SALEM — Now in her 10th year at Provider Farm, assistant manager Hannah Tripp will take over as owner and operator on March 1 when longtime farmers Max and Kerry Taylor move to Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Mass.
“I actually started here as a volunteer in their very first season when I was 19 and they hired me pretty quickly because they really needed help and I just fell in love with it. I loved everything about how challenging it was and being outside and getting to grow amazing food for people in my community,” said Tripp, who grew up three miles from the farm in Salem.
Tripp worked summers at the farm when she was home from UConn and began full time work as assistant manager in 2015.
“I know Provider just about as well as anyone outside of Max and Kerry,” she said. “I’m doing a lot of planning and I’ve done all my crop plans and ordered my seeds. I’m in the process of hiring — I’ve had a lot of really good responses to my job postings. Things are just moving right along.”
Tripp, 28, said her first crop plan will be consistent with the farm’s community-sponsored agriculture, or CSA program, as well as selling wholesale.
“Definitely, especially for the first year, I want to focus on keeping most things very familiar and the same level of quality that people expect from us and our customer service and focus on our immediate community, which has been so good to us,” she said.
The crops include a lot of root vegetables —carrots, beets, potatoes— and brassicas, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, salad mix greens, tomatoes, peppers, onions. “A little bit of everything,” Tripp said.
Tripp is hoping to open a farmstand to the public on Saturday mornings beginning in June and sell products from the farm as well as other neighboring farms.
“We’ll see if that will take off, there was a farm stand right on 82 — Panfili’s — just about a mile from the farm that closed last year so I’m hoping maybe I can fill that need for the community,” she said.
With about 14 acres of cropland, the farm includes leases across several parcels in the town, said Tripp.
“We lease the home farm, which is where the cows and the pastures are, it’s where we run our CSA out of — all our infrastructure, our barns and coolers and wash pack station — all of that is at the home farm. But none of our cropland is at the home farm, so we’d have three other leases across town where we grow our vegetables,” she said.
There will be two full time crew members who will work from April into November and part time help in the summer months, adding up to six or seven employees at peak times.
The farm has a small grass-fed herd of cattle, primarily Red Devon, but meat processing has become complicated during the pandemic and has slowed down sales, Tripp said.
“It started to get really hard to book appointments for meat processing so we had to do it in halves and quarters this year. So, I don’t have any product right now to sell off the farm and we won’t harvest again until late fall,” she said.
In the coming 10 years, Tripp said she hopes to expand the farm’s capacity and its customer base.
“I’m hoping to grow. We’re going to have about 215 CSA members this year. I’d love to be up to about 300 or 350 and maybe find similar property to lease to get to about 20 acres so I can do more regular year-long fallow cover cropping like I’m trying to implement this year,” she said.
She said she was especially excited about investing in the retail side of the business.
“CSAs are fantastic for people who really eat a lot of vegetables, but there are a lot of casual consumers too and I want to make sure our products are accessible to everybody,” she said.
The farm continues to supply its winter CSA and wholesale customers with root vegetables and winter greens, which are grown in two hoophouses.
“What’s the best way to eat winter vegetables?” CT Examiner asked.
“You can’t go wrong with a root roast. Just cube everything, toss it in olive oil, maybe a little rosemary, salt and pepper and then roast it at like 450 until everything is soft and a little caramelized,” she said.