This is the time of year to jump head long into the bounty of summer veggies. Carrots, squash, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant... and the list goes on. Even better, get your veggies from a local farm like Siena Farms in Sudbury, MA to take advantage of the most colorful and straight from the soil produce available. For this Market Stories entry, I visited Siena Farms to see what they were harvesting and learn more about local, sustainable farming. For the interview below, several members of the Siena Farms team contributed including Liz Kellman (Retail Assistant), TJ Walden (Harvest Manager), Chris Kurth (Owner/Farmer) and Jenn Bailey (Retail Manager).
What are some of the advantages of choosing and eating locally grown vegetables?
(Jenn & Liz) From an economic standpoint when you buy locally grown produce you support your community. You help further strengthen and develop a local food system by creating a demand. The produce has more nutrients and flavor as we're able to harvest at peak ripeness. It's in transit for a shorter distance and time which means fewer carbon emissions and once again you are able to consume it as soon as possible after it's been harvested. You also are able to meet your farmer, which means you can ask questions about what is grown and how it is grown. By talking to your farmer you can also help influence what is grown by creating a demand for it. Locally grown vegetables, especially from a small family farm tend to focus more on the heirloom varietals, this gives the customer more variety and typically variety that has been grown for flavor. It also enables you as a consumer to eat seasonally, which makes you think more about what is available and when. I also find that when eating seasonally a customer tends to appreciate things more once they are back in season. After a long winter of root veggies nothing beats farm fresh asparagus or strawberries!
What is something you would like more people to know about sustainable farming?
(TJ) Something I'd like more people to know about sustainable farming is that it isn't just good for the individuals enjoying the delicious, chemical-free, and healthy produce -- it's good for everyone and everything. Our responsible practices are good for the soil, the water, the air, and the health of everyone who eats produce grown at our farm. All of us here feel a sense of responsibility to maintain good stewardship of the land and to keep precious wild flora and fauna alive and healthy. We see deer, turkey, and many other animals around our fields daily, and although their consumption of our produce in the fields does not make us particularly happy, we do feel good about the fact that they aren't ingesting toxic chemicals. Sustainable farming is good for the health and continued existence of every living thing, plant or creature, and that's something I think everyone should know.
Can you tell us more about the history of the farm and its location in Sudbury, MA?
(Chris) Siena Farms is a family farm in it's 12th year of production. Currently we are cultivating 50 acres of protected farmland. In 1975, Chris Kurth's family moved into a 19th century Sudbury farmhouse. There Chris grew up tending family gardens, fruit trees, and helped raise his elementary school's mascot, a goat. In 1998, after studying biology, philosophy, and environmental studies at Williams College, Chris started a 10 acre CSA farm on his parents' fields and named it Meadow Brook Farm. After four years of production on Meadow Brook Farm, Farmer Chris accepted a farm instructor position at The Farm School in Athol, MA. It was during this time he met and eventually married Ana Sortun, the chef and owner of Oleana, Sofra, and Sarma. Their daughter, Siena, was born in 2005 and that was when Siena Farms came into being. The new iteration of the farm still serves CSA members and now several local restaurants and retail locations. In recent years we've also developed a market card program that works similarly to the CSA and a Kid's CSA to encourage kids to get into the kitchen and think about their food system.
What types of things can people expect to find at your shop at Boston Public Market?
(Jenn) At our Boston Public Market location we carry farm fresh vegetables from our farm and a couple of additional fruits and veggies from some of our friends and neighbors. We also carry some other fun products from local business and farms. This includes a wide variety of pickles from a family in Kennebunk who started their business as a way to use up extra cucumbers from their garden. Cold pressed sunflower oil from Vermont as well as a delicious smoked maple syrup tapped and produced in Vermont. Old Friends in Amherst, MA grows turmeric and ginger, which we carry when available, and make some wonderful syrups that you can frequently find at our stall. Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, MA grows a variety of items, but I especially love their chilies which they use to make some delicious sriracha sauces. Curio Spice Co. is a spice company that locally blends and packages their spices in Cambridge, MA. Curio's founder, Claire, used to work for Siena Farms and we love carrying her spice blends as a way of keeping her in the family. We've carried Jasper Hill cheese at our South End location for several years, after they moved on from the market we began carrying them at this location as well, in order to help satisfy both our and their customers cheese desires. There are many other interesting and delicious products to be found at our stall in the market!
Siena Farms supplies many chefs and restaurants in the Boston area, how does this collaboration influence what you grow and what chefs prepare?
(Jenn) There are many restaurants and chefs in the Boston area who enjoy using our produce and products. This is a wonderful relationship that we've cultivated. It allows restaurant goers to enjoy some of the freshest ingredients possible prepared in innovative ways by some of the most talented culinary minds. From talking with the chefs throughout the seasons, we learn things they like to prepare or would like to prepare. This can sometimes influence what we decide to grow, or how much we decide to plant. We also enjoy getting a little creative too. Newly developed veggie varietals or recently brought back heirloom varietals can catch our eye and imagination. It's fun to try something new and then encourage others to try it. And that's one of the reasons it's so enjoyable to work the the chefs, they too get excited by different varietals and the prospect of creating something new. A couple examples in recent years would definitely include the honeynut squash and kalette (also known as flower spouts).
What is your favorite way to enjoy summer vegetables? Is there a vegetable you don't like?
(Jenn) I love summer vegetables because they always make me think of a bright sunny day and always seem so fresh. In my opinion, especially this time of year, the simpler the recipe the better, it really lets the natural flavors shine through. Lately, I've been tremendously enjoying sauteing up some fresh garlic, shiitake mushroom, and summer squash in sunflower oil with some salt and pepper. Then I toss it with some fresh pasta from Nella's, perfect for a dinner out on the back porch! I also love field fresh tomatoes, nothing beats their flavor! Grilled shishito peppers are pretty awesome too! And roasted cauliflower has a nice nuttiness to it. Let's face it, I don't think I've met a veggie that I didn't like!
Photos: Melissa DiPalma