story & photos
by Maren Schober
Who doesn’t love to visit our local Farmers’ Markets in summer to choose the freshest of fruits, vegetables and eggs for our tables and families? When we look at the colorful varieties of fresh produce in the open air stalls, how many of us really understand the hard work and dedication it takes on the part of our Connecticut farmers to hoe, plant, harvest, pick, sort, bag, truck and deliver it all from the fields to the marketplace?
On Monday, July 12, I stand before the smiling faces of Jess Castelli and Bridget Hinz at the Farmers’ Market at Uncas on Thames, Norwich, with only a dim understanding of all the work it entails to bring us the fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade jams and free range eggs I love so much.
“This is my tenth year of working at this farm stand,” Jess tells me. “My cousin Chris is an owner of the farm. We are here Mondays and Fridays from 10am-1pm through October. The produce is sold at 30 different markets throughout Connecticut such as Hartford, Bridgeport, Deep River, Hebron, Lyme, Old Saybrook and Middletown just to name a few.”
I take a ride out to Killam & Bassette Farmstead in South Glastonbury where Chris Bassette explains some more.
“This is a family run business!” Chris relates. “We, Kevin and Chris Bassette and our five kids, Abby, 14, Olivia, 12, Dina, 10, Henry, 9, and Jamie, 6, along with our partner Henry Killam, 79 (and still going strong,) own Killam & Bassette Farmstead, LLC. We all have an active roll in the day-to-day responsibilities of our 85 acre farm, from gathering eggs, planting, harvesting and selling our produce, to making jam, cutting beautiful bouquets and stocking the stand.”
What is a typical day for this farm family? “Kevin’s day starts at 2:30am. He gets up, loads up the truck with produce and takes it to the Regional Market in Hartford. He gets back around 4:30am and then picks the corn. Our employees join him at this time in the field to pick corn. Then they bag all the corn and load the trucks while other employees are picking beets, lettuce, radishes and scallions for the day’s markets. Others are bagging green beans. By 7:30am all the trucks are loaded and they are off.”
“Once we get to market,” Chris continues, “We park, pull out two 10’x10’ tents and set them up. Tables and table cloths are next, then the produce, jam, cut flowers and eggs. We price all items for sale. I love working at the market myself because I get direct feedback from our customers on what they like and what they do not like.”
“Planting starts in April,” Chris explains. “We cultivate and hoe and water by irrigation.”
It is a hot summer’s day and I witness what must be the ultimate temptation for Kevin to quit working for the day when he asks his daughter Abby, “Where are the other kids?”
“In the pool,” she answers.
“In the pool?!” Kevin counters as he pushes his hat back and wipes his brow. “In the POOL?!”
You can visit the farm website: www.kandbfarmstead.com for more information including schedule location of farm markets.