Valley Bounty: Crimson and Clover Farm
Published August 19th, 2023 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
Investing Local Food All Year Long at Florence Farm
“Having resilient farms – farms that are financially solvent and can deal with stresses like droughts and flooding – isn’t just about infrastructure,” says Nate Frigard, farmer and owner of Crimson and Clover Farm in Florence. “It’s also about consistent customer support throughout the year.”
In their case, the former – new infrastructure made possible by state grants – is paving the way for the latter. With a cozy new farm store and washroom, people can now come to Crimson and Clover Farm for locally grown food every month of the year.
Crimson and Clover grows vegetables on about 25 acres, feeding about 600 households through community supported agriculture (CSA) farm shares distributed locally and in the Boston area. Their on-site farm store at 215 Spring St in Florence is also open to everyone, stocked with their own produce alongside meat, eggs, milk, cheese, snacks and other staples from farms in the region.
“We are a community-based farm,” explains Frigard. “To us, that means whether it’s folks who visit us on a field trip, come to a farm event, shop or get their CSA here on the farm, or our CSA members in the Boston area, we prioritize their experience.”
That desire for community integration, going beyond just business transactions, makes them a natural farm partner for Grow Food Northampton, who in 2011 awarded them a 99-year lease as anchor tenant at their community farm.
“We really found each other,” Frigard says. “Our vision was their vision: to be a community hub focused around local food.”
Many community farm plots south of Spring St. experienced major flooding last month, including small commercial farms and the community garden. Crimson and Clover’s fields are located on higher ground north and west of the town recreation fields, meaning most of their harvest was unscathed.
Describing their CSA program, Frigard says, “that’s the heart of what we do. That’s what people love most and want from us.”
For their main season CSA running June through November, about half of all weekly shares are distributed locally in Florence, the other half near Boston. They offer small and large shares for different household sizes and in many cases accept SNAP as payment.
Most Boston area shares are pre-boxed and delivered for pick-up partnering businesses, namely the sustainability-oriented local restaurant chain Clover Food Labs. They also offer a market-style CSA pick-up in Medford in collaboration with the Plow and Stars Project, where customers can peruse and choose their own mix of items from the week’s harvest.
Florence-based CSA members get a similar market-style experience during weekly pick-ups on the farm. They also have access to pick-your-own flowers, cherry tomatoes, peas, and herbs, and can purchase other groceries at the adjacent farm store.
The farm store is open to everyone, not just members, Wednesday to Friday, 12:30 – 6:30pm, and Saturdays 9am – 2pm. In compliment to Crimson and Clover’s own produce, this time of year shoppers can find things like corn from Warner Farm in Sunderland, blueberries from Kosinski Farms in Westfield, Yogurt from Sidehill Farm in Hawley, Milk from Mapleline Farm in Hadley, and mushrooms from Prospect Meadow Farm in Hatfield.
Last year, all this activity wrapped up by November. This winter, the lights will stay on and the harvest will keep rolling in.
Thanks to a $325,000 Food Security Infrastructure Grant (FSIG) in 2021, Crimson and Clover was able to winterize their farm store and CSA distribution space, as well as building an attached insulated washroom. This allows for year-round farms store sales plus a new winter CSA program.
“We’ll have monthly shares of storage veggies and weekly shares with cold weather veggies, greens, and some seasonally available fruit too, like apples,” says Frigard. “We’ll grow as much as we can ourselves and fill any gaps by buying in from other local producers.”
The state of Massachusetts established the FSIG program in 2020 when economic chaos caused by COVID exposed how fragile our existing food supply chains are during a crisis. Grants for infrastructure improvements were made directly to farmers and food business owners. They could then apply their lived experience patching holes and addressing bottlenecks in our local food supply chains.
Since then, there have been five rounds of FSIG funding totaling $89 million – seed investment towards the vision of a robust, connected, and resilient local food system. The most recent round announced in mid-July saw another $6.4 million invested in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties. Local nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), who advised Crimson and Clover farm in their first application, helped local businesses secure almost $2 million of that.
As COVID, conflict, and the impacts of climate change continue to shake national and global supply chains, many people are advocating for larger and more stable funding for FSIG and other state programs that invest in this vision. Hearing that call, legislators included $25 million in FSIG funding in the most recent state budget, signed last week by Governor Healy.
That follows the announcement of $20 million in the state’s supplemental budget for grants to cover crop losses on local farms due to this year’s extreme weather, and the creation of the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund to provide other kinds of disaster relief to local farmers. The Resiliency Fund is now open for farm applications, and actively fundraising towards an ambitious $5 million goal. To learn more, visit buylocalfood.org/helpfloodedfarms.
“I know less about other states,” says Frigard, “but the amount our state invests in local farm businesses is remarkable. It gives me hope for our local and regional food system, making sure we’re able to provide food to the people of Massachusetts.”
For Crimson and Clover, their new space improves food safety, working conditions, and stabilizes their yearly income. As more farms follow suit, many envision the seasonal availability of local food and farm jobs will begin to level out, increasing our local food supply and the viability of full-time farm work as a career.
“In 20 or 30 years looking back, I hope we’re even more embedded in our community,” says Frigard. “And that when people think of Florence, they think of Crimson and Clover Farm as an integral part.”
For farm news, community events and other ways to get involved, those interested can sign up for the farm’s quarterly newsletter at crimsonandcloverfarm.com
Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA. To learn more about local farms and places to buy local food near you, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.