Aaah, December 27th. One of the quiet, low-profile days between Christmas and New Year’s when you can do whatever you please, even if it’s not much. I love this week. But if you are looking for something to do, still low-key, I’ve got an idea. Head to Natick for a farm visit and walk in the woods.
Recently, I did just that, riding out to the suburbs on a clear, chilly day last month to learn about the Natick Community Organic Farm(NCOF) and follow the trail of the naturally-raised turkeys that had just left de-plumed, frozen and more or less tucked under the arms of contented, repeat patrons fixed on their Thanksgiving meal. Trish Umbrell, whom you’ll meet in a moment, likened the farm’s annual turkey pick-up day to a Running of the Brides, turkey-style. In other words, controlled chaos. But with more men and frozen birds. Trish says her worst memory of the day was being “bum-rushed by grown turkeys.” The experience was “formative.” Then she added, “I’m still here.”
The day I visited, all was calm at the farm. Beyond tales of the turkeys and NCOF’s husbandry of them, what I got from the visit was much, much more than I anticipated. The farm feels like family, even to the newcomer. This has everything to do with the small group of dedicated, kind folk who run it. My main contact was Trish Umbrell, who grew up in Natick visiting the farm. Trish now works as Farm Administrator (hearing her speak, you quickly intuit that what her title really means is ‘I do almost everything here related to the business side of running the place’).
What makes NCOF special in Trish’s view is the continuity of its mission as a community educational farm. Success in carrying out this mission is in part due to the innate people-skills of NCOF Executive Director Lynda Simkins, now there 20 years, who has a knack for finding just the right farm-related task for just the right person, big or small, and Lynda’s insistence that NCOF continually ‘farm in the public eye.’
Trish explains, “…Lynda and Jean-Claude Bourrut and the farmers who farm here welcome people to come and walk around their work and see it…[t]hey WANT people to come and see what they’re doing, they WANT people to come and help; it’s such a welcoming place…there’s a real spirit here that pervades everything we do.”
Indeed, anyone is welcome to visit 365 days a year, sun-up to sun-down, for free. You can participate in public programs (hand-spinning, MYO maple syrup, candlelight yoga); enroll your kids in school programs and/or summer camp (you have got to see to believe the preschool home for NCOF’s Forest Gnomes program); or simply volunteer your time helping out around the grounds in whatever capacity is needed. I learned that lots of people do. And maple season, coming up, is particularly special on a Friday night. Call the farm to learn more.
That said, if you really want to learn about the farm, and have time for a stroll and a chat this week, visit the place yourself. I can almost guarantee you’ll begin filling your calendar and your grocery bags, too, with the events and produce from Natick Community Organic Farm. The new season’s poults arrive this May. Who knows? Maybe you, too, will be ‘running with the brides,’ turkey-style, next November.