Fresh produce comes to Devens Farmers Market
July 18, 2020 : The Harvard Press, by Hannah Taylor
Every Wednesday afternoon, John Mara sets up a farmstand in the center of Devens with a wide variety of vegetables for sale. Through an invitation from MassDevelopment, the Devens Farmers Market was first introduced last fall and has already been open for three weeks this summer. The Farmers Market will be open Wednesdays from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. for the remainder of the summer as well as for much of the fall. Mara told the Press that he hopes that the market will remain open close to Thanksgiving.
Dick’s Market Gardens, a large farm based in Lunenburg, is the source of the market’s produce and holds weekly farmers markets in 14 different locations, of which Devens is one. Mara, an employee of the farm, explained to the Press that customers have the option of browsing that week’s selection of farm-fresh vegetables at one of the farmstands, or purchasing a produce box online (www.dicksmarketgardens.com) and picking it up in person.
Produce boxes are $25 for a small size and $40 for a large size, and, as Mara said, often contain a selection of vegetables that is worth significantly more than if they were bought separately. Mara said that unlike a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box, customers are not locked into receiving a box of vegetables each week and know ahead of time what the weekly selection will be. “The variety changes weekly throughout the season … over 95% of what we sell, we grow,” Mara explained.
Mara explained that Dick’s Market Gardens has 280 acres of farmland spread across 12 parcels of land and three different towns. Despite the recent weather conditions with a severe drought punctuated by sporadic thunderstorms, Mara said that the farm is still in good shape. “We’ve been fine so far,” he said. “In our big properties, we have irrigation and/or town water that we’re using, so we irrigate. So, that’s been a plus.”
Mara added that Dick’s Market Gardens is certified to accept several different types of payment to make their produce more accessible. “We want more customers to come,” Mara said, “We’re SNAP certified, we’re HIP certified, we’re certified to take farmers market and elder coupons, and if parents have it, we can take the additional SNAP card that they have––some school districts have been giving additional funds to distribute to parents.” (SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and HIP, a program connected to SNAP, stands for the Healthy Incentives Program. Both help families in need afford healthy options like fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA website.)
According to Mara, the farm is doing well so far this summer. “The bulk of [what we sell] is ... in person. The box business is slowly growing, but that’s a new venture. We’ve never done it before so it’s a new venture for the farm, but we’ve seen a growth in it every week,” he said.