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Save the Farm!

Dear Friends of Evergreen Berry Farm,

We urgently need your help! Your voice of opposition to a 150-foot cell tower in high visibility and close proximity to you and your family while picking your blueberries needs to be heard by the CT Siting Council. The proposed tower is sited on Gustafson farmland on the ridge in front of you as you enter the blueberry field. It would be within 600 – 1350 feet of you at every bush. It would rise nearly 70 feet over the tree line!

We disagree with AT&T /North Atlantic Towers’ application Visual Resource Report that states: “the proposed facility does not interfere with or reduce the public’s enjoyment and/or appreciation of the appearance of any areas considered to be aesthetic resources”. The council needs to know how wrong ATT/North Atlantic is and that you want to preserve the scenic and recreational value of the berry farm.

Farmer Bob has worked hard for decades creating and maintaining a natural landscape so that once you are in the blueberry field you can look in all directions and see only the natural landscape. No structures or utilities are visible. These rare unadulterated landscapes are fast disappearing in CT. Help us preserve this one!

In 1997 Watertown had 5954 acres of agricultural land. Today only 2456 remain! Now AT&T is proposing to blight two farms with a cell tower between them.

There are, in fact, alternatives to the proposed siting. For instance, Gustafson Farm is over 362 acres and AT&T has designated two other sites that could potentially be used. Both of these would NOT impact Evergreen Berry Farm or the wildlife corridor between the farms. Additionally, the Town of Watertown is on record that a tower in this area should be sited on town property nearby where tower leasing revenue would benefit the whole town.

Even still, the AT&T application states the tower would improve coverage to the area by only 17%. Is this minimal gain in coverage really worth the aesthetic loss to the region?

You travel from near and far by the thousands each summer to enjoy this threatened landscape.

There are two ways you can help.

1)      If you live nearby, please come to the Public Hearing on Thursday, October 27th at the Watertown High School Auditorium at 7pm. You will simply need to state your name, address, and position on the tower’s negative impact on your enjoyment of the farm and its surroundings.

2)     Write the Siting Council directly at 10 Franklin Square, New Britain CT 06051 and reference Docket 422. Again include your name, address, and concern for impact on the farm and area surroundings. Letters may be received by the council up until April 6th, 2012 as the hearing was continued to March 6th. Public comment may be received up until 30 days after the hearing.

Thank you so much for your support. We look forward to seeing you all next summer and we are working hard to be sure the farm will be the same as you left it last.

Farmer Bob and Cathee Alex

435 Bassett Road

Watertown, CT 06795

Details for cell tower application at 655 Bassett Road: http://www.ct.gov/csc/site/default.asp click on: “pending proceedings”, then: “docket 422”


Established 1979 by owners Bob and Cathee Alex
Located in the beautiful Litchfield Hills of Connecticut on 29 acres of secluded
field, forest, and ponds.
Organically managed with special attention to soil biology and nutrition.
Come join the harvest!

435 Bassett Rd, Watertown, CT 06795
860-274-0825

Harvest Season 2014 Begins
Monday July 7th! 8am to 8pm
Call Before Your Visit for Berry Update!


Facebook



Picking Weather

Hours

July 7th - Mid August 8 am to 8 pm Everyday
Mid August to Mid September 8 am to Noon Tue/Thu/Sat

Call ahead or check out our Facebook Page
for updated picking conditions
860-274-0825


Pick-Your-Own

Blueberries - July to Mid September

Black Raspberries - Early to Mid July
Red Raspberries - Not Available 2014 (soil renovation)
Blackberry - Not Available 2014 (soil renovation)


Prices for 2014 Season

(Accept Cash or Check Only)

Blueberries
Pick-Your-Own
$2.49/lb

Pre-Picked
(Available July 8th through 1st week of August)
$4.00 per Pint
$8.00 per Quart

Black Raspberries
Pick-Your-Own
$6.00/lb (converts to approx. $4.50pt)


Children are welcome, but please no pets
Containers are provided or bring your own
Follow signs on Route 63 to Bassett Road


What We Grow


Blueberries: July to August (to mid September with a cool summer)

Black Raspberries: Early to Mid July

Summer Red Raspberries: Not Available 2014 (soil renovation)

Blackberries: Not Available 2014 (soil renovation)


Our Blueberry Varities


Season Varieties Size Flavor
Early: early July
  Bluetta medium sweet
  Spartan large sweet
  Patriot large tart
  Northland medium sweet
Early mid: mid-late July
  Duke medium sweet
  Bluecrop large sweet
  Blueray large sweet
Mid: early August
  Burlington medium sweet
  Colville large sweet
Mid Late: mid August
  Jersey medium sweet
  Nelson large sweet
Late: late August, early September
  Brigetta large tart
  Elliot large sweet

Seasons


What makes for a deliciously sweet berry?

