Farm Staff 2020 – Meet the Young Farmers – by Shirley Murtha

It was a lovely March day; Tom and Jesse were finishing up their work and happy to take a few moments to introduce themselves. Tom Spatcher and Jesse Parker are starting their fourth and second years, respectively, as Farmer Joe O’Grady’s right-hand men. They work all winter, maintaining the greenhouses and packing orders of winter vegetables for area restaurants, but as the days grow longer, so does their workload.  On this particular day, they were studying O’Grady’s seeding chart, mapping out where they would plant the onions and shallots, the first of the planting, as the seedlings of these veggies are the slowest to settle into the soil and grow. Next will come the celery, followed by seeding all the other produce grown by the farm. This is the beginning of the busy months, for after the seeding comes the transplanting, cultivating, harvesting and cleaning the produce for market.

Both Granby residents, the men came to Holcomb Farm from similar paths. Spatcher graduated from Bentley in 2013 with degrees in marketing and sports business management. Having an older brother who had enjoyed working at the farm for several years, he was quite willing to help when O’Grady found himself short-handed during the busy growing season. He hadn’t found a job in marketing yet, so joined the crew at the farm. A couple of weeks turned into a couple more weeks and then he realized that he had found what he loved to do. “Working here is the happiest I’ve ever been,” he noted. He is thinking that around five years or so from now, he may be starting his own small farm and market garden, but for now, he is learning all he can.

Parker studied environmental science at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, during which he became very interested in organic farming. He was impressed by the positive impact it has on the environment and how it makes it possible for people to have healthy food. In his mind, “There is just nothing like organic vegetables.” He realized there was a perfect place for him to work right in his hometown and applied to the farm.  He was hired in 2019. His hopes for the future are like Spatcher’s.

During the growing season, the hours are long and the work strenuous for these men, but they do have some outside interests. Spatcher likes to read and check out sports on television. Parker practices yoga, hikes and fishes when he has the time.

(Caption: Tom Spatcher (l.) and Jesse Parker do some weeding in the greenhouse where various lettuces and other leafy vegetables have gotten a head start on the growing season. Credit: Shirley Murtha.)

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