Monday, July 12, 2010

Locally Featured: Volante Farms

In honor of the 4th of July holiday, and the celebration of utter relaxation last Monday, I took a brief hiatus from Locally Featured.  However...this week we are back, and back with a vengeance!  For this week's spotlight, I chose a place that has become very dear to my heart as of late.  My love affair with Volante Farm's in Needham, MA began almost two years ago when John and I were celebrating our first Halloween together.  Since I am not a "costume" person so much, we decided to spend the evening giving out candy to trick or treaters.  Of course, in order to cast out the all important signal to the children of the neighborhood that we were ready to dispense candy into their dressed up hands, we needed jack o' lanterns.  Off to Volante we went and pumpkins were purchased, and I fell in love with the beautiful farmland.  I think that John had that as his alternative motive when he suggested getting the pumpkins there, he knew that the rustic nature of the farm, with the sheer size of the land surrounding it would be a thing of beauty to me.  He was ever so right.  Volante Farms reminded me of my childhood, and immediately made me feel comfortable.  I remember spending hours in various farm stands
all over my home town when I was little, as well as the surrounding towns.  Friends who have visited those areas with me have often remarked that I grew up in "the sticks" as though it was a bad thing.  To me, growing up where cow manure could be smelled when the wind was right, and farm land was preserved, was right.  It was the way it should be.

Of course, that evening, pumpkins were purchased, Jack o' Lanterns were carved and children were served copious amounts of candy (we MAY have been a bit too generous- sorry parents for the sugar highs I'm sure followed).  Since that fateful Halloween though, whenever I miss a Farmer's Market, or just want some fantastic fresh produce, I head to Volante Farms.

Volante's has been around since 1917, when it began on 30 acres in Newton, MA begun by two Italian Immigrants, Peter and Catarina Volante.  Having been farmers themselves in Italy, it was only natural for them to work the land here.  After a short time they were able to lease another 20+ adjacent farm, and by 1920 had fully irrigated the full farm. Quite an accomplishment!  During this time, the Volante's found their success in selling their produce from a truck, often stationed in Faneuil Hall.  The family maintained this business, though after WWII the produce markets in the city began to decline and the Volante's opened a stand outside their own home to sell their produce.  This grew, and finally they purchased 14 acres of land in Needham.

Though today the farm has gone through many changes, the stand still remains on this location in Needham, and is still run by the Volante family, although the brothers attributed with bringing the farm into the modern age by incorporating it, and updating their greenhouses etc, passed away in 2002.  The principles of the farm remain, and they have a pledge to provide the freshest seasonal produce that they are able to.  They aim to have their produce on sale within a day of its harvest.  As I'm sure we all know- food that you can consume that quickly after it is picked is so rich in flavor and full of nutrients.  Volante's also works to ensure their crop is diversified and offer one of the most diverse crops in New England.  What does that mean?  It means more choices for you, it means soil that doesn't get tired of the same crop over and over, and it means that Volante isn't dependent on one "star" crop, but rather dedicates their attention to a variety of different products, produce to flowers, herbs, pumpkins and even holiday trees, garlands and accents.  It may honestly go without saying, but Volante also subscribes to the ideology of Sustainable farming, the idea of giving back to the earth what you take from it.  They practice the same guidelines and routines as they did when it all began, nearly 100 years ago.

At the peak of their season, summer, Volante Farms offers over 20 different varieties of common produce that we purchase every day from our grocery stores.  The difference, of course, is that purchasing your produce at Volante's means that you know that the carrot that you're going to put in tonight's salad was pulled from the ground at most 24 hours ago and is the sweetest and most delicious you can buy.  If you buy the carrots at a grocery store, well who knows how long they sat at a warehouse or on a truck before they made it to the loading dock.  Finally, I have been incredibly impressed with the prices Volante's offers their produce at.  Of course you would anticipate purchasing freshness at a premium, but at Volante's it actually appears that you are getting it at a bargain.  A recent shopping spree that I went on there in which I purchased a ridiculous amount of vegetables and herbs rendered me a bill of just $18.  In my opinion, the amount of farm fresh, flavorful and nutrient rich produce that I was able to purchase for under $20.00 was a bargain.

Volante Farms is a bit of a trip outside the city limits, located on Forest Street in Needham, but I can guarantee that it is worth the trip. 
Other news:
So as I've been writing about-I am in love with my new gym- Healthworks.  To say the least- it is super fantastic. So I wanted to help them spread the word about some great stuff they have going on:

Wednesday is Free Workout Day at all Healthworks. Here are the details:

Also, they are hosting a Les Mills launch for Body Jam and Body Pump on Friday at Back Bay:

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