A year long labor of love from farmer Bob!


Here is a behind the scenes look at a year in the life of Farmer Bob whose labors brings to you that wonderful summer harvest:


Fall:

The field is beautiful with deep red foliage on the bushes contrasting the green grass. Blueberry bushes set buds in the fall for next summer's crop. Fertilizing and watering are critical to a good bud set. Also, mowing the grass (fifteen acres of it!) and spreading mulch for weed control keeps Farmer Bob busy. There is six miles of row to manage for irrigation and mulching. Once falls draws to a close the irrigation system is drained for the winter.  




Winter:

When the bushes are dormant (dropped all their leaves) pruning is done to remove the old canes and to promote new growth. New cane growth means new blueberries! He has almost seven thousand bushes to attend to. Farmer Bob typically prunes about a third of the field each winter

Raspberries are also pruned to remove the old canes. Old canes have a silvery peeling bark while the new canes have a smooth red appearance. Like blueberries, the fruit is produced on the new canes, not the old.

Rodent control is set out in the field to prevent them from nibbling and girdling the base of the bushes and canes.

When there is inclement weather Farmer Bob can be found in the barn where there is plenty of equipment maintenance and repairs to be done after a season of hard work.

Farmer Bob is also a falconer. Fall and winter is spent not only tending to the fields but also training his Gyr/Saker hybrid falcon to fly to a lure. The Gyr/Saker falcon is an agile falcon that preys on smaller berry eating birds. Falcons make great security guards for the berry patch during the summer harvest. Just their presence keeps berry eating birds out of the field. 




Spring:

This is a very labor intensive season as plant and soil health is assessed and treated. Fertilizing to invigorate both the soil and plants is accomplished with a medley of natural cold pressed fish hydrolysate, compost tea, kelp, molasses, aged manure, select minerals and more applied both directly on the ground and as a foliar spray. The berries require an inch of water a week, so depending on the rain irrigation may be required. The system is turned on and checked for leaks. Weed control is accomplished by hand and continued mulching. New plants are put in. The grass is growing again too so many hours are put in on the mower. Raspberries are trellised and tied for easy harvesting and easy mowing in between the rows. 




Summer:

This is a very busy time of year resulting in typically fourteen hour days for Farmer Bob. Supplies ordered in the spring arrive for the harvest season, the marketing barn is opened and cleaned, rows are marked for best picking, and post cards are mailed to let you know a new season has begun! We are open every day for twelve hours from 8 am to 8 pm July and August, but Farmer Bob is up with the sun and quits with the sun. Plastic owls, "scare eyes", flash tape, "Zeke" the scarecrow, and the mechanical bird distress call are all set out in the field for bird control. Sticky traps are used to monitor for insect pests. Soil conductivity and berry refraction data is collected to monitor the nutritional status of both the soil and the berries. Weedwacking, mowing (again!), irrigating, and a myriad of other small details that any business owner faces occupy the rest of his day along with organizing summer field hands. On Sundays our staff is off and Farmer Bob can be found manning the marketing barn where you can grill him on the latest blueberry growing techniques and the state of the crop. You'll hear smooth jazz, his favorite, playing on the radio! 


Enjoy the berries! We enjoy having you visit each summer. And remember:

Are you well fed? Thank God, and then Thank the Farmer!


Our History


Evergreen Berry Farm was established July 13th, 1979 by current owners Bob and Cathee Alex.  Originally part of Watertown's Hiram French Farm dating back to the 1800's, the 28 acre parcel was purchased as an abandoned corn field, woodlot and wetland that had been left untended for nearly a decade.

The inspirations for growing blueberries came from Bob's fond memories of childhood outings picking blueberries with his mom, as well as an idyllic excursion in an old model A Ford through Great Mountain Forrest of Norfolk to a secluded patch owned by his mentor Mr. Edward C Childs. Mr. Child's confidence in a young man's dream to build a berry patch for future generations of families to visit would be the catalyst for the birth of Evergreen Berry Farm in a time when farms were, and still are, fast disappearing.

The first summer of ownership was spent removing a thousand feet of treed hedge row along a stone wall that had cut the field into two sections. Now an open twelve acre field was ready for soil conditioning. Blueberries like acidic soil, so the limey ph needed for corn crops had to be reversed to an acidic ph with the application of sulfur. (Homeowners can do this for their blueberry bushes with Hollytone or similar).  The field was also plowed and harrowed in preparation for a cover crop of red fescue grass that would eventually lie between the rows of blueberries, making it easy for visitors to stroll along in search of the sweetest berries!

