T he heat may be sweltering, but there is good reason to celebrate that blistering sun.
Agriculturally speaking, anyway.
As July plods on and August approaches, the lush green trees at Hindinger Farm in Hamden will offer up succulent peaches. Tomatoes come into their own, too, in a variety of shapes and colors—the classic red as well as the deliciously heretical gold—just in time for late summer salads.
According to the farm’s “ripening calendar,” hearty beets, yellow corn and dark purple eggplant are in-season, adding to the rainbow of hues on offer inside their farm stand nestled in a picturesque valley on Dunbar Hill Road. Inside, just-picked crisp snap peas and summer squash await. Next stop: your plate.
It’s another fruitful season at the historic farm, established in 1893 when William Hindinger, just having arrived in America from Germany, purchased the land and created a sustainable home and livelihood for his family.
It’s a different sort of “working from home” than we’re used to these days. It meant (and means) growing crops, as well as maintaining livestock mostly for non-commercial consumption, says Liz Hindinger, William’s great granddaughter. She now owns and runs the intergenerational establishment with her brother, George, and their mother, Anne, as well as outside help hired seasonally.
Even at the very outset, the Hindingers seemed to have something of the retail gene. William Hindinger started out by selling just a little of his bounty. But by the time Liz’s parents had inherited the farm, they’d turned it into a genuine business, she says: half wholesale and half retail. When browsing at the rustic market, open from May through December, don’t forget to inquire about the collection of old photographs under the counter at the register depicting the farm’s history.
Nowadays most of the family’s energy goes into a few key retail efforts. They attend the weekly Woodmont Farmer’s Market in Milford, which runs until August. And of course there’s the farm stand itself—the hub in the middle of their 120 acres—which includes an impressive variety of items in addition to their own produce, such as jarred preserves and salsas, honey and maple syrup, soaps and other gift items, as well as milk, eggs, cheese and local ice cream from Kelly’s Kone Connection.
Then there’s the farm’s CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) business, in which households purchase a share of that year’s harvest, picking up a bounty of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis.
The Hindinger model, at $550 for 24 weeks, is a one-size-fits-all CSA with no variations; participants (this year they’ve got 250 of them) sign up in the winter months—or by June 1st if there are any shares left—and begin receiving produce in June, with pick-ups at the farm on Wednesdays or Saturdays. The program goes right up until Thanksgiving, perfect timing for holiday-worthy items such as collard greens and apples.
One particularly diverse week this season offered customers a Bok Choy, a bunch of beets, two pounds of green beans, one pint of blueberries, three golden zucchinis, six ears of corn and three sweet onions. As Liz says of their seasonal harvest, which ranges from plums to flowers to the turnip-like kohlrabi, “I think we grow everything you can possibly grow.”
Thankfully, she sends emails to CSA shareholders in advance of their pickup, giving home cooks time to prepare. Liz Hindinger, an avid cook herself, provides recipes utilizing the in-season goods at the farm stand.
After all, it’s one thing to admire a beautiful bunch of greens; it’s quite another to know what to do with it. And, when compared to your typical produce, which is shipped from distant places, such local farm-fare can’t be beat.
“I think the quality, the freshness and the flavor are three things you can’t get when something travels so far. Anything you get here is no more than a few days old,” Liz says, “and you’re supporting a local economy.”
Happy harvest, everyone.
835 Dunbar Hill Road, Hamden (map)
Tues-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9am-5pm
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.