Nourse Farm, a 140-acre vista located in Westborough, is where many locals find summertime fruit and vegetables. Established in 1722, the family owned business has planted what will be its 290th harvest season, due in part to its commitment to Community Supported Agriculture.
Those who visit the farm stand in the summer might want to thank the Salem Witch trials. In 1692, Rebecca Nurse, a descendant, was hanged for witchcraft. Her story is the center of that period’s history and was a source of inspiration for Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
Her children, fearing more persecution, fled to Westborough, changed their name slightly to Nourse, bought the open space, and plowed the same earth that is farmed today.
The farm is run by Rebecca’s eighth and ninth generation grandchildren. It is the 13th oldest continuously operated family business in the United States, largely supported through a “share” program called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. It gives the locals an opportunity to reap the harvest for a set price without having to get their hands dirty.
“We’re still taking apps till June,” said Jonathan W. Nourse, the property’s farm manager.
Here is how it works: Consumers plunk down a few hundred dollars (or more) in the off-season to own the right to pick up fresh produce once a week from Nourse.
In the second week of June, when crops are ready to be harvested, the CSA member will take home a seasonal cornicopia of strawberries, lettuce, sugar snap peas and up to 14 other early summer crops. By August, members are taking home corn, blueberries, and cucumbers plus others. This continues on till October when late season harvests including squash are ready.
Nourse said that everything grown will be evenly distributed to all of the shareholders so everyone gets a fair share. An individual share is $300 for the season, a two-person share is $450, and a family share is $600. Over 20 weeks of harvesting, this averages to about $15 to $30 per week. For shoppers who spend as much or more for produce at a supermarket, this is a good deal.
There are risks though. Just like every farm, the weather and insect infestations can hurt some crops. If the summer is dry, like it has been all winter and spring, then some crops will suffer, meaning more radishes than you bargained for. But Nourse, like all farmers, compensate for Mother Nature through irrigation and different soil mixes to minimize damage.
Beth Hook, owner of Green Hill Farm in Shrewsbury, said since CSA programs have been around since 1985, most people who participate are familiar with how it works. Also, the biggest problem is not too little produce, but too much.
“This is for people who like to cook,” she said.
There are several farms in the Central Mass. area that offer CSA programs. For a complete list visit the UMass Amherst site on CSA’s.
1. Potter Hill Farm: 64 Potter Hill Road, Grafton. Potterhillfarm.com. They sell their produce at the Grafton Farmers Market but they offer a CSA of their grass fed beef. A share for a side of beef is approximately $1,500, $750 for half. Pick up is in December or January of 2013.
2. Heirloom Harvest: 30 Hopkinton Road, Westborough. 508-963-7792 or heirloomharvestcsa.com. They are certified organic. A family share is $650, plus seven hours of fieldwork. Installment plans are available.
3. Old Nourse Farm: 70 Nourse Street (Route 30) Westborough. 508-366-2644. oldenoursefarmgourmet.com. Aside from a CSA program, they also have a farm stand that runs from June to October.
4. Green Hill Farm: 140 Green Street, Shrewsbury. 508-842-2588. firstname.lastname@example.org. A family share is $500, but they only have a small amount of shares open. They are not certified organic, but operate the farm chemical-free.
Richard Price can be reached at email@example.com