Why We Sell Direct

April 29, 2024

No newsletter next week, just an ad for Dave Petrovick’s not to be missed workshop on machinery on the farm or homestead on May 11, and an upcoming zoom about the CSA  – May 19 at 6. Julie is off to England.

Why We Sell Direct
by Jack Kittredge

We recently received an email from the Real Organic Project, a group of organic farmers trying to keep high integrity in the organic standards. They are concerned about corporate agriculture’s drive to weaken those standards so more farms can sell their food as “organic” without earning the label.

This email contained the story of Hugh and Lisa Kent, Florida organic blueberry farmers.  They have developed several natural systems to help them build soil fertility and as a result have exceedingly tasty early blueberries.

Unfortunately, they can’t compete on price with factory-farm grown hydroponic berries which are largely imported and skip the need for soil by growing in containers fed by “organic” chemical drips.

As a result they can’t get into stores and have to sell their quality berries shipped direct to consumers who can afford to pay more for them. But let Hugh tell it.

“This is an outrageous situation and it’s taking us to destruction. Bad agriculture is costing us very dearly and if there’s anything you should be passionate about, this is one of the things you should care about.

“There are 3 things that are driving American organic farmers out of business. 

The first problem is integrity in organic. Much cheaper systems are being used, and it’s a false organic. But it’s out there on the shelf labeled the same as mine. I used to sell to a large Whole Foods store, and they said, ‘Hugh, we get it. Yours are completely different than hydroponic, but our customers, they only see USDA Organic and they’re going to take the cheaper option. So we can’t offer you what you need in order to stay in business.’

“The second problem is the flood of much cheaper organic coming in from Central and South America at an enormous scale. They pay a dollar an hour [for labor], so $10 a day. So when you’re eating those cheap strawberries or blueberries on your breakfast cereal, it’s exploiting people and it’s exploiting the environment.

The third problem is the consolidation in retail and wholesale. If I want to get my product onto a retailer’s shelf, I have to go through a wholesale system that’s tightly controlled by middlemen. We are presented with a contract at the beginning of a season from a middleman that has the ‘in’ with Costco or Whole Foods or Walmart. You have to sign to waive your PACA rights, which are federal legislation designed to protect farmers. You waive away your right to any transparency, so you won’t see what the middlemen sold these berries for. And then at the end of the season, they deduct a commission and give us a check.

“I went through a couple years of that and it was astonishing how low the price was. I couldn’t set a minimum price to ensure that I would stay in business. When I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to sign that contract.’ their reaction was, ‘Good luck selling your blueberries Mr. Kent.’ And they were right. It’s a closed shop. I couldn’t get into any of the stores.” – Hugh Kent

Julie and I have been through much of this ourselves over the last 40 years. That is one of the reasons we are so grateful to you for your support. We are constantly trying to thread the needle of high quality and reasonable salaries while maintaining acceptable prices and access for the low-income. We couldn’t do it without you help and understanding each season. Please accept a big THANKS!

Expressing Gratitude this Week

Sunday I will have left for England to visit daughter Ellen and husband Dan. It is so hard to get away and leave a functioning farm behind. This week I want to give heartfelt thanks to all these folks who will make it happen – Jack, Clare, Matt, Luke, Marissa, Marcia, Jim, Danny, the Stetson folks, Stu, Bryan, Leslie, Nicholas, Paula, Jim and Jennifer. Thank you all for your care and investment in the workings of the farm.

Quabbin Community Band starts on Monday, May 6

Are you an instrumental musician? We have a treat for you. QCB starts on Monday, May 6 – 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Barre Town Hall – corner of Exchange and Mechanic Streets in Barre. We rehearse every Monday night through the first Monday in August and put on 9 concerts. Regardless of how rusty you might be, there is a home for you in QCB. And if you are a very accomplished player, you will fee challenged too. Summer schedules usually mean vacations, and that is okay too. We come when we can. Join us in this over 100 year old institution that plays on the South Barre (Normay Park) bandstand and the Barre Common on Sunday nights at 6 pm Fathers’ Day through the 11th of August under the direction of Margaret Reidy. Reach out to me with any questions – julie@mhof.net; 978-257-1192.


Marissa and Luke gearing up to do the bark spray for our fruit trees. I am proud to announce that we have peach blossoms coming on!

Watch on Facebook
Watch on Instagram

Eureka – Matt, Luke and Clare figured out a great system for bale chopping that turned out a 1 cubic yard tote of chopped hay in 5 minutes

Watch on Facebook
Watch on Instagram

Join Our CSA

We have set prices for 2024 and are ready to receive your subscriptions for our summer CSA – running 22 weeks from June 3 – November 1. The fall CSA runs from November 4 – November 25.

