, varieties of squash, herbs, and dried flowers are sold at the stand.
Pumpkins and winter squash are specialties sold through the fall, and firewood is offered throughout the stand’s season.
Chase, who works as a teacher during the school year, enjoys cultivating the land that has been in her family for generations.
Stearns Farms Organic Pro-duce, a one-woman operation run by islander Jennifer Talancy, is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. The stand is located at the East Ferry waterfront and in-cludes fresh-cut flowers in its repertoire of greens and herbs.
The Press profiled Talancy and her farm earlier this summer.
Beaverhead Farm has taken a hiatus from opening a produce stand this year to concentrate on developing the infrastructure of the farm.
Michael and Don Minto, cousins who manage the Beaverhead and Watson Farms respectively, share fields for their grass-fed cattle and sheep. Both farms are hoping to provide beef, lamb and pork sometime in the near future.
Watson Farm does not have a produce stand, but it is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. for self-guided walking tours. The working farm has three-quarters of a mile of shoreline and a two-mile walking loop around the property. Visitors can drive in from the entrance on North Main Road and find parking near the farmhouse.
An entrance fee of $4 for adults, $3 dollars for seniors, and $2 for students and children under 12 years old goes toward land preservation at Watson Farm. Jamestown residents get in free, but stop anyway to pick up a map and brochure on the farm’s histo-ry, or buy a dozen of the fresh eggs available.
For more information on events and workshops sponsored by Historic New England held at the farm, call 423-0005 or visit www.historicnewengland.org.
An agrarian legacy
An important note to add about the valued farmland on the island is the abundance of rock found in the soil. Stone walls that outline the agricultural areas have been here since Colonial times when the land was first cultivated, and are still growing. Tilling the land is tricky business when rocks threaten to break the blades of farm tools.
Gail Chase notes, “We still harvest a crop of rocks every time we work the land.”
The agricultural caretakers all agree that a community no-till seeder would be a great boost to planting. Chase explains that instead of churning up the soil as a regular seeder does, a no-till seeder has a blade slices down and seeds are dropped, without the worry of rocky obstacles to the tool.
The farms are raising funds to buy a seeder to be used co-opera-tively in the farming community.
According to Don Minto, the tool costs about $15,000, and the fund has raised about $5,000 so far.
Donations, with checks payable to the Conanicut Grange, can be sent to the Conanicut Grange c/o Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 35, Jamestown, RI 02835.
Tickets are also available for the fund-raising event Cowa-bunga! Night at the Farm hosted by the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are available by calling the chamber at 4233650.