Written By: Ellie Wilson, MS, RD Senior Nutritionist, Price Chopper Supermarkets
Plainville Farm – Hadley, MAOn a lovely Saturday morning in late June I made my way through the beautiful farmland of northern Massachusetts. I found myself driving behind some tractors and wagons, and then stumbled on to the University of Massachusetts Amherst farm, which is operated by the agricultural college and is a tremendous resource to local farmers. Right down the road, I met Walter Czajkowski from Plainville Farm. Walter’s father was a farmer, and all 5 of his siblings were the farm help growing up. Only he and one brother remained in farming, and they operate separate farms that are very close to each other. Walter, the 3rd generation, started his own farm in 1974, after obtaining his degree in plants and soil at Amherst. He employs 12 people full time – with 180 acres, the work is never done. I met Lesviah, the packing house manager, and Walter’s wife Mary, who was documenting the early harvest by field that morning – an important part of farming work for traceability. She shared some great recipes we will offer as we ramp up harvest. Their modern packing house was built in 2008 – a major investment for the farm, and an important part of what the Price Chopper team looks for in our farmer partners, as well as GAP certification – it all speaks to great quality and food safety practices. This is Plainville’s first year with Price Chopper. When I asked Walter why they partnered with us, he shared that they had come to a meeting for growers over the winter, and “Price Chopper wowed us”, so they signed on. In particular, Price Chopper’s transportation system helps him by reducing how much time he spends getting produce to the market, which he feels serves the customer, the farmer and Price Chopper in a most efficient way. He felt it was a great, sustainable model. His favorite part of farming is being outside. Walter plants what he likes to eat, and what is really suited to the land he farms – we will have sweet corn, summer squash, and maybe broccoli from Plainville. He also grows what the market demands – cucumbers and shallots, summer squash and bunch beets. Butternut squash is a major crop for his farm also, and part of their logo. We drove all over to the different fields, and saw plants in all different stages. We also saw some of the rye they grow to maintain and improve the soil between plantings over the winter. I asked Walter what he felt was a game changer for farming, and he shared zone tilling – moving soil around as little as possible, so it is healthier, and not lost to wind or water. He is happy to see people eating more healthfully and eating more produce. Help people try foods, and offer them familiar items in new ways – like roasting or grilling asparagus, his personal favorite, and you will help them eat more fruits and vegetables. Farmers and dietitians have a lot in common when it comes to promoting produce! We will keep in touch with Plainville Farm and share updates!