Local Hero Profile: Letendre Farm
When Mike gave me a call, he had just come inside for an afternoon glass of lemonade, taking a quick break from the day’s work cutting hay. Mike is the co-owner and manager of Letendre Farm, a fourth-generation farm nestled in Ware, Massachusetts right off Belchertown Road. Mike tells me that his grandparents and great-grandparents were dairy farmers. The farm has seen some changes since then, but when Mike took over operations on the farm in ’97 he continued haying, selling to many of the same loyal customers that his grandparents had.
Currently, Mike is working on the first cutting of hay. Most years this takes him from the beginning of June all the way through August. The second cutting of hay follows directly after, with the season coming to a close in October. With 50 acres of hay, this is no small feat! Thankfully, Mike has the loyal help of his parents, and neighbor’s grandson to help things go smoothly. The hay that they grow is a mix of orchard grass, timothy hay, and clover, a combination known for it’s versatile uses, and sweet flavor. Mike sells his hay to approximately 10 customers, from there the hay finds its way to the hungry mouths of horses, sheep, and even alpacas!
Hay, however, is not the only thing that Letendre Farm grows. Mike tells me that it is their eggs that attract the most customers, “it’s what draws people in seven days a week, 365 days a year”. At any given time, they have around 500 egg laying chickens, and another 150 growing chicks. Still, Letendre Farm manages to sell out of eggs by noon on some days! Cage free, you can rest assured that the ladies bringing you and your family a delicious breakfast live a happy and content life at the farm.
In response to the need that Mike had raising chicks, he decided to start processing pine shavings on the farm. They sell this sawdust to folks both by the bag and in larger bulk orders. Additionally, they grow blueberries and asparagus. Just this year they planted an extra row of asparagus, and nine new blueberry bushes. Mike tells me that while it is hard finding the time to take on new projects, it is a great way to attract customers to their farm stand. In the future, Mike tells me he would like to see the farm expand into raising meat birds in addition to the layers. And, he is interested in finding folks to buy older layers, in order to keep egg production as efficient as possible.
I asked Mike if there were any philosophies he applied to farming, to which he chuckled and humbly said, “Oh I don’t know, we just try to do the right thing I suppose.” He went on to say that for him, the real joy of farming is a combination of an honest day’s work, taking care of the land, and taking care of those in his community. He feels fortunate to have good relationships with other farms in the Pioneer Valley, such as North Hadley Sugar Shack, who Mike says has recently shared their tips for growing blueberries and asparagus.
If you are interested in buying eggs, hay, or sawdust from Letendre Farm stop by their farm stand at 350 Belchertown Road in Ware. Please call ahead to check availability, (413) 967-6895.