This is a guest post from DEG Vice-President Carin Casey.
We’re very lucky to live in an area where there are still farms that grow fruits and vegetables to sell locally. There are several good farm stands within just a couple of miles of my house. So why, for the last twelve years or so, have I driven past all of them to shop at Verrill Farm in Concord, Massachusetts? And why am I one of the many people in and around Concord who are so saddened by the news that the VerrillFarm store was destroyed by an electrical fire last Saturday? Nobody was hurt, they’ve got insurance, it’s only a farm stand, kitchen and bakery, for Pete’s sake.
But Verrill Farm isn’t just a farm stand. It’s a place where knowledgeable people will gladly tell their customers about the differences between more varieties of tomatoes than you probably knew existed. They’ll offer recipe suggestions, too. So will the other customers as you strike up conversations over three types of corn or four sorts of eggplant. It’s where small children get excited about trying new foods. What finicky four-year-old can resist a tomato called “Mr. Stripy?” Or a red carrot or a blue potato? Cooking classes for children as well as adults, festivals, hayrides, a kitchen that makes delicious prepared foods and some of the best pie you’ll ever have, Verrrill Farm is much more than just a place to pick up some green beans for dinner.
They’ll get excited about a neat bug, too. Last year a friend and I were shopping at Verrill with our kids. The kids wandered into the greenhouse where their attention was completely (and somewhat loudly) captured by a spider and its beautiful and intricate web. The employee who was watering plants in the greenhouse stopped what she was doing and engaged the girls in conversation about spiders and webs. Then she climbed up, carefully gathered up the spider and held it so the kids could get a close-up look before she brought it outside and let it go. Personally, I’m not sorry I missed the up close and personal spider meeting but it was a memorable moment for the kids. A memorable experience that had nothing to do with making a big sale.
The fire was Saturday. On Monday what was left of the building was being torn down, a sad sight. But New England farmers don’t give up easily. As ruins were being cleared a temporary stand was being set up nearby. Corn and tomatoes are still being harvested. The Verrill family says they will rebuild. A building may have been lost but the building was not what made Verrill Farm special. What’s really important – people who don’t just grow amazing food or bake delicious pies but share with customers their pride and passion in the work that they do – remains. So thanks, Verrill family, for your commitment to reopening and rebuilding. Your customers, this family included, will be there.