WESTFIELD – Across the valley, Local Hero farms are gearing up for the Memorial Day weekend as area residents begin the artful task of finding the right plants and accessories to beautify their homes and gardens.
On Wednesday morning at two Local Hero farms in Southwick and one in Westfield, business was brisk as area residents were already getting a jump on the weekend with wagons and carts filled with plants and garden adornments.
“We come to Calabrese Farms every year to get our flowers,” said Judy Brantley of Feeding Hills, who was picking out “just the right pansies” with her husband Charles. “We actually make several trips here during the summer.”
While Thomas Calabrese was busy planting with his field staff, his wife Donna was eager to point out that one of their greenhouses on Feeding Hills Road was already filled with more than 2,000 tomato plants that were started by seed in January.
“Our warm climate-controlled greenhouse is ideal for growing tomatoes,” said Calabrese, as she walked through the rows of tomato plants that are ripe for picking.
Calabrese noted their farm, now in its 66th year, offers everything from “A to Z,” ranging from fresh asparagus to zucchini. On Wednesday, signs were showcasing the farm’s fresh picked asparagus, rhubarb and spinach.
Farm associate Lucy Benoit, who is beginning her sixth summer with the Calabrese family, relishes her interaction with customers.
“I have always felt like a part of the family,” said Benoit, who graduated last Saturday from Westfield State University, majoring in social work. “The farm is such a welcoming place and I enjoy interacting with our customers.”
While customers traditionally seek out the farm’s signature peaches among its many offerings, Calabrese noted that due to the unusual winter conditions, “not a blossom can be found” on the peach trees.
“In early February the blossoms started to grow but then at the end of the month we saw nights with freezing temperatures which froze all of the blossoms,” said Calabrese. “The whole east coast from New Jersey to Maine has been impacted.”
Despite the lack of peaches this year, Calabrese noted that their scrumptious strawberries will be ready around June 10.
Calabrese Farms offers fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as perennials, annuals, herbs and much more. Visit their Facebook page for the latest on their growing season.
Just a short drive away on College Highway, Teresa and John Coward and their staff members were engaging customers who had questions on herbs, shrubs, perennials and vegetable plants.
Teresa Coward was behind the counter of their “country primitive barn” that captures the spirit of America – from flags to furniture. Additionally, farm offerings range from delightful bird houses to miniature garden accessories – ideal for any landscape.
“This year we have begun offering 4 ½” Stepables,” said Coward, adding, “Stepables are perfect for walkways and garden paths.”
Marge Goslee of Granby, Conn., had started adding plants to her cart when she noticed all of the farm’s unique bird house options.
“I shop here all the time since the prices are competitive,” said Goslee, adding she planned to add a “rustic” style bird house to her cart.
Coward said she has also been working with Sally Killips of Sanctuary Garden Design to offer classes for area residents. Upcoming classes include: June 4, “Fairy Gardens,” $20; June 11, “Concrete Birdbaths,” $30; June 18, “Tufa,” $30, and June 25, “Terrariums Under Glass,” $50. All classes begin at 10 a.m. and last approximately two hours. For more details and to sign up for a class, visit Sanctuary Garden Design on Facebook or email Killips at [email protected].
For more details on all of the offerings at the family owned farm, visit www.cowardfarm.com.
On Russellville Road in Westfield, the staff at Kosinski Farms was busy greeting visitors who were not only interested in the vast selection of plants but also at the many homemade baked goods and specialty products lining the wooden shelves. Kosinski Farms prides itself in its unique local gifts, ranging from jellies (apple, strawberry-cranberry, sweet orange, grape, red currant and elderberry), and relishes (pickle and corn), to peppers (Hot & Zesty Jalapeno Peppers, Crisp Italian Style Hot Banana Peppers), and preserves (Apricot, Peach, Cherry and Strawberry). Additionally, a variety of canned fruits including Vanilla Peaches are now in ample supply.
Farm associate Wendy Tetreault noted that one of the farm’s specialties is its pies – especially blueberry. Homemade “goodies” according to Tetreault that are also popular with patrons include cookies, brownies, whoopee pies and muffins.
“Our farm stand menu also includes specialty sandwiches including the Kosinski Club that features black forest ham, honey maple turkey, Vermont cheddar cheese, crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a Ciabatta roll,” said Tetreault.
Patrons can also find local eggs, homemade garlic butter, and ice cream treats available for sale. For seasonal offerings, visit www.kosinskifarms.com.
In a related note, Gene and Sue Kosinski were among 47 local farmers in the Local Farmers Award program who recently received $2,500 from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and Big Y to make physical infrastructure improvements to their farms.
“We were able to purchase new stainless steel fermentation tanks to make small batch wines with the money,” said Gene Kosinski, who also owns the Raven Hollow Winery adjacent to Kosinski Farms. The couple crafts their fruit wines from fruit harvested on Kosinski Farms as well as from grapes “carefully selected” from the Napa Valley.
Local Farmer Award recipients in the Greater Westfield area also included the Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington and the New Lands Farm in Westfield.
For a complete list of Local Hero farms in Western Massachusetts, visit www.buylocalfood.org or pick up the 2016 Locally Grown Farm Products Guide produced by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). The free magazine, available at farm stands and libraries, includes local farms and businesses that source local products, including restaurants, retailers, specialty producers, and dining services. Additionally, the guide includes special listings on farmers’ markets, a seasonality calendar, and farm festivals.
CISA is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members, and advocates working together to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy. Working in Western Massachusetts for more than 20 years, CISA offers assistance to farmers, provides farm shares for low-income seniors, and runs the nation’s oldest agricultural “buy local” campaign – “Be A Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown®.”