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Buying Straight From the Farm: A Growing Trend in MA

February 28, 2011

MIDDLEBORO & BARRE, Mass. - The popularity of eating locally grown food continues to rise in New England agriculture. The number of Massachusetts and regional farmers turning toward community-supported agriculture, or CSA, has tripled in the last decade. Under the CSA model, people buy shares in a farming operation on an annual basis. In return, the farmer provides a regular supply of fresh, natural or organic produce throughout the growing season.

James Reynolds owns The Dahlia Farm, Middleboro. He says farming is hard work, but while the rewards may not necessarily be financial, the connection to community members is priceless.

"There's definitely more of a community aspect or community feel to it. We're meeting the people who are actually consuming our product, and we're getting involved with their families, their children."

Julie Rawson owns Many Hands Organic Farm and also is the executive director of The Northeast Organic Farmers Association in Massachusetts. She has run her CSA in Barre for the last 19 years. She says farmers have a huge number of expenses going into the growing season, and this business model relieves a lot of that burden.

"When people who are buying a share put up their money up front, that helps us not have to go into debt. It's a great way for the consumer and the farmer to work symbiotically: Farmers get their money up front and then consumers get their food throughout the season. You know it's of great value to both sides."

Reynolds says a lot of misconceptions still exist about buying directly from the farm - especially regarding price.

"You can actually get farm-fresh, no-pesticide, no-chemical food at a relatively fair economic price. In other words, the super-premium price you might expect to pay isn't necessarily there with your local farms."

Reynolds advises customers to shop around before buying in to a CSA. Some farms also offer half-shares, he notes.

CSAs are not limited to produce; farmers may offer shares for eggs, cheese and other products in their weekly distribution boxes or baskets. The popularity of year-round CSAs is gaining traction, too, with some farmers growing crops in greenhouses throughout the year.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA



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An Organic Solution


Ashley Cheuk

March 20, 2012


It's a Friday morning at Equal Exchange and one day short of the official start of Spring. A truck backs into one of our loading docks. But it's not here to take away boxes of Equal Exchange products. It’s here to pick up chaff.

"Chaff is a skin that comes off the coffee as it roasts," said Lead Coffee Roaster Thomas Lussier. "As the coffee dries out and expands during roasting, it sheds this skin." Each week, we produce about 30-40 tall garbage bags - about 430 pounds of chaff. That could be a lot of waste, albeit organic, but fortunately chaff has another use – in the garden. Coffee bean chaff adds helpful nutrients to a compost mixture, and is especially good for the growth of vegetables.

In the fall of 2008, Rodney North, Equal Exchange's "Answer Man," started looking for ways to distribute chaff to local farmers. Eva Sommaripa, a certified organic grower of fresh culinary herbs, cut flower bouquets, edible flowers and specialty greens, took interest. Her business, Eva's Garden, is based in South Dartmouth, Mass. They make deliveries to markets and restaurants in the Boston area and could easily pick up chaff on the trip back to South Dartmouth. "As an organic farmer she was more interested than most in making her own compost and getting an organic compost ingredient was a plus," North said.

So since then, about once a month from early spring until fall, the Eva's Garden truck pulls up to the dock. This week, Ted Perry is behind the wheel. Perry has worked at Eva's Garden for two years. He's the Technical Equipment Director, which means he oversees the maintenance and repair of all tools and machines used at the garden. He's also heavily involved in the planting and growing aspects of Eva's Garden, and helps manage farm projects, irrigation projects and sometimes makes deliveries to Boston. It's after one such delivery that he's come to Equal Exchange to load the empty delivery truck with chaff and burlap bags.

At Eva's Garden, chaff is used in the compost mixture. "Chaff absorbs the moisture and dries the pile out," Perry said. "It's a great way to bulk up the compost, which in turn becomes soil used for planting.”

