The Farm’s History:

The Beckett family started farming in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in 1973, when Chip’s father bought the Old Cider Mill to keep it from being developed into condominiums after the original condo sale fell thru. Chip worked during off times in college and vet school until 1982, and returned to Glastonbury in 1983 to start his own practice and help out with the farm. In 1985, he bought the farm next door to build the veterinary clinic, Beckett and Associates, and add the acreage to the Cider Mill property. Originally, we sold most things to the Cider Mill, along with wholesalers in Hartford. We have gradually sold to more stands and added farmers’ markets a few years ago, when his daughter, Leah, was old enough to drive to the markets. The CSA is the next evolution for our farm, to let people see and share what we do with our productive land and good weather.

Can we buy more of anything that is in the box?

Yes!  Of course you can buy extra of anything if there is enough.

Is the CSA refundable?

Because we view the CSA as a two-way investment–you invest in our farm early allowing us to buy seeds and pay for labor, we will invest in your boxes, which will often mean getting more produce than you paid for–CSA payments are non-refundable. It is your responsibility to pick up the box during the allotted time frame or find someone to grab it for you. We can leave boxes in the barn in Glastonbury overnight, but we will give the produce to the sheep if not picked up by the end of the following day. The emails we send out should be a friendly reminder to you and your family that you have a box of goodies waiting for you, but the pick-up dates are above and you should check the website if you don’t receive an email (and because we post the CSA pictures here!).

Will you be growing corn, or strawberries, or pumpkins?

Corn is a specialty crop, which we do not grow.  We’re operating our 47 acres as best we can by rotating everything, but we just don’t have room for everything! Pumpkins take up a lot of space, so we do not foresee ourselves planting them. Corn, strawberries, and pumpkins are all grown within town and can be purchased at many of the farm stands nearby.

Is your farm organic?

No.  We are not an organic farm, but that isn’t to say that we dump chemicals unnecessarily on each of the fields as often as we can! We use the chemicals as a defensive action more than an offensive action.  The fairest thing to call our farm is a farm which uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  Last year a few of our crops weren’t ever sprayed.  To see what my dad has to say about it all, please read below:

Often people ask about is our farm conventional or organic. I appreciate the sense of wanting wholesome food, but I think the description is more about marketing than health. Organic does not mean no pesticides are used, it means no synthetic organic chemicals are used, but potentially toxic inorganic compounds and extracts are used. For example rotenone is toxic, but is able to be used in organic production.

Farming is ultimately the practice of providing the correct supports to grow healthy plants and animals to produce food for people. Plants make their own food from the carbon dioxide in the air, along with water from their roots. We also need to provide them with the chemical minerals to make their food complexes and vitamins to grow. Fertilizer then is focused on how to get the three major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into the plants for growth. There are also minor nutrients of copper, molybdenum, sulfur, iron and boron required. Traditional fertilizers have the 3 major elements, and now have the minor elements added according to the crop needs. Manure or compost provides the same chemical nutrients, both major and minor, with organic matter. Mulch is mostly organic matter. We use them all. The organic matter tends to even out the water supply, retaining water in dry periods and soaking it up in wet events. It also helps prevent leaching of nutrients into the ground water and holds the chemical nutrients in the root zone for a longer time than low organic matter soils will. The organic gardening movement’s greatest contribution to agriculture has been reminding us all that soil fertility and tilth are important, and the way we farmed well prior to the advent of chemical fertilizers in the 30’s is just as valid today.

Spraying is done more on fruit and vegetable crops than any other sort of agriculture. We tend to spray less than anyone else that I know, but we do. In our humid environment, we would have little edible fruit if we did not spray, because the mold diseases would destroy everything. That is why summer tomatoes look good when you leave for that August vacation, and look dead two weeks later when you come back. The weeds are a problem, but the diseases have ruined the fruit and killed the plants! We follow the IPM philosophy of spraying when we have a problem and not otherwise. What does that mean for our customers and friends? We spray  herbicide over the black plastic mulch most of our crops are grown on to prevent the weeds from growing in the row middles. There is no herbicide under the plastic. We lay down mulch between the rows to conserve moisture, prevent ponding, build up organic matter, and extend the weed free time because we do not cultivate for the entire year with plastic. Our crops planted in soil may also get  herbicide to keep the weeds down, or not, depending on the crop and the products available.

Usually, our short season crops like lettuce and other greens are never sprayed with anything, we harvest them before there is a problem. Peppers are rarely sprayed, usually in September for worms, borers that cause the fruit to rot a couple of days after picking. Usually we have to do 2 sprays 10 days apart, with an “organic certified” product that breaks down into CO2 called Spintor. Tomatoes almost never are sprayed for insects, but regularly for blights. We use copper sprays, peroxides, and traditional fungicides in various mixtures and alternations depending on the weather and disease pressure. We picked a full crop in 2009 with that plan, rather than losing our crop as most home gardeners did when we had late blight and rain in the state. The fungicides that we use are toxic at a level approaching that of table salt, so they are quite safe to be around.

The vast majority of our spraying is for the peaches and apples, mostly for the spring fungal diseases and insects. We spray about every 10 days from Mid-April until mid-June, and then every 2-3 weeks for the rest of the summer. We usually stop spraying the apples in mid-August. Peaches sometimes need spraying prior to harvest if we have wet rainy weather with fruit rots, otherwise we skip the spraying. Blueberries are sprayed with fungicides at the bloom period and again in late June for insects fruit worms on the varieties that are ripe before mid-July.

Our goal is to raise quality, healthful food for you and your family. We strive to have taste and quality that exceeds what you can buy in the store from any region of the world. Sometimes we do not always attain that, basil may have a hole eaten in a leaf, a broccoli can have a worm, a tomato can have a mold-rot; but we try to spray only when we think that the pest pressure will harm your family’s enjoyment of the food we raised for you.

If you want to talk about this further, please give a call or send us an email.