A Taste of Life on the Farms of Hardwick, As Winter Teases Into Spring

A Taste of Life on the Farms of Hardwick, As Winter Teases Into Spring

A Taste of Life on the Farms of Hardwick, As Winter Teases Into Spring

Written by Mary Ward

If recent weather is any sign, we may be blessed with an early spring. After a year struggling with incessant rains and trying to grow and harvest crops between the rain drops, a bit of a head start this year could be a very welcome thing.

Of course, as farmers, we all know better than to count on it, but one can hope...(After all, if you’re a farmer, you’re eternally hoping for one thing or another!)

No Farm Slumbers, No Matter the Time of Year

Spring on the farms of Hardwick is a busy time, no matter what kind of farming is the focus. Lest we think these farms have been relaxing through the winter, let's think again. There’s a lot that goes on on the farms in our town, in all seasons and at all times of year.

Winter and early spring are times of less visible behind-the-scenes planning and, in some cases, indoor production. While we’re not seeing much for tractors in the fields these days, be assured that farmers are out there. Animal care is a year-round effort.

Indeed, there’s no farmer who spends their winter with their feet up all the time (though we hope they’ve found a few quiet moments to relax and reflect, too!)

What are some of the tasks that keep farmers busy in their “down” time of the year?

Planning – There's Always Planning!

Farming is, essentially, a constant state of planning. In winter, when one isn’t plowing or shoveling out or figuring out ways to provide water to animals in liquid form, you’re planning for the upcoming year.

Planning might include planning and placing seed orders, contracting to rent fields and crop land, revising CSA’s to bring the best value to customers, pursuing grants and funding, analyzing crop losses from the previous year, planning for remediation, or reviewing crops, sales, meat, production, and adjusting accordingly.

Something to know is that this is a time of year that farmers have a lot of output, and little input—financially speaking. Seeds, fertilizer, bills for rented land, livestock feed bills, these are all things that don’t stop or that are common expenses in the late winter and early spring. Historically, however, it’s a time of year when sales are at their lowest. It’s a tough time for farmers, so if there is a product you can buy or a CSA you can sign up for, please do!

Community Supported Agriculture is one of the best ways to support local farms. Successful farms are integral to maintaining open space and keeping our small agricultural community one that we recognize. Your patronage, by default, supports the town and way of life you’re here for! They’re top contributors to the local economy, too!

Check out these Hardwick farm’s CSA’s! What a wealth we have here in Hardwick!

Maple Sugaring – The Sweetest Time of Year!

Maple sugaring (turning that sweet, watery tree sap into that golden, delicious syrup we all know and love so well) is one of the first signs of the turning of the seasons from winter to spring.

Sugaring starts in the late winter, when the nights still firmly say winter!  but the days hint of sunlight, a touch of warmth, and the beginning of the thaws. Cold nights followed by warmer days are what makes the sap run. It’s then that it’s a rush to gather up the good stuff before the cold-warm cycle moderates, and the trees hold onto their precious sweet sap.

Did you know it takes, on average, about 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup? The ratio varies depending on sugar content but suffice it to say –it's a lot!!

January through March are the busiest times of year for our maple producers. The Rasketts at the Hardwick Sugar Shack hold open house weekends in March for as long as there is sap to boil.

The Hardwick Winery features Hardwick Sugar Shack syrup at their Maple Barn Breakfasts that run throughout the month of March. They even have a Maple Wine! (Which Robin Prouty of Clover Hill Farm says is fabulous over a fresh local pork roast in a crock pot!

Who has locally grown pork?

Hardwick maple syrup and maple products are available from Hardwick Sugar Shack throughout the year at their sugar house and in several local stores.

Animal Care and Husbandry

Eggs and farm babies and other signs say SPRING!

All that lovely local meat and produce from production animals like chickens doesn’t stop just because we may not see as many of them out in the fields and pastures. Livestock farmers are battling the elements all year long!

Spring is when many animals begin the lifecycle anew. Lambs and kids (of the goat variety) are being born. Chicks are hatching or coming to farms and locals through mail order (yes! The mail!). Life springs anew, as they say, and seeing the first pictures of the first babes of spring is something we all look forward to.

And speaking of chickens — yes, it is true that egg production drops over the winter months as older chickens move into their molting phase. They begin to come back out of it as the days lengthen and the sun blesses us a little longer. Chickens really respond to the longer, warmer days (we feel you, birds!).

This is the time of year when the older flocks will begin to lay in earnest again. Which means that if you’ve struggled to find farm-fresh eggs over the last few months, your wait will soon be over!

Who’s got fresh eggs? Check with these local Farmers’ Guild member farms!

  • Clover Hill Farm, Barre Road
  • Four Acre Farm, Hardwick Center
  • Round Table Farm, Jackson Road
  • Stillman Quality Meats, Greenwich Road

Check out Old Furnace General Store and the Hardwick Farmers’ Co-Op, too. Both carry products (including fresh eggs when available) from many local producers and Guild member farms.

The Planting We Don’t Always See


Believe it or not, there is planting going on in Hardwick already – in fact, there has been for weeks and months!

Late winter and early spring are prime prep and planting times for vegetable and annual flower growers. You’re more likely to find them in their greenhouses than their real houses. They’re out there starting the seeds that will become the transplants for their field-grown flowers and vegetables. They’re also starting many of the transplants that will become your garden starts if you (please!) buy locally grown garden plants!

There’s growing that’s gone on throughout the winter, too. Still Life Farm grows greens and cold-hardy crops all winter long in their high tunnels—all part of their Winter CSA shares!

The work is long, but truth be told, you’d be a little jealous if you knew how nice it can be in those sunny, warm greenhouses.

It’s Really Just the Beginning

We’ve really only scratched the surface of what goes on on Hardwick Farms in the last days of winter and the early spring. Soon (we hope!) spring will be here, undeniably.

We’ll hear the hum of the tractors and start seeing more of those spring babies bouncing out and about. The fields will start to green, the vegetables will start to grow, and we’ll soon be blessed with the colors of our local flower growers. We’ll enjoy the scents of the country and the smells of fresh cut hay (and we’ll endure the brief aroma of fertilizers, though unpleasant, because we can’t have the bounty and beauty without it).

Before you know it, we’ll be welcoming in another new season, and we’ll come back again to see what’s going on at our Guild Member Farms.

We thank you for your interest in the Farmers Guild of Hardwick, our Hardwick Farms, your community, and in supporting them. Please patronize these farms, other member farms, and local growers.

And remember to buy local! A little purchase sure means a whole lot to your local farmers!

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