Valley Bounty: E. Cecchi Farms
Michael Cecchi, along with his father Robert Sr and brother Bobby, are currently working on getting their farm, E. Cecchi Farms, ready for winter.
“We were excited to have a bit of extra time to get everything in order for winter this year. Usually, we’re still dealing with the last of our winter squash up until Thanksgiving, but the drought this year caused decreased yields,” explains Michael.
E. Cecchi Farms grows about 12 acres of different winter squash varieties including butternut, acorn, buttercup, and delicata. The seeds are planted directly outside in late May and will grow all summer. The rows are cultivated once or twice in the season, which uproots and kills weeds. The winter squash usually does not need to be watered, but due to the drought this year, they were watered a few times and yields were still negatively affected. “We had to water right as we were planting in May because it was so dry, and the rains really didn’t come until October, when we had already started harvesting,” says Michael.
Harvesting begins in early to mid September with the acorn and buttercups, the varieties that will sunburn easily. Once the squash is picked from the vine, they are left in the field for a few weeks to allow the stems to dry.
One benefit of the dry growing conditions this year was decreased threat of disease and fungus. “We usually have to spray at least once to help treat blight. We didn’t do any fungicide sprays on the squash this year though, which was very unusual,” says Michael.
E. Cecchi Farms uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) growing methods including having a scout come once per week to survey their fields for disease and pest damage. Additionally, the scout will set traps, can help catch fertility issues, recommend spray schedules, and send samples to UMass for testing if necessary. “We don’t like to spray if we don’t have to,” says Michael.
E. Cecchi Farms grows a large variety of other fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Their farm stand typically opens around Easter, with hanging baskets, herbs, and perennials available. They have asparagus early in the summer, then transition into strawberries, lettuce, summer squash, cucumbers, raspberries, peppers, corn, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, beets, carrots, eggplants, and more.
The farm was founded by Michael’s grandfather, Erminio Cecchi, in 1946 on 30 acres that they are still currently farming. Today, they are growing on 75 acres, of which they own 50 and rent the other 25. “He used to sell his produce out front under the trees, then in the 50s or 60s built the farm stand that we’re still selling from today,” explains Michael.
While E. Cecchi Farms stand is closing for the season, you might still be able to find their winter squash at Big Y. During the summer and fall, look for their products at Big Y and Geissler’s in Agawam.
You can find more local purchasing options at www.buylocalfood.org/farmguide
Emma Gwyther is the development associate at Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.