Growing up on the farm
Updated: May 1, 2019
By: Abigail Desvergnes
I was taught that farm-fresh food is the best kind of food—a philosophy I hope to keep for the rest of my life. Growing up on a 100-plus acre farm in southeastern Massachusetts, I was surrounded by chickens, horses and cranberries—that’s right, cranberries.
In 1967, my Pepe, Roger DesVergnes Sr., purchased the farm. He used it primarily as a training facility for his thoroughbred racehorses that he raced at tracks like Saratoga Springs in New York and Suffolk Downs in East Boston.The horse racing and betting industry was giving my pepe a run for his money, literally, so, he decided to invest in a project that could benefit his family for years in the future.
Starting a cranberry bog was his answer.
After a seven-year struggle with the city for proper permitting, the cranberry bog was finally approved in 1997. Pepe grew up on a farm in Vermont during the Great Depression and always appreciated the “living off the land” kind of lifestyle… but he had no prior experience with cranberries.
In a family effort, Pepe, along with my dad and his six siblings, helped to plant the cranberry bog. In an article written in July of 1997 in our local newspaper The Sun Chronicle, Pepe was quoted in a story about the bog.
“We decided to do this to preserve the land,” my grandfather said in the article. “It’s pretty. I think it’s just beautiful looking out around here. We could have built houses out here and make a lot more money.”
My dad was only 24 at the time when the cranberry bog was planted, but he already experienced working at cranberry bogs in Massachusetts and studied the cranberry industry at a UMass Extension service.
With a little TLC and patience, the cranberries were ready for harvest season, and Pepe decided that selling the cranberries to Ocean Spray would be their best option.
A year after the cranberry bog was planted, my family was shaken to their core when my uncle, Roger DesVergnes Jr., was killed in a car accident during his vacation to Orlando, Fl. My uncle was only 30 at the time of his death. He had been looking forward to the upcoming harvest season and had plans of taking over the cranberry bog and farm in the future.
Unfortunately, those dreams came to a sudden end, and it was my dad who would go on to take over the family farm.
My mom and dad, Andrea and John DesVergnes, built our family home on the farm and by 2001 my little sister and I, along with my parents, all moved in together in our new home. Pepe handed over the farm to my dad with promises from my dad that he would always keep the farm in the family.
As the years went on, my little brother was born and the three of us DesVergnes children would spend our days horseback riding, riding quads, collecting farm fresh eggs each morning, and of course, enjoying the cranberry harvest season.
One of my fondest memories was when my entire class took a field trip to the farm in elementary school. During harvest season when the cranberries were at their peak, Ocean Spray would come to the farm and begin the process of harvesting the cranberries. First they flood the bog with water, which detaches the cranberries from their vine, and then collect them. My class got to see this entire process, an experience I will never forget.
It’s safe to say that my family put every ounce of our blood, sweat, and tears into the family farm, and for this reason, I have grown to appreciate local farmers like my dad and Pepe who do their work to benefit the community around them.
Now that I’m in my sophomore year of college at The University of Massachusetts Amherst, and have since moved away from my family farm, I find that I constantly yearn for the farm-fresh life that I was raised on.
I find myself seeking out produce from local farms, dining out at farm-to-table restaurants, and attending as many farmers markets as possible each year. While most college students seem to find joy in a meal at the closest McDonald’s or Wendy’s, I try to find the healthiest and most fresh of options.
Nothing is better than making fresh cranberry muffins during fall harvest season or eating a ripe heirloom tomato toward the end of summer.
My goal is to get more college students to appreciate foods of the seasons and to respect where their food is made and how.
In the end, if we are more aware about the background of our food, I truly believe that we will have a better culinary experience in the future ahead.
My blog, A farm girl's delights is influenced by my past growing up on a farm, and will explore local farming practices and farm-to-table cuisine across Massachusetts.
Thank you for reading.
Your local farm girl, Abby DesVergnes