Beginning farmers, “wanna-be” farmers, restaurant owners, curious foodies, and more gathered on a beautiful August evening at the certified organic Circle Brook Farm in Andover to join John Krueger, the 100-acre farm’s owner and operator, on a tour through the farm’s greenhouses and diversified fields. As we journeyed through tomato trellis jungles, seas of butternut squash, and mazes of corn fields, John told the story of his farming adventure. Between managing different farming operations in the Blairstown and Andover areas, and taking over operations in 2008 as the owner of Circle Brook Farm, John has collected over 25 years of experience transitioning and maintaining large parcels of land organically.

John’s playful and curiosity-based approach to farming is inspiring. Asking himself questions like “What can I do to help this plant grow more successfully or use this space most efficiently?” has guided him to feed thousands of families through multiple CSA groups and farmers’ markets. Each winter, John travels down to Central America in search of his next exotic trial. One of his recent discoveries is Golden Berries, a husked relative of the ground cherry and tomatillo. These large, sweet berries are produced by heat-loving, prolific plants, thriving in the hot and dry summer we’ve had this year.

Even though John and his 18-person crew at Circle Brook Farm are well-versed in the challenges that drought can bring to an organic farm, that doesn’t make it easy. Between deciding which crops have the most urgent needs for water, adjusting the timing of everything – plantings, weeding, harvesting – and everything in between, farmers constantly have impossibly hard decisions to make, especially in drought years. John encourages beginning farmers to be adaptive to the hardships. “Seasons ebb and flow,” he says. “Some years are going to be better than others, of course. Each year, it’s all about finding innovative ways to adapt to the challenges that the season brings.”

By the time we had wandered out to the back fields, the skies started looking angry. Most of the farmers in the crowd agreed that if we sought out shelter, the rain would pass and not wet the fields . . . so we agreed to keep venturing until the dark clouds were too close for comfort. We and the fields got a much-needed shower while high-tailing back to John’s packhouse and storage barn to marvel at prolific bulbs of garlic larger than small fists.

Thank you to everyone who attended for spending the evening with us! Thank you to John and his amazing crew at Circle Brook Farm for your hospitality and generosity.

Stay tuned for more On-Farm Field Days and workshops in the future!

Circle Brook Farm’s website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Foodshed Alliance Facebook and Instagram.

This project is supported by a three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2021-49400-35613.