Tucked into a quiet pocket of land hidden among the looming shadows of urban   development lies a small and beautiful farm - Waltham Fields Community Farm.  Currently celebrating ten years of community agriculture, it is a working farm   in a city whose history of farming has been eclipsed by industry and technology.  From the early grazing pastures of the first European settlers until the past   decade, this area has been home to generations of family farmers. Early farm   families included the Stearns, Wellingtons, Sandersons, and Hardys, and the many   generations of Smith family farms along Lake Street in Waltham. The large   country estates of the Warren, Gore, and Lyman families included land that was   used for dairy and vegetable production. During the 1920s and 30s Italian   immigrants began farming the Castella, Rando, Farese, Torola, Tomao, and Chicco   family farms here.

Around that same time, dairy farmer and philanthropist Cornelia Warren’s   farmland on Beaver Street was conveyed for use by the Massachusetts College of   Agriculture. In 1930 it became known as the Waltham Field Station, an   agricultural research lab run by what is now the University of Massachusetts.  Known as "truck market gardeners," the local farmers relied on the college   services as a support for their commercial needs: identifying pests, assessing   new crop varieties, conducting soil tests, and providing a central meeting place   for farmer’s needs. Most famous among the new varieties of vegetables developed   at the Field Station was the Waltham Butternut Squash. (The Waltham Butternut   Squash is still grown at Waltham Fields Community Farm today.)

In the decade leading up to 1998, farming in the Waltham area was declining   with the closing of the DeVincent, Pizzi, Ricci, Arigo, and other family farms.  But in 1995, Oakes Plimpton and a group of inspired supporters rented four acres   at the now closed UMass Field Station to start Waltham Fields Community Farm. It   was entirely run by volunteers whose goal was to grow food and give it away to   charity. Today, Waltham Fields Community Farm includes seven acres of land at   the Field Station and three acres at the Lyman Estate. It is managed by   Community Farms Outreach, a nonprofit organization which seeks to promote and   support local farms, provide fresh and nutritious food to low-income   individuals, and teach adults and children about sustainable food production.  Since 1995, Waltham Fields Community Farm has donated over 150,000 pounds of   produce to hunger relief agencies in the region.

Cornelia Warren would be pleased with what’s been happening on her land these   days; she’d approve of the fact that her farmland has been preserved and that it   is being farmed for the benefit of the community. She would be pleasantly   surprised that the farmer and farmers-in-training are often women. In a few   weeks, varieties of peppers with names like FatNSassy, Lipstick, and Chocolate   will be seeded. Ruby Red Rhubarb, Sundance Summer Squash, and Yellow Doll   Watermelon will start to sprout, alongside Green Forest Lettuce and Easter Egg   Radish. With a lot of work and a little luck, over two million seeds will be   started in the hopes that woodchucks, weeds, and water will be kind to the   fields.

The public is invited to celebrate ten years of community farming at Waltham   Fields Community Farm by attending Community Farms Outreach’s Annual Spring   Fling and Silent Auction, April 2nd from 5:00-9:00 p.m. at the UMass Field   Station, 240 Beaver Street in Waltham. For information visit   http://www.communityfarms.org.

(Gretta Anderson is current President of Community Farms Outreach Board of   Directors. Dee Kricker is a Waltham resident and past President of CFO Board of   Directors.)