Soil and water

Bare Roots Farm in Chesterfield breeds ‘useful organic plants’

Every spring, like clockwork, the eastern bluebirds magically return to the nesting boxes along the valley fields. These sightings and other signs of the changing seasons bring many local gardeners out of their winter burrows with visions of prolific flowerbeds or fresh, fragrant produce. Given the variability in weather, soil, and growing conditions in our region, it is helpful for plants to get a good start.

This is where Anna Maunz and Chris Reid come in. The co-owners of Bare Roots Farm cultivate “useful and organic plants”, including food plants, medicinal plants and pollinating flowers. “When we started this business, we kept coming back to the question ‘what is a useful plant?’ We came back to the idea of ​​Victory Gardens during World War II,” says Reid.

With a background in production agriculture, Reid weighed environmental impacts with a desire to maximize her positive contribution to the local food system. Their plant nursery in Chesterfield has grown over the past 10 years, establishing strong roots in the community, while growing their family at the same time.

The inspiration for the farm came to Reid in the form of a question, “What if I could grow lots and lots of plants, so everyone could grow their own food?” I feel like we are finally on a scale that has accomplished that. Reid continued, “It’s nice – and useful.”

Maunz explains, “Our dream is to grow plants that are good enough that when you put them in your garden, the plants will thrive. We can give you a good and solid start, so that you have better success as your plants grow.

Reid says the farm stand “seems to be part of our community. In the Hilltowns, everyone is scattered. Here, the plants are seasonal and bring everyone together.

A strong community is one of the social benefits for everyone who visits this family farm stand. Maunz reflects, “There is no greater joy than seeing the life that comes to people through the plants in their gardens.

Whether visitors talk about the meals they make from their vegetables or marvel at the pollinators working on their flowers, shared stories connect neighbors and visitors to the Maunz-Reid family, the ground and to the seasons.

Community support is an integral part of successful agriculture. Although soil, integrated pest management and organic fertilizers may come naturally from farmers, not all farm work consists of a sunny afternoon watering flowers. When Bare Roots Farm had just started, other farms like Crabapple Farm contacted the couple. Peer to farmer support remains a fundamental part of the Bare Roots Farm community.

go online

During the pandemic, the definition of safety, both for the family and for the community, has changed. Reid says, “We wanted people to know they could still get our plants. The coordination to bring the plants to market became ever-changing, and the couple decided it was time to act on a long-standing goal of setting up an online store.

Reid took a winter course in web design through the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) technical assistance program. Reid ran with it, built the online marketplace, and made his long-term goal a reality. Selling online with pickup at their stand at the farm was safer for both customers and their own families.

The online store “surpassed our wildest imaginations, and still does,” says Maunz. “People really like being able to sit at their computer in the winter when it’s snowing, planning their garden and ordering. We have everything ready for them in May.

They open the farm stand first (this year the stand opened on May 1) and they start preparing online orders on May 15. Online orders continue through June.

Throughout the pandemic, Bare Roots has seen a spike in interest from customers wanting to start or expand their garden. During the pandemic, the couple were surprised to see that their farm was thriving in uncertain times with the support of the community.

Maunz says, “Being a grower and getting this kind of support has been a great thing. As bulk orders increased, Bare Roots Farm began selling plants to River Valley Co-op and Gardener’s Supply at Hadley Garden Center, where local gardeners can find their plants this season.

Maunz and Reid’s farm work reflects the choices they make for their family. This means that they use inputs that are as environmentally friendly as possible. Their soil is a compost-based growing mix. They use Neptune’s Harvest Fish Fertilizer and rarely need pest control. They use a simple soap and water spray from Dr. Bronner in case of a pest attack. The couple’s two young children join them in the greenhouse, emphasizing how their sustainability choices are directly linked to their personal value system and the health of their family.

Farming is a long-term commitment, in all kinds of weather, economic and social conditions, like COVID. Sharing the work and exhaustion faced by farmers, Maunz references poet/essayist/farmer Wendell Berry. “Part of the reason I’m doing this job is because of him.” She continues: “We do this work for a better world. We do it for the lifestyle. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life.

“Farming is difficult,” continues Maunz. “There’s not a lot of support. It’s rare to have organizations like CISA supporting people. There is more support here than anywhere else. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live here. I feel lucky that we can be here, be able to do the work and the way our community has supported us.

Bare Roots operates its farm stand on the Ireland Street Orchards site at 330 Ireland St. in Chesterfield. The farm stand will remain open seven days a week until July. During the week, the stand is self-service; they accept cash, checks, and Venmo. On weekends, they accept credit cards when Maunz and Reid are there to man the booth.

Lisa Goodrich is the communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local farms, what’s in season and where to find it, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.