June 3rd, 2022
Birds are chirping, the sun is shining and pollen is in the air. It’s spring in New England, and another season of planting and harvesting is well underway. For Trillium Farm in North Stonington, it’s the most ambitious agricultural schedule to date, since beginning stewardship of the farm in 2019.
For the past nine years, Trillium has operated through the lens of a modern New England farmhouse-inspired brewery, with a culinary philosophy aimed at reflecting the roots of the region and its community. Incorporating seasonal produce from Trillium Farm brings those values full circle.
Guided by the vision of Founder Jean-Claude Tetreault, Market Gardener Dan Foth is actively working to plan and implement a variety of endeavors. With the farm now in year three, one of the main areas of focus for the 2022 season is returning neglected fields to production using biointensive, regenerative methods and incorporating malt rootlets to increase the health and quality of the soils.
“Utilizing cover cropping to transition fields from pasture is a key step for us right now. Using winter rye, clover, field peas, buckwheat, cow peas, sunn hemp; all kinds of things that help us mimic natural systems and allow us to prepare for tractor-based farming,” JC said.
As the farm enters the “many-acre” stage of expanding operations, hand planting, fighting weeds and harvesting have made way for a double-disc wheel hoe, spring-tine weeder, and even refurbished a 1986 Gleaner combine harvester. With the added acreage, the number of caterpillar tunnels has expanded, increasing productivity for some of our favorite produce through heat and moisture control.
That’s got the farm and culinary teams excited. Fort Point and Canton are set to showcase an astounding bounty of produce on innovative menus, with Maxibel beans, Badger Flame beets, Midnight Roma tomatoes, Darkibor kale, Burgundy F1 broccoli, Ruby Perfection cabbage, Parisienne carrots, Nokya cucumbers, Murasaki sweet potatoes, and Asian Delite eggplant just a few of the items at their disposal.
The most cherished project this season involves scaling up and broadening heirloom corn crops with the addition of Otto File, King Philip, and Maiz Morado varieties. Learning from and articulating Indigenous traditions in a modern New England context is central to Trillium’s agricultural mission to connect past and present in relevant and respectful ways.
“To look back at the history and heritage from where these varieties came from is always an interesting concept. The foods we grow and eat aren't just here for a moment in time, they've been sustaining us as a species for thousands of years. Having that connection with their origins is a pretty powerful feeling and to understand their place in the modern world is something we’re very excited to explore,” JC said.
The goal is to bring the whole farm to life, but this season also has a very special rescue mission: saving a centuries-old heirloom apple tree. The farm team is grafting cuttings onto 50 young, healthy rootstocks to save the ancient Russet.
“We’re beginning a multi-year effort that will allow us to one day use these Russet apples in beer, a future cider program, and on dishes at our restaurants. These are some of the best apples I’ve ever eaten in my life – extraordinary flavor, very perfumey with high sugar and acid content with a super juicy texture. We need to save it before we lose that tree,” JC said.
From beer, food, and hospitality to philanthropic efforts and environmental sustainability, the farm sits at the foundational core that connects all of Trillium’s endeavors.
“I’m so thankful and so excited, but at the same time anxious about getting it right and hoping people identify with and understand what we’re doing so we can continue to pursue it. We’ve only been able to accomplish what we’ve done so far because of the support from our guests and team. I hope that people will appreciate what these efforts are and that it resonates with them,” JC said.