This summer, Allen and I set out to Winchester, NH to visit the sunny and fruitful Porcupine Acres. Upon arrival, we found Robert Leustek in the garden weeding. Robert and his wife Gloria came from New Jersey, where they spent over 20 years perfecting their farming practices. Now, they inhabit 2 acres of fertile, loamy soil. The farmed area of their property currently takes up about one quarter to one half acre of land, but Robert plans to continue to nourish and prepare the land for expansion of his farm.
When we first heard about Porcupine Acres last fall, we were in search of local garlic vendors. Ever since they came to our rescue, Gloria has given us weekly updates on their product availability and worked with us to develop price and quality standards. She also met with us in the spring to plan the items they would grow for us this season. These are the kinds of relationships with local farmers I take pride in; they build on the values integral to our co-op. We love the willingness of a small local farm to fill in “niche” products, or items that are uncommon or limited in availability from our larger farmers.
The produce that Porcupine Acres supplied us with this year includes specialty herbs, jalapeno peppers, assorted winter squash, snap and snow peas, watermelon radishes, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, and, our staff favorite, fresh okra! Next year they plan to grow even more okra to keep up with our demand. Other produce we were able to buy from them includes: rutabagas, carrots, radishes, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, melons, corn, and more!
Gloria, a committee member of the Revitalization/Economic Development Commission (RED,) also manages the Winchester Farmers Market where they’re able to share their bounty of fresh produce with the rest of their community. These two are passionate about the success they’ve had in developing this Farmers Market over the last year, giving all kinds of local producers a chance to share their products as well. The market is held from 10AM-2PM on Saturdays on Main Street in downtown Winchester.
Another thing to note about Porcupine Acres is their passion for sustaining pollinators through beekeeping and honey-making. On the edge of their property, they have five large beehives, so in addition to their produce offerings, you can also buy their honey, honeycomb, and creamed honey at the Farmers Market. Allen and I were happy to sample this spectacular honey, and get a close-up look at the bees and their techniques for harvesting the honey and combs. Robert is working on a new way of harvesting honey, in which the bees are able to build their hive right inside a mason jar! When the comb is fully developed and the bees are removed, the jar is filled with fresh honey and sealed with the comb sill inside. It’s an amazing product!
After a full tour of the fields, we were introduced to Robert and Gloria’s chickens, their rooster, Ringo, their goose, Lexi, and finally their live-in-mouse-exterminator, Murray, the kitten. In addition to farming and beekeeping, Robert has a passion for collecting antiques, growing carnivorous plants, and canning and pickling his own fresh produce. Allen and I are grateful to have had the chance to explore Porcupine Acres. No matter how many farms I visit, I love walking away with a better understanding of their passion as farmers. Seeing this end of the supply chain is fascinating, and being able to connect to the local farmers and community is yet another reason I love my job.