On June 10, five Massachusetts farms took a step further into good health by stepping up to fight cancer. Davidian Brothers Farm in Northborough, Pine Island Farm in Sheffield, Sauchuk Farm in Plympton, Willow Brook Farm in Holliston and Nourse Farms in South Deerfield each hosted a Camping for a Cure kids’ fair and camp-out, full of fun for kids, their families and farm visitors. Area farms and businesses donated goods for raffles.
Pine Island Farm opted to offer an optional canoe event rather than the fair.
These five farms took time out from their busiest time of year to open their land to this fundraiser spearheaded by Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Promotion and Education Committee chairman Michael Davidian of Davidian Brothers Farm and Katelyn Parsons, MFBF’s director of marketing and membership.
Monies raised went toward the donation account raised by the MFBF’s Pan-Mass Challenge bike team. Parsons noted that the PMC takes the money and puts it into a PMC account which goes to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“One hundred percent of the rider raised donations goes to Dana Farber,” said Davidian. Started in 1980 by Billy Starr, the PMC is a fundraising bike-a-thon that originally traversed Sturbridge to Provincetown. This year it is slated for Aug. 5 and 6, when bicyclists choose to ride one of eight to 10 routes along 750 miles. PMC helps bridge “the shortfall between research and getting things done,” explained Davidian.
The MFBF itself is 6,000 farm members strong. Joining the fight against cancer resonated for the members as MFBF Vice President Bruce Howden has leukemia and must go for transfusions every 28 days, according to Parsons. He owns Howden Farm in Sheffield.
Camping for a Cure was Davidian’s idea. Trying to think of a way to use his farm and highlight agriculture he hosted the first Camping for a Cure last year in September. Expecting 50 people, 250 showed up and got a chance to show support and visit a working farm. Sixty people camped out in his peach orchard. This year 350 visited and 110 camped out. Children also got to see a camel, petting zoo and color in cards for distribution to hospitals. “We raised $4,000 just at our farm,” he said.
It is Davidian’s ninth year riding in a team for PMC. Last year, his team raised $390,000. This year, he’s on the five member MFBF team. There is a $300 rider registration fee which must be paid out of their own pocket and covers drinks and food along the way.
With 6,000 plus PMC riders “each person has to raise a minimum of $4,800,” said Davidian. “I don’t do this ride specifically for pediatric cancer; yes, I have relatives that have had cancer, either terminal or they’ve beat it. Statistically, one to three will get cancer sometime in their life. With those statistics, in my family of four, one of them will get cancer. I do what I do because someday one of my family will have some need of some kind of treatment. I want to make sure I’ve invested all I can so they can have the best treatment available.”
This year, Davidian and Parsons put 100 percent of themselves into canvassing from Plympton to Sheffield asking farms to participate and getting this years’ event off the ground.
Rachel Monette is Nourse Farm’s chief of compliance and safety. She is also their self-proclaimed “event queen.” They were the only farm in Western Massachusetts hosting the event.
Started in 1932, the farm sells strawberry and fruit plants online across the country, Canada, Mexico and on site. But they had a field they could open up as they don’t sell U-pick strawberries anymore. Seventeen families had signed up for overnight camping. “We didn’t do a lot of advertising — didn’t do a lot of social media — mostly a lot of word of mouth,” she said. When they asked people to donate items for raffle prizes, raffle prize gifts poured in. This event is very close to Monette’s heart, as her mom is battling cancer.
Nourse Farms’ owner, Tim Nourse, was on hand at his Whately farm. “I think this is a horrendous disease. A lot of people are affected. Whatever we can do to make it extinct, that would be great.”
Meanwhile, each farm made it a day for families and children to build happy lifelong memories. At Nourse Farm, teamster Sam White of Belchertown, MA gave wagon rides to families, driving a team of 16-year-old Belgians named Rick and Ranger, owned by Barry Roberts of Muddy Brook Drafts, Amherst MA. Nourse Farm staff spotted children as they climbed into a John Deere tractor to see the view from the driver’s seat. Greenhouse manager Jim Walsh gave a tour of the greenhouse.
The event had a giant chess set from Sunderland’s Warner Farm, pony rides provided by Welsh Creek Farm from Westfield, and many other activities. Participants were introduced to Tinkerbell, a 17-year-old Welsh pony who doesn’t travel anywhere without her lop-eared black and white rabbit, held by owner Nikki Beltrandi.