CHICOPEE – For 16-year-old Will McKinstry, he anticipates the day he will take the family business to the next level.
“I have big plans for the farm,” he said during a recent late afternoon interview with Reminder Publications.
His grandfather, Alfred McKinstry, looked on with a huge smile.
“That’s great,” said Alfred McKinstry, noting his family has lived in Chicopee for close to 300 years and he is happy that the family legacy will live on.
“Our family has over 200 years of farming,” he added.
The McKinstry family is a Local Hero Farm and has been active with CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) since the organization’s early beginnings.
“We were one of the first roadside stands to get involved with CISA,” said Alfred.
CISA, based in South Deerfield, is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members, and advocates working together to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy. Each spring, CISA publishes Locally Grown, a farm products guide to Western Massachusetts. Area residents can pick up their copy at McKinstry’s Market Garden at 753 Montgomery St., as well as a host of other avenues including local retailers, farm stands, farmers’ markets and libraries.
“Since we do wholesale and retail business, as well as sell to restaurants, being associated with CISA is good publicity in a wider area,” said McKinstry.
The 2015 guide contains information on 256 farms, 70 restaurants, 39 retailers, 20 dining services, 17 specialty producers, and four garden center/landscapers. The guide also includes a list of area farmers’ markets, a guide to farms offering pick-your-own fruit crops, a seasonal calendar and a listing of farm festivals.
On the afternoon of May 15, several members of the McKinstry family had been working the 90 acres of fields across three towns, with Alfred, at 86, planting sweet corn in Hadley.
Bill McKinstry, at 52, noted that Alfred plants 99 percent of the sweet corn for the market garden.
“Since I was 3 I have followed him in the fields, watching how he planted,” said Bill. “It is amazing to see what a little seed can produce.”
Bill and his wife Nicole oversee the operations of the farm and Nicole relishes her time working with family and being responsible for the store.
“I feel blessed,” she said, adding, “I get to work with my family and see my children grow up with a good work ethic.”
The market garden features locally grown, farm-fresh produce, as well as home-baked pies, homemade dill pickles, cheese, fresh eggs, frozen chicken pies, plants, seeds, local honey and maple syrup, and local apples and peaches when in season.
The farm specializes in early corn and tomatoes, and currently grows 40 to 50 varieties of corn, which include all yellow, all white, and yellow and white.
The McKinstry farm is I.P.M. certified so all crops are quality monitored on a weekly basis. Additionally, the family only sprays crops when needed and some crops are never sprayed.
For Will, a sophomore at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, his time managing the farm will come after attaining a degree in crop production and management.
“His top two schools right now are Cornell and Delaware Valley,” said Nicole, adding a trip to Penn State is also in the near future.
“From tractor rides since I was 2 with my grandpa, I have followed him everywhere,” said Will McKinstry.
Alfred beamed proudly as Will spoke of one of his favorite times on the farm and echoed those sentiments.
“There is no place I’d rather be,” said Alfred.
For more information on McKinstry’s Market Garden, visit www.McKinstrysMarketGarden.com or call 536-2043.
When you are visiting, don’t miss their enormous message board, which brings customers up-to-date on the season’s plantings. The current entry noted this is Alfred’s 74th year growing sweet corn and his first corn planting was done April 13. Additionally, the family noted that plantings were underway for peas, beans, radishes, carrots, beets, spinach, scallions, potatoes, lettuce, onions, cabbage, broccoli, strawberries, asparagus and raspberries.
For locations to pick up the Locally Grown Guide, visit www.buylocalfood.org or call 665-7100.