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Farm to Table

April 14th, 2011 by Beth Colt

Exploring the hands behind the farm part of farm-to-table.

At the Woods Hole Inn, we often spend a lot of time on the “table” part of farm-to-table but today I got to head out into the field and see one of the farms that we source food from in the summer.

Coonamessett Farm was founded over 30 years ago by Ron Smolovitz, who along with his wife had a passion to save a piece of open land slated for development.  On their 2o plus acres, Ron farms everything from lettuce to turkey.  His rolling meadows with their vineyards and neat rows of lettuce, tomato, zucchini and summer squash are quite the summer destination for everything from weddings to the passionate members of his CSA.

Spring is the time to visit if you want to see where all that bounty comes from, so I headed over there yesterday in the pouring rain with a list of the produce we consume weekly to supply our breakfast kitchen and Quicks Hole — for example, 50 lbs of fresh tomatoes a week to make our signature pico de gallo fresh daily!  Try over 20 dozen eggs a week for the Woods Hole Inn’s fresh baked breakfasts?  Yeah, it all adds up.

It was pouring anew when Ron and I zipped into his rain covered golf cart and sped across the meadow to the growing cluster of greenhouses.  Ron put in a windmill a few years back and he explained that running the farm vehicles on electricity rather than gas helps keep down the price of vegetables.

We met with Stan Ingram, field boss at Coonamessett, who was literally ankle deep in mud transplanting rows of baby plants to larger containers (those are his amazing hands in the photo above).  The long low plastic roof of the greenhouse cast the most gorgeous diffused light and the drum of rain on the roof was soporific.  A lovely tiger cat leapt to greet me with a deep purr.  What a peaceful place, I thought.   “Earlier today when it was really coming down, we could not have held a conversation in here,” Stan remarked with a wry smile.

We talked about when they expect certain crops to come in, why they can’t grow tomatoes earlier (heating the greenhouses to 55 degrees costs too much money) and the logistics of getting relatively small batches of produce down to Woods Hole two or three times per week.  Their crispy arugula is essential for our “Wicked Fresh” salad — a best seller at Quicks Hole — but at the end of the day, it’s all about logistics.  Stan offered to plant more basil and cilantro to meet our weekly demand.  He also cautioned me against holding him to any dates.  I guess the plants mature when they feel like it, not just for our Quicks Hole opening day (which is May 6th this year, by the way).

Another exciting development is the local cultivation of oysters which Ron is going to distribute.  I signed Quicks Hole up for weekly delivery of the new “Sippewissett” which is out in Buzzards Bay fattening up right now from the cold winter.  Ron says the first of them will be ready by mid May.  Yum.

I left with a list of wholesale prices, an order form…  and a greater sense of purpose.  It’s not easier to source this way, actually it’s much, much harder.  But the sense of satisfaction in knowing my little business can be a part of keeping this meadow open for Ron and his golf cart?  Yeah, that feels good.

Hopefully it tastes good too.  Come check it out this summer at Quicks Hole, 6 Luscombe Ave in Woods Hole.  More info and our menu at www.quicksholewickedfresh.com.

Lettuces feeding the people of Falmouth all winter grow in the Coonamesset Farm greenhouses.

Stan Ingram, field boss at Coonamessett Farm, in the greenhouse earlier today.

Ron Smolovitz, owner of Coonamesset Farm told me how he learned to do all this as we toured his many greenhouses: "Trial and error," he said.

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