by Michelle Blackley, editor
On a 3 ½-acre farm in Canandaigua, NY is a field that provides fresh local produce from field – to grocery bag (reusable that is). The Wegmans Organic Farm has partnered with local growers to extend the Western New York growing season and expand its property in its fourth year.
With advice from year-round organic growing advocate Eliot Coleman, Wegmans Organic Farm has experimented successfully with hoop houses and portable greenhouses that enable farmers to stretch the usual growing season so seeds can be planted earlier and harvest later.
“Our goal is to have fresh tomatoes from Memorial Day until the end of October,” Farm Manager Jamie Robinson said.
Presently, the team on-hand is working with local grower Doug Mason, who operates a seventh generation farm near Rochester, NY. Mason is one of their New York State organic suppliers. Plans are underway to allow more local growers to visit the farm so they can see the season-extending techniques that work. Naturally, a longer season means a larger harvest and more revenue for them.
“We want to help them be successful with ‘local’ organic farming,” Robinson said. In turn, they can supply Wegmans customers with the vegetables customers are demanding.
Crop selection is key consideration on the farm, and Wegmans has a lineup of crops that handle the challenging growing season, including popular heirloom grape and cherry tomatoes. Beans, chard, beet tops, spinach, and more have already been harvested.
None of this would be possible without healthy soil so the farm team focuses on composting and cover crops (rye, spelt and clover) to replenish soil nutrients between harvests. The plants and clover will be worked into the ground to produce a rich soil.
At a recent media day, Wegmans CEO and owner of Wegmans Organic Farm Danny Wegman emphasized the teams’ ongoing learning, and look forwarding to sharing what they learn with their farm partners, working to make organic farming a viable choice for more and more growers.
“We tried going pesticide free in the stores, and we plan to do that again,” he said. “We had a learning curve, we’ve expanded and we will keep growing.”
Currently, Wegmans Organic Farm supplies only the Pittsford and Canandaigua, NY stores with its produce. Wegmans hopes to expand that reach when the farm is larger and transportation with refrigerated trucks becomes more accessible.
The Wegmans Organic Farm is open to the public for tours. For more information and a schedule, please visit Wegmans Organic Farm online here.