By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury??”Paquette Farm is launching a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, in which customers buy a prepaid subscription to the farm's produce for the entire growing season.
“Our program will be a little different from many CSAs. Instead of just 20 weeks” worth of produce, we will go into the winter months with hard squash, butternut squash and several varieties of potatoes,” said Ed Paquette? who has been farming in the Shrewsbury area since 1989. He and his wife, Toni, operate the Paquette farm stand at 71 Grafton St. (Route 140), where CSA subscribers will pick up their weekly box of produce.
The Paquette CSA will offer full shares, a minimum of 30 pounds of produce a week, and half shares, a minimum of 15 pounds. Pricing is still being finalized, but Paquette said he will be competitive with other CSAs in eastern Massachusetts.
“We will also accommodate some special requests with no penalty. For example, if a customer is having a barbecue and needs an additional dozen ears of corn, we'sl just add that in at no cost,” he said.
The Paquette CSA will get started toward the end of May with lettuces and asparagus. As the growing season progresses, shares will include yellow squash and zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, beets, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, gourds, sugar pumpkins, Swiss chard and kale. It will run at least into November and perhaps beyond with a lighter box of the vegetables that keep in cold storage.
Much of the produce is grown on the 125 acres that Paquette farms, 50 acres in Shrewsbury and the rest in Northborough and Westborough. On the five acres surrounding the farm stand, the Paquettes grow asparagus and have greenhouses for early- and late season produce. “You'se really getting produce grown in your own back yard.”
Paquette will buy vegetables he does not grow, such as carrots, from other local farmers to include in the CSA boxes. Cut flowers may also be part of the shares during the summer months.? “We have a close relationship with an area beekeeper, so there may also be some native honey.
“And we'sl make sure every child in the family gets a large pumpkin at Halloween,” he added.
CSA subscribers will be eligible for discounts and weekly specials at the farm stand's deli department.
They may have the option of picking up their whole share once a week, or split it into two pickups a week to get the produce just after it's picked.
The number of subscriptions will be limited this first year. More information on the program is available on the Paquette Farm Facebook page, or by calling 508-845-2607 or leave a message for a return call at 508-842-0160.
Paquette will still be selling produce to area supermarkets, but the CSA program will help with overproduction. The farm will also continue to donate extra produce to area food banks; it donated over four tons last year.
“Families get a steady supply of fresh produce and help support local agriculture with CSAs,” Paquette said. “The produce isn's shipped in from thousands of miles away, and it helps preserve open space.”
Paquette has been farming part-time since 1989, full-time since 1998. “We started out right here with 500 tomato plants and went up to a thousand tomato plants and a little bit of corn. Around 1995, we were up to 10 to 15 acres of corn. In 1998, I left my job as director of design and development at a technology firm and began farming full time.”
His father's family farmed in Canada for generations, and Paquette credits his mother's family for his retailing ability. That family owns the Thomas Auto Parts business on Route 9 in Shrewsbury.