Farm Profile: Art’s Farm
By Aja Lippincott, CISA Staff
Published in CISA’s July Newsletter – Sign Up Here!
“Are you the Blueberry King of East Longmeadow?” is a question Art Valonen, owner and operator of Art’s Farm, was surprised to hear as he answered his phone recently — but Art has become well known in the area for his high quality fruit. His father, a full-time engineer, started growing blueberries as a hobby on 1 ¼ acres of land, and Art was roped into doing chores on the farm while in elementary school. Art discovered a deep interest in farming while doing these daily chores, so eventually he took over and, while still a teenager, expanded his father’s pick-your-own blueberry operation. In the early 70s, he decided to plant strawberries and has been steadily building his berry operation since. All of Art’s hard work is obviously paying off. In a good year a single acre can yield about 3,000 quarts of strawberries!
Art’s ambition doesn’t stop there. The farm is always changing to adjust to the ebb and flow of consumer demand. Last year Art built two new greenhouses to help house starter plants, and with help from his niece, a recent college graduate, the farm started offering pick-your-own vegetables and flowers. Vegetables on offer include tomatoes, broccoli, corn, and cucumbers, and flower varieties include zinnias, asters, gladiolas, cosmos, and black-eyed-Susans. Customers can head straight to the field or buy cut flowers by the bouquet. And for those with a sweet tooth, they now offer delicious specialty pies or jams. Sometimes, demand comes from more than just the humans — Art recently discovered that the local deer population has developed quite a taste for green strawberries!
But even with all these new crops adding to the farm’s profitability, small fruit is what Art likes best and what he has the most experience with. In response to frequent requests from his customers, Art has added raspberries to his farm’s offerings. Adding a new small fruit crop is a multi-year project, and Art has been working on building up both his summer and fall varieties as the plants continue to establish themselves. Art’s goal is to make the farm a family-oriented destination and he sees pick-your-own as important to the community. Families in particular get more than just delicious fruit, vegetables, and flowers out of the experience — parents love an excuse to get their kids out of the house to do something fun.
Be sure to call ahead for pick-your-own availability but plan to make a stop at Art’s Farm this summer for a day of family fun. If you’re driving down Parker Street in East Longmeadow you can’t miss the roadside wagon colorfully adorned with a variety of pre-cut and potted flowers. Take a leisurely stroll through row upon row of berry bushes that extend all the way to the distant tree line and enjoy the sweetness of blueberry season this July at Art’s Farm!