James Reynolds of The Dahlia Farm in Middleboro, Mass., has also utilized chaff from Equal Exchange for the last year. The farm is an organic CSA producer of vegetables and cutflowers. "We're regularly experimenting with alternative means of production," said Reynolds. "Initially I used the chaff as a general additive to the farm's clay-loam soil, but soon began to specifically target mulch and bedding, mixing the chaff with soil to make a lighter backfill for both leeks and potatoes – both of which require a series of stem-covering during the growing season. The chaff is a good substitute for foul bedding as it absorbs excess moisture and ammonia, which is later turned into compost."

In organic cultivation, weeds are one of the biggest time consumers. So burlap sacks – something else we have plenty of at Equal Exchange – can be used as a suppressant for invasive root species and weeds. "[The bags] block light, so it prevents weeds from growing," Perry said.

The bags can also be used in winter to protect things like dahlia bulbs or tulips. "You bed them down as insulation," Perry said. They also work well in raised beds, especially with tomatoes. "Just cut a hole in the bag and put a plant in it. It retains moisture and keeps weeds from growing," Perry said.

Don’t have access to chaff? Instead of throwing out your coffee grounds after brewing, put them in your garden! Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, and can be sprinkled around plants, added to compost piles, or mixed into soil for houseplants or vegetable beds.

Our very own Banana Coordinator, Nicole Vitello, is also an organic farmer, and has used coffee grounds in her compost pile for years. "As an organic farmer, compost is a key ingredient in soil fertility but also in improving soil tilth," Vitello said. "Tilth is the structure of the soil and relates directly to its ability to aerate plant roots and both hold and shed moisture. In New England, farmers often have to contend with high clay concentrations in the soil which can make it heavy and difficult for plant roots to penetrate and access available nutrients."

Since working at Equal Exchange, Vitello has had access to a lot of coffee grounds. "I have been composting our communal kitchen waste which contains a high concentration of coffee grounds," she said. "I also add coffee chaff to the mix as a carbon component and to lighten the amount of vegetable matter. What I have noticed most from the higher concentrations of coffee grounds is the structure of the compost. It is finer and lighter with better texture. With this composition, I feel I am not only adding nutrients to my soil by composting but also providing better structure to my soil and encouraging soil microorganisms, all elements of better tilth and ecology."

Just like with coffee roasting, gardening is a mix of art and science!

Do you have a garden tip using coffee grounds, chaff or burlap bags? Send your ideas and/or pictures to






On eve of Earth Day, Brockton area farmers celebrate new consumer trend

Local farmers get boost from program that sells share of harvest to consumers

By Amy Littlefield


Posted Apr 21, 2010 @ 01:52 AM




The tiny spinach transplants at Langwater Farm in Easton are still covered with a protective cloth. But soon, the spinach and other crops will make a hearty offering for the 60 people enrolled in the farm’s community-supported agriculture program.

Or at least, that’s what Kevin O’Dwyer and his three co-owners are banking on.

“(The customers) are investing with us, and in return we’re going to produce food for them,” said O’Dwyer.

Community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs, have become increasingly popular in recent years. They allow consumers to pay for a share of a farm’s harvest ahead of time and then receive weekly offerings of produce through the summer and fall. O’Dwyer said his farm already has a waiting list of 15 to 20 people.

James Reynolds, who runs The Dahlia Farm in Middleboro, said his farm started receiving requests for CSA shares in December.

“Last year, we were just flooded with interest. This year, it’s been even bigger,” said Reynolds.

On the eve of Earth Day, which is celebrated on Thursday, Reynolds attributed that popularity to a growing awareness of the benefits of buying local, healthy food.

“I think it’s more of a paradigm shift in the consumer mind,” said Reynolds. “I think the average American is becoming more aware of exactly the food that we’re eating, the environment that we live in, the global community.”

Last year, Reynolds provided a basket of vegetables, greens, flowers and herbs to CSA customers every week for 20 weeks in return for $500. Reynolds also sells egg shares and half-shares.

Community-supported agriculture programs began in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1986, said Katie Cavanagh, Farms Forever coordinator at the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership. There are now 22 registered CSAs in Southeastern Massachusetts alone, Cavanagh said.

