Indie Growers: The biggest little farm in the East Bay
They say when you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but if it's true for anyone, it's true for Lee Ann Freitas, a Bristol woman who has parlayed her love of gardening into Indie Growers, Rhode Island's first (and perhaps only) nano-farm. "I made up that name, 'nano farm,'" Ms. Freitas says, "since I'm not large enough to be considered a small farm."
Working out of the greenhouse at Mount Hope Farm, she claims she may also be the only backwards farmer in the area. She starts farming in September and finds herself extremely busy in the dead of winter, when she supplies unique products to discerning restaurants from Bristol to Boston. "I grow the stuff that makes the turnip taste fabulous," Ms. Freitas says. This may include anything from mustard greens to chard, kohlrabi, beets and lettuce. One of her best-selling products is a "blossom box" that may include greens like mache, chervil, and carrot greens, along with edible blossoms. "Kale was trending last year, and this year it's going to be collards, as well as mizuna. That's a fine-cut mustard green with a slight wasabi bite. It's great sautéed, braised, and in salads."
Ms. Freitas tried to do a CSA-type program last year, where she provided produce on a weekly basis to pre-paid customers, but she found it was not a good fit for her clients. "They are, like a lot of us, busy. They want to eat local, organic food but don't have time to try a new recipe every night. So I brought in a chef and this year we are going to do more grab-and-go dishes."
Indie Growers dabbled in chickens last year, but that became….complicated. "I ordered 100 chicks and picked them up at the post office," Ms. Freitas said. "I named them, spent a lot of time talking to them. They were broilers, a variety called 'Dolly Parton,' bred for their breast meat. I've never seen something grow so fast! They got so top-heavy they kept tipping over, and I spent a lot of time just walking around, picking them back up again. It was really hard, as much as I tried to separate from it. The day they were processed, I came to the coop and there were no chickens, just feathers and a lot of bagged chickens in my freezer. It was strange, wondering if this bagged chicken or that bagged chicken was Dolly 1 or Dolly 30. But then I ate them, and they were good.
You can find Indie Growers on Facebook, at the Mount Hope Farmers Market every Saturday, and at Weetamoe Farm, Metacom Avenue in Bristol, from 2-6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays, beginning in late April or early May.