by Laura Rodley
Vibrant green healthy tomato plants and broccoli plants reach skyward. The air is perfumed with pansies ready to go in hanging baskets and lining tables. All the pansies, vegetables and other flowers, as well as bedding plants, are grown at the family-owned and run Twenty Acre Farm in Hadley, MA. The farm was started in 1969 by Thomas and Patricia Zuzgo. The second generation, their son Thomas and his wife Joan, also take part.
They grow greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers, pumpkins, cabbage, peppers, all the cole crops and string beans, with lettuce being a main draw. On what is now 34 acres, they have three greenhouses filled with tomato plants, one greenhouse with a variety of vegetables and eight other greenhouses filled with even more plants and one hoop house.
“In one part of a greenhouse, we have 5,000 geraniums alone,” said Patricia. They water everything by hand.
“We do it all ourselves. We have some friends that help us,” she said.
They supply plants wholesale to area farm and garden stores, such as Gardener’s Supply and Wanczyk Evergreen Nursery, both in Hadley, and Greenfield Farmers Cooperative Exchange, and some stores in New Hampshire. For the most part, buyers pick up their own orders, though they deliver orders occasionally.
“I’m retired from a regular job. For me it’s therapy. It’s nice to be out with nature and the soil. My son takes care of insect control,” Patricia said.
So far, the coronavirus health and safety guidelines, including social distancing and having large groups, have not affected their business. As they sell wholesale, their foot traffic was already less, and, in a sense, regulated.
“It has not affected our business. People like flowers, something to cheer themselves up,” said her son, Thomas.
“If we have to stay in quarantine, we might as well enjoy our work,” said Patricia. She was already wearing plastic gloves, as she wears gloves as a matter of course to work with the plants and soil.
The farm received grants to install solar panels from the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture before solar farms popped up everywhere else in the landscape.
Their farm is across the road from the Connecticut River, in the coveted Connecticut River Valley, some of the richest cropland in the Northeast.
The greenhouse where her husband sets up the seedlings for transplanting is full of plants in transition. It’s business as usual, geared to sell plants through November.