Residents of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts have depended on David and Diane Kalinowski of Rock Ridge Farm in Northfield, MA, to supply them with healthy, colorful and bountiful Mother’s Day hanging baskets, pansies, annuals and vegetable starter plants for the last 22 years. Their official opening date this year is May 4.

“It’s crazy here on Mother’s Day,” said David as he checked the hanging baskets in one of their three 48-foot hoop houses on their four-acre farm. “People come here from New York because the prices are lower. On Memorial Day weekend we get large crowds from Vermont and New Hampshire when people buy their starter plants … We also sell to plant dealers.”

They started growing perennials and vegetables and selling them 40 years ago in Greenfield, MA. Diane sold their produce out of a large, covered 15-by-five-foot wooden vegetable wagon, offering strawberries, squashes, cucumbers, beans and other vegetables.

“We realized the wagon wasn’t big enough and so we started looking for more room and property and bought this farm,” said Diane.

At first, they rented fertile riverbed land farther south along the Connecticut River to augment growing their own tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, beans and other vegetables in the fields that they sold at their farm, as well as bringing some vegetables in to meet customer demand. For a time, they supplied local schools with vegetables.

Now they grow tomato starter plants in six-packs, and squash, cucumber and other vegetable plants for people to grow in their own yards as well as their annuals. They offer some climbing spinach and salad mix from their own garden, but mainly they bring in produce from other local farmers to sell.

In autumn, they bring in pumpkins, chrysanthemums and Indian corn from other local producers.

At Christmas time, one of their neighbor’s daughters drives all the way from Boston to choose a tree at their farm from one of the 300-plus Christmas trees that they sell, as well as kissing balls. They sell about 200 wreaths that arrive bare – but which become value-added as Diane decorates them.

Diane and David Kalinowski of Rock Ridge Farm in Northfield, MA, with some of the pansies grown at the farm. Photo by Laura Rodley

Rock Ridge Farm sells locally cut firewood, bark mulch and compost. They heat their greenhouse with wood and an oil furnace, burning about two cords of wood and using about 200 gallons of oil a season.

They are open year-round, selling antiques and other local farmers’ products such as honey from Ben’s Sugar Shack from Temple, NH, raspberry jam (Diane’s favorite) from Brattleboro, VT’s SideHill Farm, maple syrup from Northfield, MA’s Donald Black, Bernardston, MA’s Chubby’s Barbecue Sauce and more.

During winter, one of the greenhouses and one store are full of antiques that are in the process of getting cleared out to house the hanging baskets, annuals and other plants that they offer – an annual spring migration. They also buy in starter plants to satisfy all needs.

In season, Diane also has a garden full of zinnias, gladiolas and asters that become value-added as cut flowers.

What don’t they do? They don’t accept plastic – only check or cash to keep costs down. They don’t do Easter lilies, as their flowers aren’t ready yet. They don’t do weddings or funerals and they don’t deliver. They just don’t have the time. Including the couple, there is a corps of four full-time staff, including their son David Jr.

Year-round, their farm is a destination spot – fun to visit, to see antiques and to get an eyeful of whimsical gifts. One side of the store is covered in hub cabs so shiny they glisten (a signature New England form of artistry).

by Laura Rodley