Farmer Dave was raised on Marsh Hill in Dracut, Massachusetts. At an early age he began working on the Brox Farm in Dracut, learning the intricacies of New England farming from John Brox who had been tilling that land since the 1920s.
After graduating from college Farmer Dave served in the Peace Corps as a crop extensionist. In the Andes of Ecuador he taught organic agriculture and worked with farmers to improve their soil health, crop yields, irrigation systems, crop storage, animal health, and marketing methods. All these efforts bettered their families’ nutrition and livelihood. Upon returning from Ecuador in 1997 he began leasing the Brox Farm, growing vegetables and flowers.
In 2003 he was asked to offer his fresh products to a neighboring community and began also leasing the East Street Farm in Tewksbury. He also began farming two other small local farms and turned the rundown pastures into verdant fields. Working closely with those trying to preserve farmland for future agriculture, in 2006 he finally purchased his own farm in Dracut from the Leczynski family. This became known as Farmer Dave’s Dumaresq Farm, or simply “Farmer Dave’s.” With this new and largest farm, Farmer Dave is growing for the future by planting a wide variety of long term crops including apples, blueberries, raspberries and herbs. More recently Farmer Dave also began growing fruit at the Hill Orchard in Westford. There he not only harvests tons of sweet peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots, but also offers ten acres of pick your own apples.
From 2011-2014 Farmer Dave continued his passion of helping those less fortunate by spending several winters in the Republic of Georgia. In this most southern of the former soviet republics, Farmer Dave taught farmers young and old the modern methods of growing crops in both heated and unheated greenhouses, with the goal of improving the economy of the country by increasing food production and reducing the imports of food. He designed training programs to teach small farmers the finer details of growing better and healthier crops. More recently in February 2015 he taught at an agricultural college in Ethiopia. Though he is sent teach, Farmer Dave learns a lot from those older farmers on the other side of the world. This knowledge he brings home to grow better food right here in Massachusetts.
Clem remembers rising early in the morning as a youth, hours before school began to work with his brother to carry the banana and cacao from his family’s farm, bringing it to the local wholesale depot. He knows farming; he has always known farming.
Throughout his youth and his adult life Clem has been drawn to working with his hands, and working to cultivate and grow food. He’s had experiences of working both in Jamaica, and through the H2A program began working in the US in apple orchards in Maine and sugar cane fields in Florida. More recently he was a part of the team at Simone Farms in nearby Methuen, MA. For the past four years we have been fortunate to work with Clem at Farmer Dave’s.
As the field manager at Farmer Dave’s, Clem works with Dave and the rest of the team in the preparation of the fields, planting, harvesting, weeding and making sure the vegetables and fruit are growing well. He says the thing he enjoys most is watching the lettuce grow and size up. ‘It makes me feel good to see the food grow’. He also says there is nothing that compares to being able to work in the fields and have a snack harvested right from the ground. ‘Just pick it and wipe off the dirt a little and you’ve got breakfast.’
While he has had the opportunity to work in other professions, Clem knows he wouldn’t enjoy anything as much as he enjoys farming. He believes it doesn’t make sense to have work that you don’t enjoy doing. With Farmer Dave’s he has a great sense of satisfaction with his work, and says those he works with are like family.
Clem’s favorite vegetable is romaine lettuce and loves it steamed with garlic, scallions, onions and pepper. He insists it cooks just like spinach. He’ll also eat it in salad, but forgoes the traditional ceasar dressing for Italian dressing; “It’s the best one to use.”
Elyse joined the Farmer Dave’s team in 2012 after graduating from Emmanuel College, where she studied Graphic Design. She started out in East Street Farm stand, and has since transitioned to operations. Elyse works with Dave and Clem to plan the weekly shares. She creates the harvest lists and truck schedules, and oversees packing and quality control.
Elyse loves working at Farmer Dave’s because she enjoys the people she works with and she feels fulfilled when CSA members are happy about their shares. Her favorite vegetables include broccoli, sugar snap peas, and any variety of squash.
When not at work, Elyse enjoys hiking, travel, and the outdoors.
Cassie joined the Farmer Dave’s crew first as a CSA pick up volunteer in 2013, and then as an employee in 2014. Prior to coming to Farmer Dave’s, she worked in retail for 8 years in customer service and as a hardware buyer.
Cassie loves working at Farmer Dave’s because of the constant contact with the community. She enjoys introducing people to new fruits and vegetables, and inspiring them to try new recipes or cooking methods. She says “I like getting people as excited about food as I am! My favorite vegetable is anything in season. I outgrew the desire to have watermelon in the winter and broccoli in the summer when I learned what peak season flavor was of all my usual favorites. I *do* have a propensity towards kohlrabi though.”
When not at work, Cassie enjoys hanging out with kids and animals. She also loves cooking, and hopes to start a “hippie food for people who hate hippie food” business in the next few years.
After graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in saxophone performance and spending two years as a CSA member and farmers market shopper in Chicago, she decided to leave her office job and turn her passion for CSA and growing great food into a career. She spent the 2007 season as an intern at the Cameron Place CSA in Palisade, Colorado, where she planted seeds, grew vegetables, staffed distribution sites and wrote the CSA newsletter. Then, in the spring of 2008, she moved to Westborough, Massachusetts where she served as the Assistant Farm Manager for Heirloom Harvest CSA.
After spending 2009 in the office at a wholesale greenhouse in Sudbury, she was delighted to join the crew at Farmer Dave’s. She left following the birth of her son, and then returned to the office part-time in 2014. She loves the feeling of coming to a job that is so much in line with her values: fresh local healthy food, building community, and helping the planet. Bethany loves to cook with fresh produce and share ideas and recipes with CSA members. Her favorite vegetables depend on the time of year. Lettuce, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and kabocha squash are amongst her top picks. When not at work, Bethany can be found lifting weights or chasing after her kid.
The Farm Crew
Have you ever wondered who actually cares for the crops in the fields? Who helps Dave and Clem with the transplanting, weeding, irrigation, harvesting, and all the other field work?
The farm crew consists of around 30 people who live year-round in the Merrimack Valley area, and we’re happy to say that the majority have worked at Farmer Dave’s for multiple seasons. Many are from families that have farmed for generations. They bring knowledge of different farming methods from their home countries, adding to the wealth of growing knowledge at Farmer Dave’s.
During the hottest part of the harvest season, they are the ones who arrive at 5 a.m. to pick lettuce before the heat of the day sets in. They are the ones who harvest in the pouring rain when necessary in order to have enough produce for the shares each day. Without their help, there is no way Farmer Dave’s could feed so many families each week.
We tip our hats to the farm crew, without whom Farmer Dave’s would not be possible!
The Farm Stand Crew
If you have ever been to either of our two farm stands, the Brox Farm Stand in Dracut and the East Street Farm Stand in Tewksbury, then you have probably met some of our hard working farm stand crew. At the peak of the season, we have around 10 people helping throughout the week. Some of these folks have been working for Farmer Dave’s every summer for years and others are with us for just here for their school break.
Diane, Susan, and Jenn are the old standbys who help keep operations running throughout the season each year. Each day (we’re open seven days a week during the peak harvest season!) the crew is here early to open the stand and late to close it down. They run the cash registers, stock the shelves, and husk the corn. And, of course, like most people on the farm, they aren’t always stuck in the stand. They work at the farmers markets, help out with the CSA, work in the greenhouses, and help out wherever else they’re needed.
Check back soon for more farmer biographies!