Organic farmer grows in Deerfield

DEERFIELD — Farm stand shoppers and vegetable lovers will have one more stop to make along Routes 5 and 10 come springtime. Atlas Farm, the popular organic farm, is setting up shop in the former Deerfield Farm stand.

Owner Gideon Porth has bought the stand and the 40 acres of fertile farmland that comes with it from Skip and Betsy Sobieski. By May, Porth expects to open the stand, called The Farm Store, with all its organically produced lettuce, tomatoes, squash and peppers.

Ever since Porth started the family farm on a small parcel in 2004 in Montague, the business has been growing. Porth, originally of Florida, got his start in 1997 while working on a farm as a student at the University of Michigan.

“I fell in love with it,” he recalled.

In 1999, Porth moved to Boston, where he found a job with The Food Project, a nonprofit that produces food for residents of the city and suburbs and provides youth leadership opportunities. In Boston, Porth met a University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor, who encouraged him to take an assistantship at the college. Porth then entered the graduate program in plant and soil sciences.

In 2004, he bought some farming equipment and rented three acres in Montague.

In 2006, Porth found land for rent on River Road in Deerfield. As the years went by, he bought out neighboring farmland. In total, Porth rents 43 acres on River Road and owns 12 acres.

Harvesting the fields from May to November, Atlas Farm markets its products to companies, including Green Fields Market, Whole Foods Market, Enterprise Farm in Whately, and the River Valley Market in Northampton. It also sells vegetables at local farmers markets like the Northampton Winter Market and the Copley Square Farmers Market in Boston.

Porth chose to focus on organic farming because he sees it as better for people’s health and the environment. In college, Porth studied ecology and sustainability, and organic farming was an outgrowth.

Yet, Porth had not been able to find a good place to do retail business until Sobieski put his land up for sale in the fall.

In May, the Farm Store will be open for business 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Porth hopes the stand will increase accessibility to organic produce. In addition to organic produce, the stand will stock yogurt, pickles, goat’s milk caramel and Whately-grown flour.

Unlike many stands that close for the winter, Porth plans to stay open year round.

Atlas Farm will also run its popular CSA program through the farm stand. With the CSA program, customers purchase a share at the beginning of the season and then pick up their produce weekly.

Atlas Farm will merge the CSA program with its longtime market share program. Market share customers receive a discount for credit that they purchase throughout the season. Market Share customers will be able to use their credit at the farm store any time or at any of the farmers markets’ Atlas Farm attends. Porth said the merging will provide customers with flexibility.