by Sanne Kure-Jensen
The owners of 4 Town Farm know their customers value a “farm experience,” not just fresh food, fabulous flowers or perfect plants. This family-owned, diversified produce farm, located just a few miles from downtown Providence, RI, owes its repeat visitors to its superb customer communication practices, which make for a day of family fun.
4 Town Farm was named for its location at the junction of Seekonk and Swansea, MA, and Barrington and East Providence, RI. The 150-acre farm was started more than 100 years ago by David Peck. Today, Chris Clegg represents the fifth generation to work this land. Nearly everyone in the family has worked on the farm, and seven family members are currently involved. 4 Town Farm started out as a wholesale farm, selling mainly to grocery stores. Today only 20 percent of their produce goes to wholesale customers, including local restaurants and large distributors.
The authentic farm experience at 4 Town Farm allows guests to particpate in PYO produce gathering, educational tours and a corn maze. The PYO crops include strawberries, fava beans, English peas, raspberries, pumpkins and flowers. PYO visitors also enjoy tractor rides to the strawberry or pea fields each June. The PYO flower garden is open from late June through September. PYO raspberries are available from late July through mid-September. Late in the season, tractor rides bring visitors to a small corn maze and pumpkin patch.
The farm stand at 4 Town Farm is open daily from April to Dec. 23. It is known for its fresh asparagus, strawberries, sweet corn and melons. The farm website says, “We grow almost every variety of small fruit and vegetable that can be grown in this climate.” These farmers constantly experiment with new varieties. Each fall the farm stand offers pumpkins, mums, corn stalks, gourds and squashes. The farm also offers nearly a dozen varieties of apples. In the cooler months, the stand offers cut trees and wreaths after a long season of fresh produce and cut flowers.
The farm stand started with Eleanore Clegg, who sold cantaloupes off wooden crates at the end of the street. A covered wagon soon replaced the crates, and in 1972, the farm stand was built. Today, the farm stand sells 80 percent of 4 Town Farm’s produce. The farm’s website reads, “After five generations, we have gotten pretty good at having a constant supply of fresh produce for seven months of the year.”
The garden center welcomes visitors from mid-April through late October with pansies, vegetable herb and annual starts, mixed containers and perennials. Customers can also find assorted perennials, roses, blueberry bushes and other shrubs. Experienced staff include master gardeners, plant biologists, lifelong farmers and “green thumbs”. Staff teach customers how to start a vegetable garden and plant window baskets. The farm also creates custom hanging pots, window boxes and patio containers.
Each October, 4 Town Farm offers educational farm tours for schoolchildren. Tours begin with a tractor ride around the farm. At the carrot greenhouse, students see how carrots are harvested, washed and bagged for shipment. Afterwards a walking tour teaches students how vegetables grow. Students finish through a small corn maze to a pumpkin patch where they select a sugar pumpkin to bring home. Farm tour booking opens Sept. 1 on a first come, first serve basis.
Chris offers tours for Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) and other agricultural groups. Last June, Clegg spoke about Starting Root Vegetables as part of SEMAP’s Twilight Grower Education Series. He shared the farm’s techniques for growing onions, radishes, rutabaga, carrots and beets. He also provided some general farming tips, such as pest control techniques. Clegg mentioned topping corn at 6’ with a corn topper to make birds more visible, and said it is cost effective for 4 Town Farm to have a full-time employee drive between ripening cornfields to scare away birds during times of peak threat.
A thorough website, Facebook page and regular newsletters keep customers alerted to what is available at 4 Town Farm. Newsletters include farm and garden center photos and follow seasonal themes. In the newsletter, readers can also find home decorating tips, recipes, craft projects such as wreath making, and produce sales promotions. A recent Facebook photo contest generated great photos for future marketing efforts, as well as online buzz and extra farm stand traffic.
Five generations of farmers at 4 Town Farm
by Sanne Kure-Jensen