“They’ve grown more in popularity recently as farmers have realized the benefits of selling directly,” said Cavanagh.

She said Massachusetts farmers sell more farm products directly to consumers than farmers in any other state.

“Because we’re primarily small farms, we have that close relationship with the consumer,” Cavanagh said.

Not all farms have a CSA program. Carlton Smith, co-owner at C.N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater, said his 90-plus-acre farm raises enough revenue from retail, wholesale and farm-stand sales that they don’t need a CSA.

But for farmers like Kevin O’Dwyer who have just started new, smaller farms, CSA programs provide revenue before a harvest, when farmers need it most.

In return, customers are offered a chance to meet their farmer and see the source of their food. Some programs even allow CSA members to pick their own produce.

The only downside is that there may one day be more interested consumers than available shares.

“Just within Massachusetts, there’s more of a demand than a supply,” said Reynolds. “There’s only so much land that’s available, in addition to resources, capital and people who are willing to work as farmers in a modern society.”

Amy Littlefield may be reached at





As snow falls, summer veggies sprout in Middleboro



By Alice Elwell


Posted Feb 18, 2010 @ 02:52 AM

Last update Feb 18, 2010 @ 07:28 AM




While others were shoveling snow this week, two local farmers were starting their seedlings of onions, spinach, leeks and broccoli to get a jump on spring and be ready to offer up home-grown vegetables when the weather breaks.

Dave Purpura of Plato’s Harvest Organic Farm has already potted his onions and spinach plants, while James Reynolds of The Dahlia Farm is germinating his broccoli this week.

These two local farmers aren’t just planting a garden, they are offering shares in their harvest for people who buy in now.

For those who don’t plant, a share in the garden might be just the ticket to chase the winter blues away. Dreaming of fat juicy tomatoes, crisp sweet corn and crunchy lettuce picked hours before it’s eaten is one way to cure cabin fever.

Soon the bok choy, arugula and peas will be ready for harvest and those who bought a 20-week share can expect to soon start munching on the spring greens.

Both Reynolds and Purpura say their favorite crop is the tomato and they are planning a bumper crop of heirloom varieties.

Reynolds bags up those candy-like cherry tomatoes, perfect for popping in your mouth. In Purpura’s garden, people will pick their own. “It’s part of the experience,” Purpura says.

Reynolds grew more than 4,000 tomatoes plants last year with one German heirloom that weighed in at 3 pounds. There’s also basil, parsley, dill and cilantro for those gourmet cooks who seek the freshest herbs, as well as rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage.

“Pretty much anything that can be grown, we grow,” said Reynolds.

Laurie and Dean Rantz tried a half-share in Reynolds farm last year and said they were very happy with the produce. “It was something to look forward to every week,” said Laurie Rantz.

Dean Rantz said Reynolds would fill baskets each week with vegetables, herbs and flowers, sometimes with things the couple had never tried. One week they were given kohlrabi, something Dean Rantz described as looking like an alien, but turned out to be tasty. “Hey, I’ll try anything,” he said.

Rantz said another bonus is supporting local business. He said with all the talk of living green, he decided to do what he can for the environment and invested in a local farmer.

The two farmers are well-known in the community.

Purpura was spotlighted in 2008 as an “American hero” during a sold-out Farm Aid concert, and Reynolds is the owner of Reynolds Flowers Inc., a family-owned business on Plymouth Street that has sold floral bouquets for decades.

Both farmers include a bunch of cut flowers in the weekly shares, calling it food for the soul.

Purpura’s shares are $675 each for the 20-week season; Reynolds’ are $500 each.

During the season, the customer picks up a bag or basket each week with whatever crops and flowers are in season, ranging from spring greens through tomatoes in summer and pumpkins, squash and hardy mums in fall. For an additional cost, fresh eggs can be added to the weekly shares.

Both farmers say the shares sell out quick, and by May there’s a waiting list.