Summer CSA:

  • Large – $775 – $875; SNAP – $725
  • Medium – $575-$675; SNAP – $525
  • Small – $450 – $550; SNAP – $425

Why the Sliding Scale? Pay according to your means. It all comes out in the wash, so to speak. Thank you.

On April 27, we have raised $37,827.53. Our Goal is $80,191. That’s 47.17% – up 4.15% from last week

Order your Summer CSA share here

Watch on Facebook
Watch on Instagram

Does anyone belong to a group that would like me to come and talk about the CSA? I am happy to present it to your colleagues, customers or friends.

Circle of Song Concert Coming up May 18

After practicing assiduously for 4 months, Circle of Song is ready to wow the crowd at 7 pm at the Barre Town Hall on May 18. Now 20 strong, we have a program with some really nice solos by Karen Guertin, Danny LeBlanc, Scott Bryant and Siobhan Moynihan, and an engaging dance routine led by Grace Jenkins. From foreign language to spiritual, to madrigal, show tunes, and contemporary ballad, our program will inspire you with our engaged performance. And the exciting news is that although the national population only has 1% farmers, we have 8 farmer members! Don’t miss it. The refreshments at the end are out of this world.

Many Hands Make a Farm

You can buy our book here.

Politics – Jack

Mexico Proves US GMO Tortilla Corn Threat to Human and Environmental Health
Mexico has banned the import of genetically modified tortilla corn in an effort to protect its public health and preserve corn biodiversity. The US, however, is suing Mexico under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in an attempt to force Mexico to import the food. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack claims the Mexican position is not based on science and ignores decades of evidence demonstrating the corn poses no threat to human health or the environment.
In March Mexico responded, providing 21 “Adverse human health effects” of the corn and citing 47 scientific studies to back them up. In addition, the country challenged the US to provide evidence that the corn is safe to eat, especially given that in Mexico the average consumption of tortilla corn is ten times that in the US.
Mexico says that no such evidence exists because U.S. regulatory processes have been captured by American biotechnology companies and so even as the toxic load of agricultural transgenic insecticides along with residues from glyphosate and other toxic herbicides has increased dramatically over the last 30 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has done little new testing to assure their safety.

Educational Resources this week

Ari Whitten – https://theenergyblueprint.com/mythbusting-weight-loss-trends-alex-leaf/?inf_contact_key=dd75a6168220f72e7100be551daf970ccb2dfb2519c88201cb0488cbdb276db5 Mythbusting – Carbs, Calories, Losing Fat, “Metabolic Damage” and More! with Alex Leaf
Ari and Alex go deep on weight loss, carbs and fats. For those who like this stuff, it is an educational listen. I have always been on the side of fat over carbs, and learned a few good things.

Volunteering at MHOF

We had a new guy this week – Nicholas, who has been a paying shareholder in the past. What a find! Smart, strong, and fun to work with. Welcome Nick. And our dear Pete Herceg came back for a cameo appearance while picking up a kitten. It was old home day for sure on Monday. Itching to become one of our team? Reach out.


Watch on Facebook
Watch on Instagram

Pete prepping a cilantro bed

As it turns out, Jim seems to be good at everything! Monday he was putting new electrical boxes on our field shock and water system stations

Don’t forget the Party on June 29

Jack already turned 80, and Clare will be leaving the state (after 16 years on the farm!) right after the party. Let’s honor both of these amazing people at our annual summer potluck, June 29 at the farm – 2 pm until  . . .

Community Fridges

We are partnering again with the Worcester Woo Fridge https://www.woofridge.org/ which operates 4 refrigerators around the city for anyone who needs food. We are setting a goal of 16 this year.  That is a total of $9760. We now have in hand $4,313.46. We made huge strides toward our goal this week. Thank you to Leslie and Ken, Teresa, and Martha and Jim.

We have an anonymous donor who will match our donations $1 for $1 up to $4,880. We cut our remaining needed balance in half this week to $556.54! Many thanks to John, Brenda and Joe, and Abby.
Can you help bring some fresh vegetables of the highest quality into someone’s life? Your donations are appreciated

You can write a check to MHSC and send it to us at 411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA 01005 or donate on line here. We are quite enthused about this match this year.

2024 Workshop Series

Here are listed two of our next workshops. You can find the others on the website here – https://mhof.net/events-workshops/

Navigating the new normal- power equipment and implements on the farm and homestead.
Saturday, May 11, 2024
9am-12noon with pot luck lunch
Price: $50 – $100 sliding scale
Presenter: Dave Petrovick with support from Jonathan Anderson

Are you confused on how to enter into the realm of tractors, implements and power equipment? There are many time and labor saving pieces of equipment available lately and with rampant sticker shock everywhere, how do you choose what to buy?
For those who have equipment already, how do I maintain it? Can I repair it?           Should I repair it, or bite the bullet and upgrade?
Interested in starting a new enterprise on the farm? What will I need?
We will discuss these and other subjects. I am a diesel mechanic, certified welder and farmer with 40 years of experience with agricultural and construction equipment. You’ll have access to insights and experience that will help you confidently delve into the world of power equipment, implements and tractors.