The following spring, two weeks before Bob and Cathee's wedding in May of 1980, seven thousand two-year-old blueberry whips arrived and were placed in nursery beds. Over the next three springs the bushes were individually laid out in neatly contoured rows with meticulous thought to spacing for optimum growth, farmer and visitor access. Each bush was planted in a carefully prepared two foot diameter augured hole mulched and watered. Also during this time the flower buds were removed by hand to prevent berry production and force the plants energy into strong root growth which would ultimately create higher yields.

In the summer of 1982 we harvested our first crop. The yield from all seven thousand bushes fit on one old cast iron counter balance scale! This would soon change as the buds were allowed to mature and yields would grow from hundreds to thousands of pounds! Evergreen Berry Farm first opened to the public in 1983 and was picked out in four days! In 1984 we lasted six days, and in 1985 sixteen days. Finally in 1986, we had our first full summer of daily harvesting from early July to Labor Day. We continue to be open daily 8 am to 8 pm through the summer. In1986 we added small patches of red, black and gold raspberry, Blackberry in 1996, and Elderberry in 1999.

In the midst of planting the construction of an equipment barn was accomplished 1981 that required a special permit to be built before our home. There was no power at the barn and berries were weighed in on that old cast iron counter balance scale much to the amusement of our visitors. The scale still sits proudly in the barn today as a constant reminder of our beginning. It wasn't until 1986 when our home was under construction that power arrived to the barn and more efficient scales were used.

During construction of our home, and true to the old adage "new house, new baby(s)" our family grew with three children in three years with the arrival of Julie (March1985), Caitlin(September1986), and James(February1988). They have grown up to be fine young adults exploring careers in teaching and medical sciences. They grew up helping to run the farm, understand the value of hard work, and appreciate the natural beauty of our little corner of Watertown in the Litchfield hills and the world.

To avoid the effects of drought and maintain a consistent crop of berries, our first pond was dug in 1992. Of course as nature and luck would have it a drought occurred in 1993 before the irrigation lines were installed. Using Yankee ingenuity Bob put to work an old 1961 pumper fire truck. Bridgewater's retired Engine No3 brought water to each bush, a major time consuming but necessary task. By 1995 the irrigation lines were completed and the berries now enjoy the inch of water a week they need during the growing season whether Mother Nature provides it or not!

1997 brought a bigger equipment barn on the scene up near our home and paved the way for the original shed to be renovated in 2000 for "just berries"! A large commercial cooler and telephone arrived. The sorting machine was positioned behind a new counter so visitors could observe the sorting and packing process of hand harvested blueberries. Our pre-picked blueberries are harvested daily, sorted, packed, and sold within twenty-four hours insuring the freshest sweetest berries to our buyers. Fresh blueberries will stay nice in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and freeze for two years, although they are usually eaten well before either date arrives! The base of our antique wagon was rescued from behind an abandoned shed at the Gunnery ponds in Washington Depot and refurbished to its original glory when the top was found on the Rockefeller estate in New York. The wagon now holds our picking pails; is the first stop for visitors; and has become a favorite photo spot.

In 2001 a second pond at the farm's entrance was added. Bob created a gravity feed siphon to allow for the natural flow of water from the new upper pond to the original lower pond doubling our water supply for the berries. Drainage has been added most recently to the field in the wettest areas to improve the health of the bushes' root systems.

After extensive soils research during the fall of 2012 into the winter of 2013 Farmer Bob made a determined decision to forego conventional farming practices that utilize integrated pest management, herbicides, and soil samples that lead to granular fertilizers as taught and promoted by our Universities and Extension Services, to instead wholly incorporate only organic biological soil management techniques that have been around since the early 1900’s. The intent of biological farming is to re-nourish the soil with ‘whole foods’ instead of chemical fertilizers. Additions of kelp, molasses, aged manure, minerals, humates and other micronutrients to the soil along with foliar sprays of compost tea and fish hydrolysate serve to rejuvenate the soil and the plants ability to take up nutrition via a healthier root system. This in turn increases the overall vigor of the plants as well as enhancing the nutritive value of our crops that your bodies enjoy! This initiative to convert to biological farming came as a result of Farmer Bob’s disappointing observations of lackluster plant growth and renewal season after season despite a blend of conventional and organic practices. Each new season should see a robust recovery of the berry field as soil nutrition is replenished with the appropriate micronutrients!

Building Evergreen Berry Farm continues to be an evolving labor of love accomplished by countless hours of toil by both family and friends. Our parents and children have helped to make this a multi-generational achievement. You can meet Bob's mom Ruth on most mornings at the barn during the harvest season or find her tying raspberries in the spring or on the mower in the fall. When Cathee's mom, a master gardener, is around on the weekends, she will make sure there are fresh flowers at the counter coupled with a friendly smile and conversation on the best berry recipes. Siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and neighbors have all had a hand in the success of our farm.

