The Garlic Farm: Moving forward, while looking back

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The farm store is housed in an old tobacco barn. Submitted photos

More than three decades ago, long before the term organic entered the popular lexicon, The Garlic Farm opened in West Granby. Over the years it transformed from a small weekend farm stand to a full-time operation offering dozens of vegetables as well as a community share program.

As The Garlic Farm prepares for the 2023 season it continues to evolve, adding new produce and changing its hours of operation. Still, the farm adheres to its original ethos of providing excellent produce using only all-natural growing methods.

Fresh garlic bulbs.

Rachel Carson noted in Silent Spring, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” In keeping with that seminal novel’s premise, the The Garlic Farm has always cultivated produce grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. The farm has worked extensively with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and especially Crop Production Services to continuously maintain healthy, disease-free soil in which to grow its crops,

Since its inception, the farm has been housed in an old tobacco barn located at 76 West Simsbury Road. The barn itself offers a reminder of the crop that was predominant throughout the region. The outside of the barn has been left as close as possible to original, giving visitors a close-up view of a piece of history. However, the interior of the barn has been retrofitted to provide an ideal backdrop for showcasing its namesake crop.

The farm’s garlic was originally grown and harvested in fields directly adjacent to the stand. Today, the farm has expanded to grow several acres of this crop, but tall green shoots of garlic are still visible near the barn every spring. Over the decades several different varieties of garlic have been cultivated. Ultimately, that whittled down leaving German white hard neck garlic as the farm’s primary strain. It is quite hardy, has excellent flavor and stores well for months. The garlic is planted in the fall each year and every July the farm has a marathon garlic harvest after which farm guests and customers see the barn rafters filled with garlic.

Although early on the farm carried only its signature crop, it has broadened its scope to offer dozens of different vegetables. The present farm stand extends past the front of the tobacco barn and has bins overflowing with a plethora of vegetables. There are fresh-picked big beef tomatoes ripened in and still warm from the sun, neon yellow Hungarian hot wax peppers and light green curly kale. Numerous varieties of sweet peppers, onions, leeks and Swiss chard, like the garlic, are grown naturally.

While inhaling the earthy scent of Tuscan kale, patrons see a field awash in color next to the barn. The farm started growing zinnias some time ago and they remain a perennial delight for visitors to pick. This year, we offer additional fields of flowers from which guests can pick a bouquet to take home.

In addition to new crops, the farm began offering a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. Patrons can invest in a share at the beginning of the season which gives them a specifically allocated assortment of produce each week. The interest quickly grew and last season the farm departed from the traditional CSA and initiated a new type of share. The contemporary program eco-share is open to everyone and no sign up is required. Each week a designated selection of all the produce is available for the cost of $40 but has at least a $70 value. Thus, anyone, at any time, has a cost-effective means of sampling all that the farm has to offer.

Varieties of kale for sale.

In addition to a more accessible share program and increased variety of produce, the farm has expanded its hours of operation. Originally open exclusively on weekends, it slowly increased to every day of the week. For the 2023 season, it will modify its hours to be open Thursday through Monday, but closed on Tuesday and Wednesday to devote more time to maintaining the crops to ensure that the produce quality remains high.

The Garlic Farm was nearly a decade into raising crops using all natural growing methods when the National Organic Program was started by the USDA in 2001. The demand for pesticide-free produce is ever growing, yet the obstacles facing farmers have intensified. Surviving trials such as an aberrant hailstorm that wiped out crops, an overabundance of rain or not enough, weather that is too hot or too cold, the farm has adapted, maintained its core principles and recovered as strongly as ever.

Closing in on its third decade, The Garlic Farm continues to thrive as more people discover “the beauty of the earth” that the farm offers July through October. It has become one of the leading producers of seed garlic in New England. Numerous people make the pilgrimage every year to obtain German white hard neck seed garlic to plant in their own garden.

For the season ahead, The Garlic Farm is looking forward to July 21. Though the essence of the farm will remain the same, there will be new additions that the farm hopes new visitors and returning patrons will enjoy. The farm will welcome all from Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. –6 p.m. and Monday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and the farm will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

If you would like to join this year’s crew in the field, please call 860-670-6314.

An abundance of fresh vegetables.