Last summer, there was a race between Highland Road residents.
Whoever could get to neighbors Tom LaSalvia or Doug Rockwell’s truck first would get farm-fresh, organic blueberries, strawberries or a medley of vegetables. Every Sunday, when the two men would come back from Pioneer Valley Organic Farm, their farm in western Massachusetts, people would line up to see what delicious fruits or vegetables were available.
“It got competitive between neighbors,” joked Linda Miller, a neighbor who lives two houses down from LaSalvia and Rockwell.
This summer, however, the race is over. In response to their neighbors’ support and enthusiasm in clamoring to get fresh produce each week, LaSalvia and Rockwell started a Community Supported Agriculture partnership. For a flat fee of $300, 23 Brookline residents bought a share of the farm. In return, they receive part of the season’s harvest. The first harvest pickup was June 15 in LaSalvia and Rockwell’s yard. Shareholders received fruit seedlings, a pint of organic strawberries and a poppy seed cake filled with raspberries from the farm.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Rockwell at the first pickup. “It’s been exciting to see people excited about the CSA.”
Faith Michaels, an Upland Road resident, heard about the CSA at the dog park from Linda Miller. She signed up for a share because her family eats a ton of fruit each summer. She said buying fresh fruit at the supermarket costs as much as one share, so it made sense to try something new.
“It was a win-win situation,” she said, her arms filled with strawberries and a strawberry seedling. “This is ideal.”
Shareholders can pick up their section of the harvest each Sunday evening throughout the summer. Rockwell and LaSalvia plan on giving out canvas bags filled with that week’s fruits and vegetables. The next week, the bags will be returned and shareholders will receive another batch of organic goods. Shareholders are also invited to spend a day on the farm, helping to weed, picking berries and swimming in the lake that’s on the property.
“I love that aspect of bringing neighbors together,” Miller said. “I think it’ll be really fun to know every Sunday afternoon, berries will be coming and people will be here.” The two bought the farm in April 2007 after looking for land outside of the city. It has become a second full-time job, said the Brookline residents. Rockwell, a financial administrator in pediatrics for Boston Medical Center, spends roughly half the week on the 30-acre farm, which is about two hours away in Chester. LaSalvia, executive director of the Harvard Initiative for Global Health, said he usually goes out on Thursday or Friday, sometimes bringing their 10-year-old son, Trevor. Their long-term goal is to eventually do the farm full time, said LaSalvia, but only after their son graduates from high school.
“We have a son who we want to show food doesn’t magically appear on the table,” LaSalvia said. “It takes a village to run a farm.”
The farm has between 15 to 20 employees working in the fields each day. Their biggest crop is organic blueberries. They sell about 600 pints of blueberries a week to Whole Foods in Brighton, Newton, Hadley and Bedford. Some smaller stores in western Massachusetts also purchase blueberries.
Everyone who came to the first pickup left with their hands full and a smile on their face. Most lived within walking distance to Highland Road and stayed to chat after getting their part of that week’s harvest. Trevor and his friends tossed around a Frisbee and played tag while the adults were busy. Surya Minton, Miller’s daughter, tried to keep up with the boys.
“There’s yummy berries!” the 5-year-old said as she played near the faded green picnic table holding the strawberries and other items from the farm.
LaSalvia joked he wanted to set up a few tables and start serving coffee. That way people would be able to sit and talk each week.
“It really is a way to bring the farm back to Brookline, to our neighbors,” LaSalvia said. “They definitely get much more than $300 of food over the summer.”