Plato’s Harvest Organic Farm
Owner: David & Sasha Purpura
Address: 170 Fuller St., Middleboro
Web site:
Telephone: 508-315-9429
Share price: $675/season

The Dahlia Farm
          Owner: James Reynolds
Address: 410 Plymouth St., Middleboro
Web site:
Telephone: 508-947-8802
Share price: $500/season


I had a half share last season from The Dahlia Farm and was very happy with it. Fresh, no chemicals, and a variety of stuff that you just won't see in the supermarkets. The eggs are 2nd to none with amazing orange yokes and texture. I wrote about the experience several times on my blog -


PODCAST INTERVIEW with MIDDLEBORO GAZETTE columnist and blogger, Bellicose-Bumpkin, April 2009



Reviews for: The Dahlia Farm


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4 reviews


Peace of mind - locally sourced
By: Trav Charron (Apr 21, 2011)

As someone on a plant-based diet there is nothing more essential than wholesome fresh produce and the Dahlia Farm never disappoints. I have the peace of mind that I have chemical-free quality vegetables each week. I look forward to discover what will be shared that can challenge my creativity in the kitchen. Thank you Dahlia Farm - your hard work and dedication is evident in every basket.

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The Dahlia Farm
By: lorri cook (Jan 28, 2010)

The CSA baskets are not only delicious but beautiful. They contain the freshest local food I have been able to find. I could NEVER go back to grocery store eggs. I have tried some unique recipes posted by these fabulous fancy farmers. I can't wait for spring! Lorri Cook

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From Kale to Korabi
By: Marylou Tetreault (Jan 20, 2010)

What a great place to buy exotic greens! Mescalin, baby spinach, kale, cress and more. Not withstanding the tomatoes, green beans, carrots, cucumbers and more. The veggies are all great! A one stop shop, so to speak. Veggies, of all kinds, eggs (which are most delicious, nothing like a farm fresh egg), hand made natural soaps, (which make wonderful gifts), and of course, flowers. Join their CSA, you won't be sorry...I wasn't.

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Veggies, Flowers, Eggs & Soaps
By: Laurel Perkins (Jan 20, 2010)

What a great find!

This place has a large variety of locally grown vegetables. The tomatoes, corn and beans we purchased last summer were all lovely! They also have a nice offering of specialty salad greens.

Nothing beats farm fresh eggs, no comparison to buying at the grocery store.

I also tried The Dahlia Farm handmade soaps. They make a nice hostess gift, and would be great for a shower favors.

Their flower shop offers flower arrangements large and small as well as unique gifts.

Can't wait for the summer growing season to start.

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Locally grown food finds niche in Brockton area

Demand for local produce is sprouting!

