Though the end of August marks the unofficial final days of the summer season, Wilson Farm, in Lexington, Massachusetts, takes the opportunity to savor every moment remaining. On a summer evening Jim Wilson describes as “perfect” –that in-between cool air after the heat from the day’s sun—the fourth-generation farmer of his family’s namesake company leads a small group on a tour of the 32-acre Lexington Farm. The tour is free and given on select Thursday evenings in the summer.
Wilson is the great-grandson of one of the farm’s founders, James Alexander Wilson, and passion, like the vast crops in the soil behind the greenhouses, is deeply-rooted in him. Before the tour officially begins, he proudly shows photos from Wilson Farm’s New Hampshire property, where much of their crops grow on over 500 acres. He beams at the images of 18 acres of green Brussels sprouts and burgeoning pumpkins like they were some of his own kin. The Lexington farm has stood on the same land for over 130 years and counting, having been founded in 1884. Today many members of the Wilson family are involved in the business.
The group gathered outside the farm store and Wilson brings the group to the first stop Dutch-designed glass greenhouses. He describes the seemingly-futuristic technology that operates the houses that ensures the best growing conditions for the plants inside. Coincidentally, the side doors automatically move as a light breeze flows across the grounds, giving the group a firsthand experience of the state of the art technology. As we look closer, there are rows and rows of poinsettia plants inside–10,400, Wilson states like he recalls an important date—that have been growing since July and will be ready for the Christmas season.
After passing piles of compost bins, Wilson explains that every item in the store must pass inspection for not only freshness, but also visual appeal, keeping high-quality standards throughout the stock. Like unpredictable Massachusetts weather, the store displays change often depending on what is in stock. From seeing the vibrant produce that makes you feel like you are in a healthy candy store, Wilson’s attention to detail and motivation to only purvey the highest-quality stock shines through in all aspects of the farm. But what happens to the produce with a few dings and scars? Waste is a forbidden five-letter-word, so those items are used in other ways at the farm, like in salsa for Wilson Farm’s recent Tomato Fest.
The group then traverses the adjacent green-and-brown striped field–a happy aesthetic accident, but the result from tending the land with Wilson’s farm equipment. His pride and joy is a German tractor that cuts the laborious task of weeding down to minutes. Wilson eagerly hops inside to show his machine at work. But every crop isn’t a success and Wilson keenly points out barren field of would-be sunflowers massacred by pigeons. Wilson also describes how the farm uses Integrated Pest Management that proactively protects crops with minimal-to-no use of herbicide.
As the tour ends at dusk, the group lingers to talk with Wilson and take in a last sight of the produce still set up outside the now-closed farm store—something the group laments after getting the behind-the-scenes look. Though the doors are locked now, it gives us a perfect reason to come back and enjoy all the “fruits” (flowers and vegetables too) of labor—stemmed from the pride and passion of Wilson Farm.
To learn more about Wilson Farm and the upcoming Autumn festivals, visit their website at www.wilsonfarm.com
© Chelsea E. Dill 2017