By Barbara Van Reed
Douglas Orchard & Farm was the very first stop on US Representative Jim McGovern’s two-day farm tour in late August. It was the congressman’s 7th annual cross-district tour to meet with farmers, agricultural producers, and community development organizations in Central and Western Massachusetts to highlight the success of the region’s agricultural industry and its role in growing the local economy.
McGovern is the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture. He was joined on the tour by staff from the USDA, Mass. State Farm Service Agency, Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources, UMass, Central MA Grown, and local town officials.
“We were absolutely grateful that Congressman McGovern toured our farm and that we were able to convey to him the fact that we’re most proud of saving this 200-year old farm from development,“ said owner Aaron Socrat. “It was good to hear him speak in support of local small farmers.”
The Socrat family, which includes Aaron’s wife Patty, who runs the country store, and son Nick, who’s the full-time farmer, are newcomers to farm ownership. The Socrats purchased the property, located at 36 Locust Street, in January 2016, and since that time have worked non-stop to improve it. “We want to make it a place for families to visit and explore farming, as it pertains to both produce and livestock.”
The previous Douglas Orchard owner, Bob Werme, had tended apple trees and blueberries, with hundreds of each on the 18-acre property. Aaron Socrat believes that the acreage has been a farm for well over 200 years, perhaps as long as 300.
The Socrats have made significant improvements to the farm’s infrastructure, farmhouse, orchards, and country store, where they sell local honey, vegetables and herbs, organic chicken and duck eggs, and crafts.
Aaron is enthusiastic about the latest developments. “We bought a dump truck, a used one. That was very exciting for the farm,” he said with a big grin. “We use it for picking up boulders and delivering them.”
The pigs are going to slaughter on September 13, and 60 poultry chickens are “going to market” as well. Plans are underway for the addition of a greenhouse and performance pavilion.
Douglas Orchard & Farm held a Bees, Music, and Family Fun Day on September 1, and in the spirit of the season, will host The Witching Hour on October 14.
Perhaps most exciting of all for the Socrat family is that the farm now has an official USDA-assigned tract number.
The store at 36 Locust Street in Douglas will be open year-round, including Saturdays in winter from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Highloft Farm in Sutton was Mr. McGovern’s second stop on the 2017 farm tour. He also visited farms in Paxton, Rutland, Oakham, New Braintree, Barre, Belchertown, Amherst, and more.