By Kyle Alspach


Posted Mar 27, 2009 @ 11:28 PM

Last update Mar 27, 2009 @ 11:43 PM



A new organic farm in Middleboro and a farmers market in Bridgewater are set to debut this year, two signs that locally grown food is a growing commodity in the region.
The Dahlia Farm on Plymouth Street in Middleboro will offer organic vegetables and herbs, eggs from free-range chickens and cut flowers, said farmer Jim Reynolds.
People will be able to buy “shares” of the vegetable crop this summer, entitling them to an assortment of veggies each week starting in June.
Meanwhile in Bridgewater, organizers say a new farmers market will kick off in July at a Bridgewater State College parking lot on Spring Street.
Local farm advocates say it’s all a response to rapidly rising demand for locally produced food, for reasons ranging from health to climate change to food security.
“We’re realizing we can’t rely on the big farms in California or New Jersey anymore, that we’re going to have to think a lot more locally,” said Sarah Cogswell, a coordinator for the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership in Wareham.
Cogswell was among the nearly 500 people who crowded into a Bridgewater State College hall on Wednesday to hear a talk from Michael Pollan, local food advocate and author of best-sellers “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.”
Pollan’s emphasis on eating “real food” — with little or no processing — is something that resonates with farmers such as Jim Reynolds.
“People are becoming more and more aware of what exactly is in the food they’ve been eating — that just because something has an FDA approval, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you,” he said.
The Dahlia Farm is located on the property of Reynolds Flowers, a business run by Reynolds’ family since the 1950s.
Reynolds, 46, and his wife, Michele, will be farming the land together this year. One acre is being devoted this year to vegetables, he said.
Another two acres are allotted for the farm’s 50 chickens, which are currently producing organic eggs for the Rockin K Cafe in Bridgewater.
Reynolds joins several dozen other farmers in southeastern Massachusetts growing food mainly for local consumption.
“There’s very much a movement of people becoming educated in what we’re eating,” he said.
Elsewhere in Middleboro, the Golden Rule Farm at Soule Homestead Education Center is planning to double its production of organic veggies this year, said farmer Frank Albani.
Growing demand for local food, Albani said, is behind the boost. Albani plans to sell some of the produce at the new Bridgewater farmers market this summer.
The town hasn’t had a farmers market any time in recent memory, said Arthur Lizie, an associate professor in communications studies at Bridgewater State who had the idea for the market.
“I really saw a lack of access to good local food around here,” he said.
Lizie is hoping five to 10 vendors will take part in the market, selling local foods including vegetables, cheeses and maple syrup.
The market will be held one afternoon a week in a college parking lot for commuter students. The day of the week hasn’t been finalized, but the market is expected to run from July through October, Lizie said.
“I just think it’s going to be a great opportunity to really engage the community,” he said. “We hope to let people know about good eating options that help themselves, help the community and the local economy.”
For more on the Bridgewater farmers market, e-mail organizer Amy Braga at
Kyle Alspach can be reached at

Tim Correira/The Enterprise

Jim Reynolds feeds his chickens at The Dahlia Farm in Middleboro on Thursday. Reynolds, who runs a successful florist shop, is expanding and will sell eggs and produce from his 6-acre farm.




We need a diet of “real food,” author tells Bridgewater State audience (03/27/09)



Bellicose Bumpkin All posts - Neither "bellicose" nor a "bumpkin" .. discuss -

Sunday, March 29, 2009




Partially related to my column in this week's Gazette is the topic of CSA - Community Supported Agriculture. Basically you buy a "share" of a farmer's crop. X dollars entitles you to X amount of produce. Unlike a community garden - where you have to water and otherwise tend to the crops, a CSA is the lazyman's lobster of fresh produce. You pay the bucks, farmer does the work, and you get the food.

A new CSA is mentioned in the Enterprise this weekend:


A new organic farm in Middleboro and a farmers market in Bridgewater are set to debut this year, two signs that locally grown food is a growing commodity in the region.

The Dahlia Farm on Plymouth Street in Middleboro will offer organic vegetables and herbs, eggs from free-range chickens and cut flowers, said farmer Jim Reynolds.

People will be able to buy "shares" of the vegetable crop this summer, entitling them to an assortment of veggies each week starting in June.

I'm planning to buy a shared in this CSA and will post my thoughts on it.
Posted by Bellicose Bumpkin at 8:07 PM

Labels: CSA


Anonymous said...

We raised chickens many years ago. Trust me, there is no comparison between fresh and store bought eggs. Although I will be growing my own garden, I will still buy CSA shares for the eggs and cut flowers. What a great idea!

eat locally grown vegetables, now is the time to start figuring this out.


Column: Are you familiar with Community Supported Agriculture?

By Kezia Bacon Bernstein/Nature (Human and Otherwise)

GateHouse News Service

Posted Mar 08, 2010

It’s late winter. Probably the last thing you’re thinking about is where you’re going to buy your produce this summer. But if you like to eat locally grown vegetables, now is the time to start figuring this out.

There are hundreds of farms in southeastern Massachusetts. Some of them have farm stands, some sell to restaurants and wholesalers, some set up booths at weekly farmers’ markets. Still others offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.

Are you familiar with the concept of Community Supported Agriculture? A CSA is a program in which a farm offers shares of its harvest to consumers.

Before the start of the growing season, shareholders make a financial commitment, enabling the farmer to purchase and start seeds, and to prepare the fields for planting. The farm may also ask its shareholders to volunteer a certain number of hours of physical labor – perhaps spreading compost or removing stones from the fields, planting seedlings or pulling up weeds, harvesting ripe produce or getting it ready for distribution....

