Bardwell Farm, located in the town center, will have vegetables for sale during the Pedal to Pasture fundraiser for CISA, Community Involved In Sustaining Agriculture, a South Deerfield nonprofit supporting farms and farmers.
Reminder Publishing photo by Doc Pruyne

HATFIELD — Warm sunshine on a Sunday morning, delicious food and easy exercise will make June 2 a day for biking pleasure among the farms and fields of Hatfield. A nonprofit, CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, will stage a fundraiser that morning that loops around three farms and serves up Crooked Stick popsicles at the end.

The three farms on the route are very different, offering riders a great opportunity to see behind the scenes at local farmstands. Riders will meet up at Prospect Meadow Farm, where farmers grow vegetables, mushrooms and pigs. Riders will also see how the farm also gives farmers with developmental challenges a reason to get up and go to work.

“It benefits all the individuals that come here, from all parts of the valley,” said Rafi Kurtz-Boucher, senior program director at Prospect Meadow Farm. “It gives them purpose. It gives them something meaningful to do on a day to day basis.”

Growing food to feed hungry families is a profoundly meaningful livelihood. The farmers at Prospect Meadow Farm raise meat pigs, vegetables and shiitake mushrooms. According to Shawn Robinson, vice president of vocational services at Prospect Meadow Farm, CISA has been instrumental in making the farm commercially viable.

“Our relationship with CISA goes all the way back to the very beginning of the farm,” Robinson said. “When we were first getting pigs — that was a big step for us, transitioning to pigs — we found out that CISA had a mentorship program.”

CISA hired a mentor to teach the Prospect Meadow newcomers how to raise pigs. The mentor trained them, then came to the farm to observe their operation and give feedback, all paid for by CISA. Robinson said the farm staff was so new they were hesitant to ask other farmers for help, “So it was great to have someone break that ice.”

Breaking the ice between farmers and bikers is one reason CISA scheduled the Pedal to Pasture fundraiser. Wendy Ferris, a development director at CISA, knows that most people pull the car over, buy leeks and carrots, then take off without ever speaking to a farmer. CISA is so much about creating relationships, Ferris said, that giving riders a chance to chat with a farmer is a golden opportunity to serve the nonprofit’s mandate.

“We love to engage our community in what’s happening on farms,” Ferris said. “When you’re biking in this region … you’re passing by farms, but this is a chance to stop and get a look behind the scenes about what’s being grown, and what challenges and rewards farmers are facing.”

While Prospect Meadow Farm, where the Pedal to Pasture ride will begin and end, was born this century, Bardwell Farm is more than 300 years old. Current owner Harrison Bardwell is the ninth generation of the family to work the diversified vegetable farm located downtown, near Hatfield Town Hall.

The family farm came to Harrison Bardwell equipped with two mentors, dad and granddad, who started his farming education at the age of thirteen. The patriarchs knew how to work the farm in their own generations; but Harrison Bardwell has to know about labor law, marketing and many other challenges his forebears didn’t face. He’s thankful CISA was there to help him deal with all that came at him.

“They make us able to not have to know everything off the top of our head, right off the bat,” Bardwell said. “The labor law issue, it’s an important thing. If it goes wrong it can fall back on me … [And] whether that’s employee labor law [or] an issue with climate change, they’re really open and willing to promote and push whatever the farms really need.”

Golonka Farm will be the third growing operation on the ride. The farm was started by the previous generation of the family, Mary and Bernie, who passed on their desire to feed the neighborhood. Ferris thinks that’s one of the most lovely benefits of living in the valley: living where your food grows.

“We saw it during COVID: local farms are able to pivot much faster and provide food for people at really critical times when our global food system was not,” Ferris said. “From a purely safety and security perspective, local farms are important. They just provide so much joy to people, having really delicious food grown right here, by our neighbors.”

The course will take two groups of riders, limited to 20 in each group, through a 12 mile loop on primarily flat land. Those interested in participating in the Pedal to Pasture fundraiser, which Ferris hopes to make a yearly event, must register on the CISA website, buylocalfood.org. Donations for riders are on a sliding scale from $75 to $150, with children $40.

“Without the support of CISA, I don’t know that many farmers would be able to face all these different challenges. Sometimes you need a cheerleader and someone who brings people together. CISA does that,” Robinson said. “And they get to see the wonderful land at Prospect Meadow Farm.”