Meridian Industrial

IN FULL BLOOM

5/1/2022 | KEITH O'CONNOR

Category:

Remember when your mother would tell you to “Eat your vegetables, they’re healthy for you.” Or when your doctor recommended more fiber in your diet and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Springtime is here and Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow might be just what the doctor ordered, at least when it gets to June.

Now open for the season, Meadowbrook Farm is in bloom with a wide variety of bedding plants, hanging plants and flowers ranging from impatiens to petunias to begonias.

“May is our busiest month for plant sales. We finish with our early spring sales in April with Easter flowers and pansies. People come in May for their hanging baskets, flowering annuals, and vegetable plants through Memorial Day into early June,” Burney said.

But you will have to wait until June comes around for the arrival of fresh, sweet strawberries and early vegetables, including cabbage, squash and cucumbers which continue into July along with newly harvested tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and another popular vegetable - sweet corn.

“People love our corn which is some of the sweetest you will ever find. All of our corn is picked fresh daily,” Burney said. August features the same items as July, while September and October welcome mums, pumpkins, and fall decorating items such as straw, cornstalks, gourds, and bales of straw.

“I purchased a blueberry farm about one-quarter-of-a-mile down the road, and last year we offered blueberry picking during July and August and will be bringing the fun family activity back again this year,” Burney said.

Burney currently raises 400 acres of fruits and vegetables on a combination of owned and rented land which yield crops for both his retail and wholesale operations. In addition to their roadside stand, Meadowbrook’s large wholesale business sells to local grocery stores and wholesale distributors in the Boston area where at the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, buyers can purchase his fresh produce alongside many other vendors there.

“I started farming on a part-time basis after college with three-quarters-of-an-acre of strawberries selling pick-your-own and wholesale to local Big Y stores. As I expanded into other crops, Big Y was there to support us by purchasing our produce to supply their more than 70 stores,” Burney said.

While CISA’s (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown” campaign has helped to support local food and local farms, Burney noted there are a number of reasons to buy locally.

“I think there is a true perception today that buying from a local farm is fresher and healthier for you than something you don’t know the origins of. And I think people genuinely like to support local businesses and enjoy the one-on-one with local growers at their roadside stands,” Burney said.

And that is where Burney’s right-hand employee Veronica Jandrue comes in.

“Veronica has been instrumental in building our retail business. People know her by name and come to see her to purchase their plants and vegetables,” he said, noting she is much more than the face of the business.

“She does the majority of the planting in our greenhouses and is also instrumental in the overall planning of the business,” he added.

“It’s great to see people coming back after the long winter. I’ve always loved being around plants and wanted to be a farmer since I was a little kid. Honestly, I’ve grown up here and our customers are like friends and family and the people I work with are amazing,” Jandrue said.

Jandrue, who received an associate degree in Horticulture from Springfield Technical Community College, noted she approached Meadowbrook Farm with “the intention of a part-time summer job and never left.”

As for Burney, he never lived on a farm, but developed an interest in farming as a young child. He worked on several farms while growing up including Bluebird Acres and Pleasant View Farm, before eventually heading off to Cornell University where he graduated in 1981 from their College of Agriculture.

After graduating from Cornell, Burney worked for Farm Credit Bank as an agricultural loan officer and later was named office manager. While working at the bank, he started a part-time venture working with a retired dairy farmer, who was raising vegetables on a small scale at his farm. Burney didn’t get paid for his work, but the elderly farmer offered him the use of three-quarters-of-an-acre to farm on as well as the use of his equipment. Burney increased the scope of his farming and planting every year until leaving the bank in 1989 to begin farming full-time. In 1994, he purchased the farm where he first began his farming activities, and since that time Burney has purchased several other farms in the area.

Like many businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic affected sales at Meadowbrook Farm.

“The pandemic had a positive effect on the retail end and a negative effect on our wholesale business. People living and working from home as the crisis began were soon looking for something to do and get out of the house. The pandemic made it difficult at the beginning to shop at big box stores, and they felt comfortable coming to our large outdoor facility. While here they would purchase plants to spruce up their homes and yards during these dark times, as well as to buy fresh produce,” Burney said.

“On the wholesale side, restaurants cut way back on what they normally ordered and some local colleges shut down their dining rooms which had negative effect on our wholesale business,” he added.

It seems far off from now, but before you know it the holidays have a way of creeping up on everyone. Closed for the first three weeks of November, Meadowbrook Farm opens the Friday after Thanksgiving with Christmas trees, wreaths and kissing balls.

“We’ve been specializing in Fraser Firs for the past 20 years. We bring them in from Canada and sell a couple thousand trees each year,” Burney said.

But there is no rest for the weary, and after Christmas, “it’s back to work.”

“January and February are pretty much office months when we start to order seeds, plants and supplies for the upcoming season. There is also equipment and building maintenance to be done. We start planting in our greenhouse during the last week of February and then it is ‘off to the races,’” Burney said.

Located on 185 Meadowbrook Road in East Longmeadow, Meadowbrook Farms is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
For more information, call 413-525-8588 or visit meadowbrookfarmma.com

Share this:


Categories


Latest News

GO EAT

Posted on 5/1/2022


GOOD MORNING!

Posted on 5/1/2022


IN FULL BLOOM

Posted on 5/1/2022


ROARING ACRES ALPACAS

Posted on 2022-05-01


GO GOLF

Posted on 2022-04-01


More Articles

Tags