While 2020 has not been a very good year for most people, Gary Cirullo at The Garlic Farm is thankful for the record harvest of his title crop. About three- and one-half acres planted last fall survived the winter, leading to a harvest of about 15,000 pounds. If you look up when you enter the retail barn, you will see just about every available rafter overhead is hung with the fragrant white bulbs—a really amazing sight.
Most of this garlic is the large bulbs of hybrid German white useful as “seed garlic” for those wishing to grow their own. To provide enough for this growing market, Cirullo saves some from each season to be used to start the next year’s crop. It’s a good thing he does, because people come from as far away as Maine and New Jersey, as well as the rest of New England and New York, to purchase seed garlic.
Cirullo hires around a dozen workers to harvest the garlic in mid-July. Many applicants reply to his ad for help. Workers need to be able to spend a full day, beginning at 5:45 a.m., in the hot sun in the field. Surprisingly, not all are in high school or college; this year there were some in their late 30s. Cirullo noted that in a photo posted earlier this season, “the harvesters had a look of early depression era agriculture.”
In addition to the garlic, the farm grows a multitude of other vegetables, all without pesticides. Extensive drip irrigation keeps everything going strong, despite hot dry summers such as the one Granby just experienced. The heirloom tomatoes, kale, Swiss chard, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers and onions make beautiful displays. Speaking of beauty, customers are also allowed to pick a bouquet of colorful zinnias from the extensive field in back of the retail barn.
For several years, the farm has provided a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program) in which participants pay upfront for a season’s worth of vegetables that they pick up on a weekly basis. There are usually between 30 and 40 CSA members.
As well as selling all these non-pesticide, non-GMO veggies to the public, Cirullo has been supplying several area restaurants with this produce. For example, the Max Group of restaurants and the Trumbull Kitchen rely on him to make weekly deliveries.
Cirullo spends his days in the fields, so a trio of women help to keep things running in the retail barn. Karen works the cash register and handles the Facebook page; Heather also does the register and she writes the newsletter; Tonya fills in at the register when needed. During the very busy fall season, Cirullo expects to set up a second cash register outside on the weekends to alleviate long lines and allow for social distancing.
If you want to start your own garlic garden, don’t wait too long to get over to The Garlic Farm on Simsbury Road to get your seed bulbs. They go flying out the door as the season progresses.