Watch on Facebook
Watch on Instagram


Starting Seeds and Seedlings
Saturday, May 25, 2024
9am – 12noon with pot luck lunch
Price – $50 – $100 – sliding scale.
Presenters – Clare Caldwell and Julie Rawson

We will discuss how to maximize germination and getting seeds on their way to success for the season. Starting seeds later than we are used to in the greenhouse with only natural lighting and solar heating, getting them in the ground with no “checking” of their growth, use of seed inoculants, transplant drenches, and mulch when planting will all be discussed. Our “no cell” “no soil block” open tray system of greenhouse seed starting will be discussed also. We follow the biodynamic calendar when planting and will share our thoughts on that too. May 25 is a root day.
First, we will start some lettuce seeds in the greenhouse, then repair to the field to plant some beet seeds and lettuce seedlings, apply in row drenches, and follow up with application of mulch. This will be a very hands-on workshop.

Register for Workshops

Jennifer’s Recipe of the Week

TLC Tea (Tulsi – Licorice – Cardamom)
I drink a lot of tea and this is my favorite.  It has been especially helpful to me this week as I have been battling a bad head. The combination of these herbs support the respiratory systems, breaks up mucous,  and enkindles digestion.  I developed this tea pre-COVID and became my number one recommendation if one of my clients contracted covid.

The recipe is simply 3 parts dried Tulsi, 1 part Licorice Root, and 1 Part Cardamom.  I added 1/2 teaspoon of ghee to bring the herbs deeper into the tissues.

Tulsi is pungent and bitter.  It has a heating energy that clears the lungs and breaks up mucous.  It benefits breathing and alleviates coughing.  It has a direct affinity for the respiratory system.

Licorice Root also have an affinity for the respiratory system.  It is an expectorant and demulcent that both clears congestion while soothing and moistening the tissues.  It helps in conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, wheezing and dry coughs with difficulty expectorating. It also adds a little sweetness to the tea.

Additionally, cardamom is a great mucous buster, has an affinity for the respiratory system, stops coughs and stimulates digestion.

You will receive tulsi in your Summer CSA shares.  I highly encourage you to drink daily as there are many more health benefits.


I will be offering in-person, bi-weekly cooking classes beginning May 4th for anyone who may be interested.  As we move into CSA season, classes will be using all produce from MHOF.  See details below.  Click on the picture to register for class as pre-registration is required.

Farm Doins

Danny loves being the head carpenter and on Monday I caught him fixing a baton board on the barn wall that was impeding the closing of our new sliding door.

Yohairo was aghast and the crappy stacking job we did at the end of the line on our woodshed filling. The outside row had fallen down twice, but he, with help from Ricky and Jason, rebuilt a fine wall of wood.

Out in the field we are full on now. One of the ways I am attempting to be more functional, and more proactive as I evolve in my farming practice, is to get the mulch out on the field as soon as possible. So, early on we have been able to get our 7 garden beds of 90 lbs. of onion sets mulched (they came up this week!), and have planted and pathway mulched our spinach and hakurei turnips in the west field. The same with our cilantro in the north field, planted on Monday. Then we turned to some tarp moving (onto the pond field where we didn’t have tarps) after removing them from the south field where we planted 5 long beds of kale and 2 of Chinese cabbage this week. Back to the pond field, the two beds of radishes are planted and mulched and we prepped and mulched pathways for 4 beds of collards, though we ran out of time on Friday to get them planted.

Brian and I did a very careful job of uprooting the grass that grows between the inside and outside of the orange hoophouse, and then we mulched it heavily. Thanks again to Tyson Neukirch for those 10 round bales of hay.

We also started a bunch of seeds this past week – basil, tulsi, to be hoophouse tomatoes, more lettuce – in the greenhouse.

We now have water all the way to the end of the pond – a huge upgrade for us coming from years of hauling hoses for hundreds of feet, and got to use one of our new/upgraded water stations out in the south field on Friday.

Danny and Stu are turning their attention to rebuilding chicken/turkey tractors (we will need 14 serviceable ones at top usage in late August and through until late November).

Layers on pasture


Quick Links

Buy meat
CSA pick up information
Contact Julie
Products available right now at the farm
Become a working shareholder
Donate to the MHSC
Links Workshops

Link to buy J and J’s book – Many Hands Make a Farm-