Spring has sprung at the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm

Spring has sprung at the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm

After a gloriously rainy couple of weeks, the sun came out for HBI’s visit to the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm in Mattapan to see how the Urban Farming Institute of Boston is gearing up for the planting season. 

Built between 1786 and 1806, the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm remains among the earliest intact examples of an agricultural property in the Commonwealth’s cities. The original farmhouse is located on land that was once part of a large Dorchester estate encompassing over 330 acres. More than half an acre of land was preserved within a densely developed residential neighborhood, and the original house and barn were sold to Jorge Epstein in 1941. The land remained in family possession until falling vacant in 2013 when Jorge’s widow Ida passed away.

The farm was purchased by Historic Boston in 2015, in partnership with the Urban Farming Institute of Boston (UFI), the Trust for Public Land and North Bennet Street School. The farmhouse, barn, and grounds were restored as headquarters for UFI. Rehabilitation included land areas cultivated for local food production with a greenhouse, farm stand, classrooms, and demonstration kitchen.

Upon arrival this week, there was some concern that the sky might open up once again, but after a few minutes the clouds cleared, allowing UFI’s grow team to plant this year’s early season crops under the bright mid-morning sun. UFI’s Office Administrator Philippe Gregory Basile gave HBI’s Office Manager Erika Tauer, who had not yet visited the farm, a tour of the historic farmhouse and grounds. 

The grow team was already busy at work planting tomatoes in the front. Basile pointed out the neighboring bok choy, another early season crop they were growing, and added that the grow team was in the midst of a pretty serious competition to see who can eat the most of it this summer. There were peas planted at the opposite end of the farm site, fixed with stakes and string to provide the pea plant with some structure to grip onto as it grows. At the back of the site, next to the greenhouse, was their eggplant bed. Which boasts 5+ varieties of eggplant, such as the “fairy tale” and the “long purple.”

Inside the greenhouse grew a range of herbs and seedlings, with the sweet smell of basil and vibrant orange of the blooming morning glories sure to lure you in. One side of the greenhouse was vacant and prepped for the planting of ginger. Aside from the ginger, you’ll be able to pick up some fresh produce every Friday starting on June 28th. We were curious about the different kinds of obstacles a farmer faced when planting in the city. Farm Manager Tristram Keefe was kind enough to share that a big part of the job is simply maintaining the six sites UFI has across Boston. He shared that checking the perimeter for litter being thrown over the fence was a regular task. He also added that groundhogs are their most prevalent pest, not the rats the rest of Boston continues to grapple with. The Urban Farming Institute isn’t just growing to feed, they’re also growing to educate. UFI  provides a number of community programs like “Farmer Training,” “Fit around the Farm,” and a program to get neighbors situated with their own raised flower beds to start gardens of their very own. UFI will be hosting a special community-wide gathering on June 13th to celebrate their recent purchase of the farm. Mark your calendars and come join your neighborhood farm in commemorating this significant milestone with great food, music, and a whole lot of fun. UFI’s “Farm Stand Fridays” will begin on June 28th.