In 2016 Shane MacMillan and Debbie Scheering decided to give up their 20 plus years of office work and try something totally new for them and their two children – running a farming operation. Scheering grew up in Georgetown and MacMillan in Cambridge and neither knew anything about farming
“I did study a lot online and worked for Terra Greenhouses for a while” adds Scheering. Nonetheless, when they had the opportunity to purchase Sovereign Farm, Lutesville Road, they took the leap, left their professional jobs, changed the name to Boston Spring Farms and set out on the next phase of their lives.
“We only have about 30 acres here but our main focus is the greenhouse operation. The fields are a bonus for us for local markets” adds MacMillan. “Our one acre hydroponic greenhouse houses mostly grape tomatoes for wholesale. We do grow other varieties as well. We have roma, beefsteak, cherry and cocktail tomatoes for market. We also have some fields on the farm and they are a bonus to us. We grow squash and hot and sweet peppers in them. You’ve got to grow what you sell and this is a good year for squash. Next year we’re going to add some extra crops like beans and cucumbers. If we have a dry season, we do have a spring fed pond on the property for irrigation. This year we had the crops planted on time but had to do some irrigation”.
“We don’t like to spray our field crops because it makes it more difficult to harvest on time. Also, you can kill your crop if you don’t know what you’re doing. Pesticides can cause mildew so we only use them if we absolutely have to…we’re not going to lose a crop over it. It’s all about timing…there’s a certain lead for rain so you don’t want to miss your timing”.
I wasn’t quite ready for what I would see in the greenhouses and quite surprised to see tomato plants that measured about 25’…and 30’ to 40’ if you’re having a good year. There are about 8,500 tomato plants in each of the two greenhouses being tended to by their crew of five.” Some of their workers were already here when they purchased the farm and they continue to stay on. Their knowledge is a bonus for them. “It was really good crop in 2019 and last year was not bad even though we started late.”
Perhaps their worst years were during COVID. MacMillan added “We have a bunkhouse but we had to bring in trailer then at an extra cost to us. Flights for our guys were cancelled just when we were planting…a lot of farmers still haven’t recovered from COVID. Two farmer’s markets we delivered to had to shut down and one of those never did open again. A lot of restaurants shut down and some never reopened so we lost them as customers as well. We ended up selling out of the end of our driveway. “
A tour of not only the greenhouses but the pack barn as well led me to think that this might just be a good year for them. An abundance of tomatoes in all shapes, sizes, colours and flavours at their peak and ready to ship. “Packaging, fertilizers, labour…everything goes up over the years. It’s not easy.”
When our tour of the farm and our interview was over, I was able to take home some of the ‘fruits of their labours’. I admit to being a country girl born and raised but I had never seen the variety of tomatoes they grew. Not only unlike your standard round, red tomato in appearance but totally different in taste…so much flavour. So on your next trip to the grocery store or market be sure to check and see where your tomatoes come from. It just might be Boston Spring Farms.