With a smile on her face, Meryl LaTronica gazed over a large onion patch on a recent, humid day at Powisset Farm in Dover.
The onion patch, she said, is her favorite to look at.
But for LaTronica, Powisset Farm's Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) manager, the entire experience of running a local farm has been sublime.
"We're really focused on creating it as a community hub," LaTronica said. "We have people who are interested in what farming is, and they might come and volunteer if they're checking farming out. There's something really easy for people about the kind of work volunteering on a farm is. I think it's a way for people to step outside of their lives for a minute."
The Roots of Powisset Farm
With its origins dating back to the time of Christopher Columbus, Powisset Farm has been owned by the Trustees of Reservations since 1984, when the group acquired it from then-owner Amelia Peabody who used the land as a dairy farm and for raising cattle.
"People would come from all over the world to get her breed stock," LaTronica said. "From 1985 until 2006, there was a little bit of everything going on. Pigs, cows, farming. But nothing that really stuck with the property."
Then a grown popularity with CSA programs provided the Trustees of Reservations an opportunity to spearhead a new hub for locally-grown produce, from tomatoes to carrots to onions and other crops.
Powisset Farm, as it is today, began its first production season in 2007 on only six acres with the help of about 100 CSA members and LaTronica at the helm.
Workers Behind the Magic
Now in its sixth year, the farm has grown to attract nearly 400 CSA members, five full-time workers (including LaTronica) and six part-time workers.
LaTronica doesn't hold a formal education on agriculture. In fact, she attended Simmons College, from where she received a Bacehlor's degree in sociology. It was years later that she was bitten by the farming bug.
"I've always worked outside, either teaching sports or outdoor education, so working outside was always easy," she said. "Farming just felt like something that connected with me. This is my 10th year farming."
Having worked as an apprentice for several years, LaTronica came to Powisset Farm in 2007, after getting her feet wet on the Waltham Fields Community Farmalongside Assistant Manager Tessa Pechenik and Melissa Gilbert, the farm's pig caretaker.
That's right, Powisset Farm isn't all about vegetables. A number of pigs are raised at the farm, and a large number of hens allow for the production of eggs.
Moreover, the farm's staff adheres to organic practices, though, in the event crops are threatened by blights or disease, workers will administer organically-approved pesticides if necessary.
Those who become members of the CSA program have the chance to indulge in the farm's offerings, LaTronica said.
"The way i describe it is, people who buy a subscription to a magazine, essentially they're buying a subscription to vegetables," she said. They know me, they know the crew, and then we do our best to provide them with this season-long diversity of vegetables."
She added, "The way that our CSA program works, is that we require everybody to come to the farm to pick up their share. We don't require [CSA] members to work, but we do require them to come and pick their own crops."
Every Tuesday from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m., residents from Dover, Sherborn, and other surrounding communities have the chance to flock to Powisset's farm stand, a veritable farmers market right in the backyard of Dover, offering everything from jams to honeys to produce and eggs. The stand will also begin holding open hours on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting in August.
And for those who want to get involved, Powisset Farm has opportunities for volunteers, the largest group of which comprises high school students, as well as those who just want a chance to explore the land.
"It's just open to the public," LaTronica said. "There's space for just chilling, and then there's space for people who want to be the CSA member."