~ by Sarah Moreau ~
Who’s your farmer?
Have you ever wondered where those juicy, beautiful Bartlett’s Farm hot house tomatoes are grown? Or how the pots of flowers, herbs, and veggie seedlings that you plant in your garden and window boxes year after year get their start? I honestly hadn’t given it too much thought until last Thursday when I joined the free Farm Tour and got a behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day operations at Bartlett’s Farm.
Directed by long time employee Hilary Newell, the tour met at the front of the store and led us out back through the garden center and into a sea of greenhouses that aren’t directly visible to the public while shopping at the market. As we walk, Hilary gives a history of the farm. She and her husband Pete have been with the Bartlett family for 30 years, so she knows her stuff, and you can tell she is passionate about what she does.
Bartlett’s Farm has 39 greenhouses, with most dedicated to ornamental plantings and tomatoes, and a few reserved for their experimental projects. They have 100 acres under cultivation and another 100 acres that the market, employee housing, and parking lots are situated upon. Their greenhouses range from the intricate Dutch gutter connected with irrigation and climate control to the basic hoop house structure.
My favorite part of the tour was getting a glimpse of the tomato greenhouses. Stepping inside the tomato house was like entering a tropical rainforest, my camera lens fogging with the humidity. I had no idea tomato plants could grow so tall and lush, their branches laden with the heavy fruits. Another guest on the tour exclaimed, “So this is where the tomatoes for the ‘Bartlett’s Farm Tomato Salad’ on the restaurant menus come from!”
Hilary points out the importance of eating local. Would you rather have herbs that were picked in Mexico or California, shipped across the country, trucked onto a boat, then unloaded at the grocery store a week later or get your herbs at the farm that were picked, rinsed, and bagged within an hour of hitting the shelves? Local and fresh makes a difference!
This walking tour is free and takes about an hour, just wear comfortable shoes and meet in front of the market. The farm tours will continue into the beginning of July, check their calendar at BartlettsFarm.com or the events in this publication for dates and times. In July the Farm Tour will turn into a Flower Tour, where you can pick your own flowers from their fields for $30. Also, look forward to their Strawberry Festival happening on June 27th and their Farm-to-Table dinners throughout the season. Visit www.bartlettsfarm.com for information.