In May of 2012, Steve Fowler and Rob Fortune came to Lowell for New Entry's Explore Farming workshop. They were strangers at the time, both interested in starting their own vegetable farm business. A year later, after graduating from the Farm Business Planning Course, they launched Beyond Seasons Farm as a joint venture and went on to have one of the most successful first seasons of any New Entry graduates.
Rob and Steve both live on the North Shore (Gloucester and Marblehead, respectively), so although they needed land to start their farming venture, New Entry's incubator training farm sites in Dracut, Mass., were a bit too far away. Instead, Steve and Rob were the first farmers to put down roots at Arrowhead Farm, New Entry's newest incubator farm site in Newburyport, Mass.
Collaborating with New Entry's Technical Assistance Coordinator, Eero Ruuttila, they got right to work, building a new produce wash station (including a washing machine converted into a giant salad spinner), setting up an innovative sprinkler irrigation system, and constructing a walk-in cooler for post-harvest storage. In addition to their half-acre of vegetable crops, Rob and Steve partnered with Arrowhead Farm's owner, Dick Chase, to plant another half acre into a low-maintenance cover crop of oats and peas, improving the soil and producing a high-value specialty product - pea tendrils - in the process.
On the other half acre, Beyond Seasons Farm did something a bit unusual for a small diversified vegetable farm in these parts: They didn't grow tomatoes. In fact, they spurned the nightshade family altogether - no peppers or eggplants either. Instead, they asked World PEAS CSA Coordinator Kate Petcosky what she was having trouble sourcing, and built that demand into their crop plans. They focused largely on greens, selling lots of baby greens and braising greens to the CSA. In addition to greens and pea tendrils, they did branch out into other crops like beets and zucchini, and still managed to deliver several hundred pounds of sweet potatoes for World PEAS.
Steve and Rob are be back at Arrowhead Farm in 2014, now with a full acre at their disposal. With more land and with a strong first season under their belt, we're looking forward to seeing what they do this year!