In Part One of this tour, I left off at two tantalizing markets in Concord: The Concord Cheese Shop and Farfalle Italian Market–both of which offer high-quality homemade goods. In this second post, I focus on two farms where ingredients, rather than prepared foods, are the highlight. Gaining Ground and Hutchins Farm are two very different operations; however, both are rooted in Concord soil and strive for fresh, honest produce. Munch, munch…
Gaining Ground, 315 Virginia Road, Concord, MA
Gaining Ground is a unique and inspiring initiative. This not-for-profit farm, founded in 1994 by Concord resident Jamie Bemis, donates all of its produce to food pantries and families in need throughout the Boston area. Even more impressively, Gaining Ground relies heavily on volunteer labor.
This dual model for hunger relief and meaningful volunteerism is what Gaining Ground hopes to disseminate to other communities. That said, Gaining Ground has thrived in large part due to its Concord location. Concord is a wealthy suburb with the resources to support this worthy cause. With the town’s financial assistance, as well as help from many local volunteers, Gaining Ground delivers 25,000 lbs. and 300 varieties of fruits and vegetables, including many heirloom varieties, each year to those in need–and has been doing so for almost two decades.
Many of the crops Gaining Ground grows are tailored to the various ethnic populations it serves. For example, many Brazilians who frequent the Sudbury Food Pantry welcome kale each season, while Chinese visitors to the Bedford Food Pantry enjoy garlic scapes and hot peppers.
Sensitivity to their recipients, coupled with a selfless work ethic, makes those committed to Gaining Ground heroes in hunger relief, as well as the local food movement. You can learn more about (and contribute to) Gaining Ground here.
Hutchins Farm, 754 Monument St., Concord
“Food is only food for a brief, shining moment,” Hutchins’ farm manager Brian Cramer told me, as we spoke on the deck of the farmstand. “Before that, it’s pre-food. Afterward, it’s compost.” This is certainly true for the produce at Hutchins Farm, which glistens for a single day in tubs and crates under the eaves of the roadside farmstand until it is either sold or returned to the soil. Brian has brought his efficient outlook to Hutchins Farm in the six years he’s worked here.
Brian works alongside John Bemis, one of the farm’s founders. The three of us chat on the farmstand’s porch overlooking the apple orchard and the long, well-tended rows of vegetables on the horizon. The two men complement each other in our conversation: Brian brings energy and discipline; John provides a sense of history and rooted-ness in the Hutchins land.
Because of how well Brian and John have organized the farm, relatively little produce goes to compost. The farmstand is popular enough that most of the produce is sold each day. Occasionally, Hutchins Farm donates any leftovers to Gaining Ground, which is then included in Gaining Ground’s deliveries. John Bemis is, after all, married to Jamie Bemis, the founder of Gaining Ground. Good roots seem to intertwine here in Concord.