Real Food, Locally
For Sharon shoppers dissatisfied with commercial, mainstream supermarket groceries, our motivations may be simple or complex, including some or all of these: seeking better nutrition from less-processed foods; avoiding residues of agricultural chemistry; wanting better flavor grown in healthier soil; and supporting local agriculture to build the regional economy, preserve our New England landscape, and prepare for post-petroleum civilization.
Toward these purposes, here’s a review of local/natural food source options. Comprehensive information about local foods is offered by SEMAP (Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership).
Ward’s Berry Farm, a family-run farm at 614 South Main Street, Sharon, sells their own fruits and vegetables from their roadside store/café as well as pick-your-own berries and pumpkins. A review on chowhound said, “In season, they have great fresh veggies, including the best corn I’ve ever had.” Ward’s leases most of their fields from Mass Audubon and, on them, uses IPM (integrated pest management), which includes the judicious use of pesticides with the least possible hazard to people and the environment. (This is in contrast with organic food production, which applies many of the same concepts but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources.)
The Arguimbau Farm, at 300 East Street, Sharon, sells free-range eggs and occasional other produce (rhubarb, cucumbers, apples, depending on the crop) from their front porch (the dogs are friendly).
The Lawton Family Farm, a 25-acre family-run farm at 70 North Street, Foxboro, sells fresh raw milk and cheese (and some beef and humanely raised veal) from their Ayrshire cows, which are grass-fed in winter and raised without hormones or antibiotics. Their farm store sells “only pure Massachusetts farm-made products” such as maple syrup, eggs, homemade soap, fresh vegetables in summer, pumpkins in the fall.
The Brookwood Community Farm, at 11 Blue Hill River Road, Canton, sells organic produce from their farm stand “during the peak season.”
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Organic Buying Club in Sharon
Across South Main Street, Sharon, from Ward’s Farm, Mass Audubon established the Moose Hill Community Farm about five years ago, hiring Ward’s to plant and till particular kinds/amounts of vegetables organically. Customers must be CSA members, which involves buying a half-share or share of the year’s harvest, to be picked up weekly in summer. Some harvesting and distribution work is contributed. The cost per share is reasonable, given the total annual allocation of fresh-picked organic produce. As the name implies, CSA is a system designed primarily to support farms rather than for shopping convenience.
The organic buying club was organized for CSA members to get organic fruits and vegetables over the winter, but all may join and order week by week, with an option of an automatic weekly order. It’s run with the help of the Ward’s Berry Farm store. Each week on Saturday, members receive a contents list for two sizes of produce boxes, and those who reserve a box pick it up in a few days’ time at the store. The boxes include as much local produce as possible.
Wrentham Food Co-op
This community buying club is a great group for adventurous natural foods shoppers to consider joining. Wrentham Food Co-op buys directly from two sources: UNFI (United Natural Foods, Inc) and Market Mobile, a delivery club from several Rhode Island farms.
Although the Wrentham Food Co-op (WFC) and the organic buying club in Sharon (OBC) are both preorder buying clubs, there are some key differences:
- OBC buys only fresh produce; WFC also buys wholesale groceries;
- WFC gets produce only from regional farms; OBC uses sources further afield when necessary;
- WFC operates year-round; OBC suspends operation during our local growing-season;
- OBC offers fixed selections and sizes of orders; WFC order sizes and contents are individually set.
Here are listed the most local of the farmers markets. Days of operation and starting dates [in brackets] vary. The following information is from last year—this year’s information isn’t yet available but will likely be the same or similar. (Check the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources for updates and site addresses.)
The weekday markets are generally in the afternoons or early evenings; Saturday markets are generally in the mornings or early afternoons.
- Tuesday—North Easton [mid-May] and Norwood [mid-June];
- Wednesday—Dedham [mid-June];
- Thursday—Canton [mid-June] and Mansfield [mid-July]; Saturday—North Easton [mid-May] and North Attleboro [mid-July].
Locally, Shaw’s markets have some organic produce and “Wild Harvest” aisles for natural groceries, but the new Whole Foods market in Dedham (their largest in the Northeast), off Route 1 just north of Route 128, has a more extensive natural/organic foods focus, and occasional regional produce. However, prices at Whole Foods, and at Shaw’s “Wild Harvest” are high. A trip up Route 128 to Trader Joe’s market, on Newton Ave. in Needham, can be worthwhile for some lower-priced organics.
Farther afield, two stores in Jamaica Plain, on Center Street, are of interest. A few blocks from each other, Harvest Co-op Market, and City Feed & Supply, are both natural-focused and locally “owned” (see note on co-ops, above). City Feed makes more of an effort to stock local foods; Harvest otherwise has a bigger selection. Prices may not be cheap, reflecting these stores’ small size.
Joshua Laskin is an SFOC member.