As I walked into Verrill Farm one frigid Saturday morning, the smell of Steve Verrill’s famous wood stovetop beef stew captivated my senses. Beef stew is the quintessential winter comfort food. Watching Farmer Steve make the stew with such care using farm-fresh vegetables, locally sourced beef, and homemade spices reminded me of how fortunate we are to have so many farms right in our backyard.
If you’re a bona fide “foodie” like I am, you know that locally-grown food looks, feels, and tastes better than processed foods. There is no better taste than a farm-fresh heirloom tomato, an ear of sweet corn, or a newly picked, mouthwatering strawberry.
The fruits and vegetables you buy at local farms are the freshest and tastiest, providing the best nutrition possible. The crops are picked at their peak, and there is a shorter time between getting the food from the farm to your kitchen table.
Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you — no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is as real as it gets — fresh from the farm.
You also can find an amazing selection of products that you don’t see at the average supermarket — a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, green garlic, sunchokes, Romanesco broccoli, and watermelon radishes. Biodiversity never tasted so good!
At most farms, you can usually also find fresh eggs, honey, herbs, and flowers. Many farms offer a wide selection of healthy soups, salads, and entrees — all made with farm-fresh produce and meats — to be enjoyed at home.
Just like produce farmers, meat farmers value quality. Their reputation for good meat is on the line when they sell to the public. Purchasing locally grown meat is not only beneficial for the local farmer, it is good for the local economy and the local environment. Meat producers that engage in sustainable grazing practices help carbon get pulled from the atmosphere and stored in the soil, thereby improving soil quality.
Benefits to buying produce and meats from local farms
Local farms have a variety of meat cuts and volumes available, with an abundance of options to choose from, including pasture-raised, grain-finished, all-natural, and organic. Buying directly from farms or local markets gives you an opportunity to talk with the farmer and learn more about how their animals are raised while also providing a secure supply of wholesome protein.
- Enjoy the food of the season. Each farm offers the freshest fruits and vegetables of the season. Many farms offer pick-your-own programs for vegetables and fruits according to the season. Picking your strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, and pumpkins is not just healthy, it is fun!
- Support local farmers. When you buy locally, you are helping our local economy. More jobs are created in your town and it helps your friends, neighbors, and community to prosper.
- Protect the environment. You are helping the environment when you shop local. Farmers generally use sustainable methods that minimize the impact on the earth. Millions of tons of plastic trash end up in the ocean every year. Plastic trash disposal is a global issue. If you buy locally, most of the items sold have limited packaging. Bringing your reusable bags helps save the environment, too.
- Promote the humane treatment of animals. At local farms, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets, and who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical of animal agriculture.
- Farms create sharing communities. Few grocery stores provide recipes and live cooking classes. Local farmers are often passionate cooks and are happy to provide plenty of recipes and free advice on how best to cook the foods they sell.
- Get to know your local farmer. Knowing your farmer means a stronger connection to the food you eat. If you get to know your local farmers growing your food, you learn exactly how it is grown. For example, Saltbox Farm in Concord uses regenerative agricultural practices to ensure survival and sustainability of the land for future generations.
- Consider CSA programs. Joining a local community supported agriculture (CSA) program is a smart way to get fresh, locally-grown produce weekly while directly supporting your local farmers. Jennifer Verrill Faddoul mentioned that with many restaurants being closed due to the pandemic, Verrill Farm has “expanded their CSA offerings to make more fresh produce available to the community.” This is welcome news as their CSA shares sell out quickly each summer at their popular farm stand.
The award-winning Woods Hill Table restaurant now offers a new CSA featuring humanely-raised meats from its New Hampshire farm. Kristin Canty the owner of Woods Hill Table in Concord and Boston, began offering the CSA meat option as there was great demand from the community to buy fresh, humanely-raised meats. She said, “Customers often asked if they could buy our meats. We worked hard to ensure you can enjoy the same meats you get in our restaurants in the comfort of your own home.” She, too, offers cooking advice and recipes for her products.
Saltbox Kitchen in West Concord offers seasonal menus featuring fresh ingredients from Saltbox Farm. Chef Ben Elliot’s family farm dates back to the 1940s. In addition to offering delicious food and bakery items prepared with local produce, they are also Concord’s only craft brewery.
Visiting the many local farms in our areas makes food shopping feel like an exciting adventure rather than a boring chore. You never know what new seasonal fruit or vegetable you will find. If you are lucky, you will catch a creative cooking demonstration and collect some new recipes to try. You get to enjoy fresher food, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you are helping your friends, neighbors, and the planet.
Farms in the Greater Concord Area
Our community has many bountiful farms, including several open for shopping all year long. Here are some favorites. Be sure to call or visit websites to check produce availability and hours.
About the Author
Kaitlin (Kait) Schuster is a senior at Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Mass. She lives in Sudbury with her parents, sister, three cats, and a dog. She is an honors student, school leader, and a nationally-ranked squash player who loves to cook in her spare time.