But like the mythical phoenix, it has risen from the ashes with an even more impressive, permanent structure and with an even firmer commitment to the community.
But there will be changes in place when the farm stand opens for the season on Sat., June 2.
“In the past, we had an honor system,” explains Megan Talley, who with Joshua Faller is currently running the farm and the farm stand. “We had a slot you could put money in. But we had some theft of produce, so we decided to staff it this year, on a trial basis. And people feel more comfortable with someone there they can talk to and who invites them in.”
The other big change is that farm manager Greg Maslowe is on a learning sabbatical in New Zealand. But he has left the farm in the very capable hands of Talley and Faller who are not only in charge of the farm until the fall, but are also taking care of the farm “pets” (bunny Snowy and dog Casey) and the old farm house.
Until about seven years ago, that farmhouse had been occupied for nearly 100 years by a member of the Angino family, hence the farm’s original name – Angino Farm. But when the oldest living member of the immediate family passed on and others didn’t want to take up the mantle, the City of Newton stepped in and bought the land and the farm to preserve its 300-year-old history.
The farm actually operates in some capacity throughout most of the year, with several components that have varying levels of activity throughout the seasons. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program allows about 120 Newton individuals and families to share in the bounty of the farm by buying in before the season and metaphorically and literally helping seed the farm.
“They invest in the season, basically,” Talley explains, “and they recognize the tomato crop or whatever might fail, but they want to be back next year because they want to support having a farm in our community.”
The Newton Community Farm also participates in the Friday Farmers’ Market at Post 440 on California Street.
According to Talley, the smaller size of this market and its location on “the other side of town” work well for the Newton Community Farm as it allows them to find another means of being involved in the community without overextending themselves. They can have enough produce for this farmers’ market but not cut into what they are providing for their CSA participants or what they can sell via the farm stand.
Education is also a huge part of the Newton Community Farm. Classes are offered for adults (including a new “Yoga at the Farm” program in conjunction with Down Under Yoga) and children from pre-school to high school ages. There is even a special section of the farm called the Learning Garden where the youngest participants can learn about gardening and farming without doing too much damage in their eagerness to get their hands dirty.
But it is the new farm stand about which the farmers and volunteers at the Newton Community Farm are most excited.
Talley notes that contractor Mark Quigley donated his time constructing the solid structure, and the city paid for its concrete foundation. The Farm only had to pay for the building materials, which they did through a fundraising drive that began within a few days of the old farm stand’s untimely demise.
This weekend, the farm stand will have asparagus, rhubarb, fresh herbs, a number of greens (chard, spinach, kale), radishes and some leftover tomato and basil seedling starts from the Farm’s seedling sale a couple of weeks ago. They will be adding other produce throughout the summer and in the fall, when they will also bring in apples and potatoes from another local farm (Talley says that they “just don’t have the space” to grow these crops on top of the many they already sustain).
“Not that there was anything wrong with the old farm stand,” notes Talley. “But there is such a different feel about this one. It’s just wonderful!”