Read story here:


• Plato’s Harvest – contact Dave Purpura, (508) 315-9429 or

• Golden Rule Farm at Soule Homestead – contact Frank Albani at (508) 224-3088 or

• The Dahlia Farm – call 508.947.8802 or visit


  • Halloween in Middleboro man’s blood

  • James D. Reynolds III can trace his genealogy back to Sarah and Robert Pease, a Salem couple accused of witchcraft in 1692.

  • By Alice C. ElwellPosted Oct. 28, 2012 @ 12:01 amUpdated Oct 28, 2012 at 9:48 AM


  • Halloween resonates with local farmer James D. Reynolds III more than with most folks.

    Maybe that’s because Reynolds can trace his family tree back to Sarah and Robert Pease, a Salem couple accused of witchcraft in 1692.

    And sometimes when things go bump in the night at the Reynolds homestead on Plymouth Street in Middleboro, people start to wonder if it’s haunted.

    Reynolds’ family history in Middleboro dates to 1692, when 25-year-old Mary Pease Reynolds fled Salem after her parents, Sarah and Robert Pease, were jailed on witchcraft charges. After a year in jail, Sarah and Robert Pease were freed on a governor’s general pardon for all the accused who had not been put to death.

    Mary Pease Reynolds remained in Middleboro with her husband, Electious A. Reynolds Jr., whose direct descendants through the years lead to James D. Reynolds III.

    He has lived his entire life in Middleboro, and his daughter, Cecilia, 7, is the fifth generation of the family to live in the house.

    Michele Reynolds, James’ wife, says most of the women accused of witchcraft during the hysteria in Salem were progressive, ahead of their time.

    Many of the wrongfully accused women, she says, were known for their talents at healing and use of medicinal herbs – creativity that may have passed down through the generations.

    “My family is known for being artistic and intuitive, and there very well may be genetic traits passed down from Sarah Pease,” James Reynolds said.

    A few years ago, Reynolds, 49, was an active opponent of the now-fizzled resort casino that had been planned for a site on Middleboro next to his property.

    These days, Reynolds focuses on running Dahlia Farm, a six-acre property off Route 44 where he grows food crops, herbs and flowers. He also owns Reynolds Flowers Inc., on Plymouth Street in Middleboro.

    The family has some spooky tales to tell about their two-story Queen Anne farm house that James Reynolds remodeled and which they share with Mr. Anderson, a big gray cat. They also have a flock of hens.

    Reynolds said he once saw an apparition in a wide-brimmed black hat crossing the dining room. At the time, he chalked it up to exhaustion, but years later, his daughter Cecilia told her father she’d seen something similar. “That’s funny,” she told her father, “I thought I just saw a man walk into the closet.”

    Then there were the tiny footprints left on the floor of the Reynolds’ bedroom. They appeared when the couple was renovating their second-floor bedroom. The pumpkin-pine floor had just been stained Sedona red and covered in urethane. All the windows and doors were left open to let the house air out.

    “The next morning after Michele went to work, I saw little footprints on the floor,” Reynolds said.

  • Page 2 of 2 - The prints left a trail of sawdust as they circled the room and eventually faded. Reynolds thought it was a hoax played by his wife, but she denied any part in it.

  • Reynolds won’t go so far as to call it a haunting, but both he and his wife agree there have been other strange goings-on at their home.

    “I don’t know what it is, maybe a residue that keeps playing?” Reynolds said.

    Michele Reynolds, 46, said she sensed the spookiness when she first moved into the old house but now she’s grown used to it.

    “Little things happened, I was nervous when I first started sleeping here. Music would just turn on, I’d hear footsteps. …” she recalled.

    To add to the mystery, the couple’s daughter claims she has seen a woman talking at the window and a neighborhood boy swears he sees ghosts at the house.

    “Anything that’s happened in this house isn’t scary, if you’re open to it,” James Reynolds said. “There’s nothing really to fear.”