And of course you, our visitors, who berry by berry, make the harvest possible each year must be thanked for your continued patronage. We look forward to welcoming all ages to our farm for generations to come. We hope that you all have a great time making treasured family memories in the berry patches of Evergreen Berry Farm.

The Alex Family


Our Most Requested Recipes


No Bake Blueberry Pie

8 or 9 inch baked pie shell

4 cups Blueberries

1 cup water

3 Tbs cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

Line a cooled 8 or 9 inch pie shell with 3 cups of fresh blueberries. Simmer 1 cup of mashed berries with 1 cup water for about 4 minutes. Combine cornstarch and sugar. Add to cooked fruit and stir constantly until thick and clear. Add lemon juice and cool slightly. Pour over berries in pie shell. Chill and serve!
 


Berried Treasures (Muffins)

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk

1 to 2 cups of blueberries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flower a 12 cup muffin pan or use liners. In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients. With pastry blender cut in butter until crumbly. In another bowl mix milk, eggs, and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients all at once stirring until just moistened . Do not over mix. Fold in berries and spoon into muffin pan.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.


Chicken Pasta Salad with Blueberries

1 (9oz) package thawed or 1 lb fresh prepared green beans

3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts (about 1 lbs skinned and boned)

3 cups cooked fusilli (1 lb spiral pasta)

1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh blueberries

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (chives or scallions)

2 tsp fresh oregano

1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt

1/4 cup and 1 Tbs mayonnaise

3 Tbs vinegar

1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Press thawed green beans in paper towel to dry. Combine with chicken, pasta, blueberry, celery, onion, oregano in large bowl. Combine yogurt, mayo, salt, pepper, and vinegar in separate bowl and stir well. Pour over chicken mixture and toss gently. Chill and serve over lettuce. Serves 6


For a wide variety of recipe ideas visit:

http://allrecipes.com/recipes/fruits-and-vegetables/fruits/berries/blueberries/


Stewardship


Stewardship is the farmer's care, conservation and management of his land. It reflects an awareness of his responsibility to protect our earth's environment. This would include acknowledging how his farm practices affect the earth's soil, air, water, and energy resources as well as the impact on surrounding plant and animal habitats.

Farmer Bob currently manages Evergreen Berry Farm biologically, an organic science that prioritizes soil nutrition to invigorate the plants. Healthy plants produce highly productive and nutritious berries for your consumption. Healthy plants also build strong immune systems that are able to fend off insects and diseases without the use of pesticides. Biological farming practices on our farm include:

  • Annual soil tests to monitor pH and all aspects of soil nutrition

  • Mulching of the plant rows with wood chips and composted horse manure to help control weed growth and improve soil organic matter

  • Weed control without herbicides via hand weeding and the use of a weedwacker

  • Foliar spray applications of cold pressed fish hydrosylate and liquid kelp to provide amino acids and trace micro-nutrients to the plants.

  • Drip irrigation to conserve water and energy use, while maintaining adequate water supply to the plants to produce their juicy berries.

  • Minimizing erosion and protecting soil quality by maintaining five-foot wide strips of grass between each contoured row of berries. Additionally, water diversions, which look like grassy swales between the berry rows, help divert excess rain water off the sloping land, further protecting the land from erosion.

  • Flash tape, scare eyes, a bird distress call audio machine, and the presence of Farmer Bob’s hunting falcon to reduce bird damage to the crops.

  • Monitoring insect pests with sticky traps. Removing pests by hand picking off the plants, as well as encouraging the activity of our local bats! A bat house has been installed on the equipment barn to boost their presence as they are great insect eaters!

  • Incorporating field borders with nectar producing plant materials, riparian forest and herbaceous buffers to encourage healthier native plant populations, add protection for the aquatic habitat, as well as improve the populations of native pollinators (bumblebees!) and other beneficial insects.

  • A small, intermittent stream flows from the farm into the nearby Wigwam Reservoir. The environmental care that goes into all the farming practices here at Evergreen Berry Farm helps to protect the drinking water quality of the reservoir and the aquatic habitat in the Central Housatonic Watershed. Farmer Bob has been recognized by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Security Program (CSP) as a model farm.

    Our farm recycles all used motor oil for tractors as well as lubricating oil for other farm equipment.

    Farm stewardship is not just a practice on our farm; it is a way of life. We invite you to visit and witness firsthand the respect for our planet earth that is evident here at Evergreen Berry Farm.