By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Southborough – In the midst of stately homes in Southborough sits 235 acres of rolling pastures that never will be developed. Now, for the second year, the Chestnut Hill Farm will be the site of a bustling Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) run under the stewardship of The Trustees of the Reservation (The Trustees). This growing season, the CSA hopes to increase shares from last year’s 50 to 200.
The Trustees is a land conservation nonprofit organization, which oversees 70,000 acres in Massachusetts, including beaches, gardens, campgrounds, parks, inns, historic sites, and three other CSAs. The Beals family, who purchased the farm in 1966, donated 131 acres to the Trustees in 2010. According to Southborough’s Conservation Administrator Beth Rosenblum, “the Beals family has preserved their property in various ways.”
The Trustees’ CSA Farm Manager Desiree Robertson-DuBois launched a farm stand and a CSA program at Chestnut Hill last year.
Unlike other CSAs that require members to volunteer and receive specified allotments every week, Robertson-DuBois will run the farm in a different way.
“This will be a market-style CSA, you take what you want and leave when your bucket is full,” she said. “We will limit things occasionally, like when someone takes a full basket of spinach, or [when the supply is low and the demand is high].”
Chestnut Hill will offer a full share for $650, and a smaller share for $450. Pickup will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
CSA members are required to buy a membership to The Trustees, which is $47 for the year.
Robertson-DuBois said 12 acres of the farm would be cultivated using composted chicken manure and fish emulsion for fertilizer. Synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizer will not be applied.
There is a well for irrigation, but another needs to be dug, according to Robertson-DuBois.
The 20-week CSA season starts the second week of June and ends in October. Early on there will be lettuce, kale, peas, spinach and strawberries. Midseason produce will include beans, beets, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers and more. At the end, there will be Brussels sprouts, more spinach, garlic and continuation of many vegetables.
Every week, 30 to 60 pounds of produce will be donated to the Southborough Food Pantry, according to Robertson-DuBois. The farm may participate in The Trustees’ mobile market that will take place in various Boston neighborhoods.
There will be pick-your-own vegetables, flowers and fruits as part of the share. Eggs will be for sales at the farm, from dozens of baby chicks that which were just received in the mail.
Robertson-DuBois won’t turn down help at the farm, but she’s highly organized, and well-equipped thanks to The Trustees. She will work with two apprentices and a seasonal employee. She said that the farm has a mechanized transplanter, a bed shaper that makes raised beds, and a vacuum seeder, among other equipment. Robertson-DuBois said that all of the produce would be harvested and washed by hand.
“I love working for The Trustees,” she said. “They are awesome and the town has been incredible… Hopefully (my family) be here for a long time.”
In addition to the CSA at the farm, The Trustees plan to offer educational programs almost every weekend, a 5K trail run and one-mile children’s run with goats in April, a Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival and BBQ, and a fall festival.
Robertson-DuBois, who has been a farmer for 20 years, has successfully expanded CSA membership at two other farms in Massachusetts: the Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, and the Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton.
She lives on the Chestnut Hill Farm with her husband, Jesse Robertson, who works for the American Farmland Trust, and their three children, Morgan, 13, Elspeth, 9, and Gweneth, 4, and family’s nine goats, six of whom are pregnant.
The daughter of furniture makers, Robertson-DuBois grew up in Vermont, North Carolina and Florida. She was introduced to farming at Hampshire College.
“My mother laughs and says that she couldn’t get me to weed when she was a kid,” she said. “She and my dad think what I’m doing is awesome.”
To sign up for a CSA share or for more information about the Chestnut Hill Farm, visit thetrustees.org/chestnuthillcsa.