“It began as a hobby,” explained Stefanie Barfield, owner of local heirloom farm and CSA, Chesterfield Heirlooms. “We just started growing them (vegetables) behind my house and they grew and grew and grew.”
For starters, if you don’t know what heirlooms are… let us explain. An heirloom vegetable is an ancient plant or seed that is still maintained by gardeners or farmers today. The term ‘heirloom’ is typically applied to fruit, flowers or vegetable varieties that were grown before World War I, yielding a rich history. In simple terms it’s a fruit or vegetable that was bred the old-fashioned way. Seeds from the best plants with desired characteristics and flavors are saved, with textures and tastes deepening over time. Those same seeds are kept alive throughout the years by open pollination.The heirloom trend has been gaining traction in recent years, beginning in large cities such as NYC and LA, and trickling down to smaller towns across the country.
Chesterfield Heirlooms is the one of the first farms to introduce the Eastern Shore to this approach to farming. “We offer everything except for corn and melons,” said Barfield. “Tomatoes take up over 1/3 of the acre.” The Barfield’s are especially excited for the fall season, where they offer some of the most tempting produce. “In the fall we focus on mostly greens and roots, such as radishes, beets, a lot of kales and seminal pumpkins.”
Chesterfield Heirlooms has grown immensely since it started back in 2009, taking only a year to place itself prominently in the local farmers market scene. “We are so pleasantly surprised by how the community has accepted us,” beamed Barfield. “It’s just a lot of word of mouth and Facebook, we didn’t realize how much the community needed a farm like this, and they’ve given us such a warm welcome.”
More recently, Chesterfield Heirlooms has taken on an exciting new endeavor, launching their Heirloom Vegetable Club. “It’s basically the same concept as a CSA,” explained Barfield. “The idea is that when you purchase a share, you’re helping to fund the growth of that season.” In return for paying into the growth of the farm and the next season, you receive a share of that season’s yield. Sound complicated? It’s not, simply stated you are buying into a piece of the pie – giving the farm funding and receiving monthly deliveries of fresh, heirloom veggies in return. Each delivery varies, depending on what’s coming out of the ground. Barfield also makes a conscious effort to keep an open line of communication with the Club Members, reaching out to find out what veggies people want more or less of for the upcoming year. The 2016 season is officially open for enrollment, offering 21 weeks of naturally grown heirloom vegetables from June until November.
New in 2016, members of the Vegetable Club have the option of a half share, which feeds one to two people, instead of the full share (three to four people). Pricing for a full share from June 6th through November 7th is $575, while the half share is $300. Also new this year is the Heirloom Tomato Club, featuring delicious heirloom slicing tomatoes including the Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, Great White, and Boxcare Willie, along with a pint of cherry tomatoes complemented by fresh heirloom bulb. The Heirloom Tomato Club is $160 and runs from July 11th through August 29th.
Each year has brought exponential growth at the farm, particularly after the successful Kickstarter Campaign that helped the Barfields purchase a new tractor. “With Kickstarter campaigns you’re asking your community to contribute funds to something that you’ve been working towards,” explained Barfield. “It allows us to become more efficient and to grow more.”
So what’s on this year’s grow list at Chesterfield Heirlooms?? Plenty! Including: Russian red and dinosaur kale, new salad greens, little finger carrots, 20 tomato varieties, King Richard leeks, fingerling potatoes, hot peppers, chiogga and cylindra beets, gold ball turnips, lemon summer squash, red torpedo onions, rosa bianca eggplant, white hailstone radish, seminole pumpkins, lazy wife snap beans, sweet peppers, red rhubarb swiss chard, Mandarin round cucumbers, herbs, German red garlic, baby pak choy, cherry tomatoes, sweet potoatoes, and flowers.
For more on Chesterfield Herilooms, visit chesterfieldheirlooms.com. And stay tuned for more features on local CSAs for 2016!