Welcome to spring

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Photo by Shirley Murtha

Tom Spatcher (l.) and Jesse Parker do some weeding in the greenhouse where various lettuces and other leafy vegetables have gotten a head start on the growing season.

With the caveat that we write this update in mid-March, at the start of Covid-19-related social distancing efforts that may result in postponements and cancellations of noted events, here’s what’s happening at Holcomb Farm. 

Beets and more beets

Activity is ramping up big-time at the Holcomb Farm, with an early spring putting farmer Joe O’Grady in a planting-sort-of mood. To quote, “Beets! There is nothing better than a great stand of beets. They are my Spirit Vegetable, my Soul Food, my Totem Edible, however you want to say it—I like beets. Seed organizing is finished and, like most years, I am guilty of hoarding beet seeds (this table has a few more future beets than a 25-acre farm needs—especially if I ever get our Jang seeder dialed in), but I can’t help myself #beetlove. Haven’t had two good beet years in a row, hoping 2020 breaks that cycle!”

Joe is amazing, but he can’t do it alone. Here’s a profile, by Shirley Murtha, of two Granby graduates who have discovered the power of the farming profession, right here at Holcomb Farm.

Meet the Young Farmers

It was a lovely March day; Tom and Jesse were finishing up their work and happy to take a few moments to introduce themselves to Drummer readers. Tom Spatcher and Jesse Parker are starting their fourth and second years, respectively, as Farmer Joe O’Grady’s right-hand men. They work all winter, maintaining the greenhouses and packing orders of winter vegetables for area restaurants, but as the days grow longer, so does their workload. On this particular day, they were studying O’Grady’s seeding chart, mapping out where they would plant the onions and shallots, the first of the planting, as the seedlings of these veggies are the slowest to settle into the soil and grow. Next will come the celery, followed by seeding all the other produce grown by the farm. This is the beginning of the busy months, for after the seeding comes the transplanting, cultivating, harvesting and cleaning the produce for market.

Both Granby residents, the men came to Holcomb Farm from similar paths. Spatcher graduated from Bentley in 2013 with degrees in marketing and sports business management. Having an older brother who had enjoyed working at the farm for several years, he was quite willing to help when O’Grady found himself short-handed during the busy growing season. He hadn’t found a job in marketing yet, so joined the crew at the farm. A couple of weeks turned into a couple more weeks and then he realized that he had found what he loved to do. “Working here is the happiest I’ve ever been,” he noted. He is thinking that around five years or so from now, he may be starting his own small farm and market garden, but for now, he is learning all he can.

Parker studied environmental science at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, during which he became very interested in organic farming. He was impressed by the positive impact it has on the environment and how it makes it possible for people to have healthy food. In his mind, “There is just nothing like organic vegetables.” He realized there was a perfect place for him to work right in his hometown and applied to the farm. He was hired in 2019. His hopes for the future are like Spatcher’s.

During the growing season, the hours are long and the work strenuous for these men, but they do have some outside interests. Spatcher likes to read and check out sports on television. Parker practices yoga, hikes and fishes when he has the time.

Mark your calendars

April 9, 4–7 p.m., at the Lost Acres Vineyard. Holcomb Farm and other local farmers will be at the LAV Holiday Market. While you stock up on your Easter wine, you can see what early-season goods we have.

April 25, 1–4 p.m., at the Lost Acres Vineyard, is Holcomb Farm Day, in which 10 percent of profits from sales of wine that day will be donated to the Friends’ Fresh Access program. Once again this year, we will have Chef Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis demonstrating his magic at 3 p.m. We are also planning some other fun stuff, so check out our Facebook page, Instagram, or website, for more details as the date approaches.

April 26, 2–4 p.m., at First Congregational Church in Granby. Rise Against Hunger food packaging event.

April 29, 7 p.m., at the Holcomb Farm Workshop, working with Granby Recreation and Leisure Services, a talk by Master Gardener Robert Herman.

May 9 at the Farm. Our annual pre-Mother’s Day Plant Sale. Save the date, more information to come.

June 6 at the Holcomb Farm trails, and throughout Connecticut, for Connecticut Trails Day.

June 7 at Holcomb Farm, for Friends of Holcomb Farm Annual Membership Meeting, to include a guided walk on the Tree Trail (see article elsewhere in this Drummer issue), and the Third Annual Pie Baking (and eating!) contest.

June 16 starts the 20-week Summer CSA. Shares go quickly so get yours now at holcombfarm.org/join-our-csa/