Features |A season so short but oh-so sweetBy Sylvia Fagin | July 01,2008
The road ends at the farm, but the farm certainly isn't the end of the road. For sweet, luscious strawberries, deep red and bursting with flavor, the path begins at Littlewood Farm in Plainfield. Here, Joey Klein welcomes folks with a smile and as many containers as they can manage, and sends them down the well-worn path to the strawberry patch on the edge of the Winooski River.
"This is a festive season, people get excited about strawberries," Klein explains, as the first pickers of the season a mom and her two preschool-aged children head out to the fields.
"It looks like a great crop this year," he says. "And, pick-your-own strawberries are a great bargain. You save $2 a quart, at least."
The savings may be the least of it. Where else can you choose only the ripest berries, feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, and enjoy the impromptu musical creations of children who are enjoying the day to its fullest?
"Straaaaw-bearrrrr-ieees " a young girl croons, as her family picks around her. Her solo is interrupted by a family photo, parents and siblings posed around the five flats that's 30 quarts of strawberries they've picked in less than an hour.
"People are very appreciative when they come down here. They're going to be making jam, and there are a lot of big strawberry shortcake parties," he chuckles. "It's a failproof recipe: You make some shortbread, you put strawberries and maple syrup and whipped cream on it how can you go wrong?"
It's a short strawberry season in Vermont only about three weeks, according to Klein. One acre on his 35-acre organic farm is dedicated to strawberries, which are bedded with straw, treated minimally with organic sprays to feed the plants and control insects, and tended with care by his crew of summer interns.
From that one acre, Klein expects a yield of about 5,000 quarts of strawberries. And for that, he'll need a lot of pickers. "The picking is fabulous right now," he says. His crew picks daily, for wholesale and to freeze for sale at winter farmers markets.
But it's the pick-your-own crowd that gets most of the berries.
A native of Long Island, Klein moved to Vermont to attend Marlboro College, and has been farming since graduating in 1968. He describes himself as a "back-to-the-lander," meaning that "I started out as a suburban kid and somehow got the bug that rural life looked really exciting."
He and his wife Betsy have farmed in Plainfield for the past 20 years. A member of the Vermont Fresh Network, he supplies lettuce, kale, tomatoes, peppers, bok choy and a host of other vegetables to Michael's on the Hill in Waterbury, NECI, the Hunger Mountain and Plainfield co-ops, and the LACE and Plainfield farmers markets.
Farming has changed a lot during Klein's tenure. Littlewood's advertising proclaims "radical agriculture for the 21st century, but "several people have told me that we used to be radical but everybody else has caught up with us and we're not radical anymore," Klein says with a laugh. "It used to be a radical idea to grow local food for local consumption using sustainable, organic, methods. We used to think of ourselves as cutting edge and way ahead we're ordinary now."
There's a prevailing sentiment of gratitude these days for farmers who've re-localized food.
"It used to be that every Vermonter either grew up on a farm or had an uncle or an aunt with a farm, and everyone knew what fresh local stuff tasted like and how good it was for you," Klein explains. "I think that the local food thing in Vermont is a real success story. It's very exciting how it's taken off."
Sylvia Fagin writes about local foods and food producers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.MORE IN FEATURES17
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- MEDIA GALLERY