Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unity farm is keeping it fresh

Story and Photos By David Leaming
Staff Writer
July 19, 2009

UNITY — The increasing desire for fresh produce grown in an environmentally conscious manner has led to a bumper crop for a Unity-based market garden farmer.

Matt Linehan, owner of Sparrow Arc Farms, said the business he started four years ago has steadily grown as demand rises for quality vegetables and fruits.

Walking through rows of broccoli in one of 18 acres of gardens in Waldo County, Linehan said he and his four workers are busy this summer planting, weeding, cultivating, harvesting and delivering 220 varieties of vegetables and fruits grown without harmful pesticides and picked fresh for customers in New England.

Linehan trucks boxes of produce each week that is picked the day before and sold at farmers markets in Kennebunk and first class restaurants in the Boston area like Clio, L’Espalier, Henrietta’s Table and Rialto.

“Although the business is still young, we are doing real good,” Linehan said. He said he and his paid employees — he does not receive pay himself — put in long, hard and dirty days and any profit is reinvested into the farm operation. “We continue to grow and there is lots of opportunity with this type of farming.”

Part of the success is that people do not see farmers markets as a novelty for a few items bought once in a while, according to Linehan. “People now shop at markets for a weeks- worth of groceries,” he said.

Customers want fresh foods that have not been exposed to harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Our clients want super fresh, flavorful and ethically grown products. We also like doing fancy crops.”

Linehan’s products include salad greens, peas, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, cucumbers, onions, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, fruit trees and edible flowers, to name a few, and are fertilized with farm manure. Any pest control on plants is achieved with the use of less harmful certified organic chemical sprays and not hard chemicals, according to Linehan.

Linehan said he believes the food movement is wide open with lots of growth potential without competing against other farmers.

“People want the freshest produce at the most affordable prices and that is what we do,” Linehan said before heading to his fields to do inventory.