Harrison Bardwell is a 26-year-old farmer who is the ninth-generation owner and family farmer of Bardwell Farm in Hatfield, Massachusetts which dates back to 1685. His family settled in Hampshire County after arriving from England and now he’s in control of the property.
“My grandparents showed me how to pick vegetables, what plants looked like, and gave me my first physical experiences of working and handling produce and farming,” Bardwell said, according to Mass Live. “I loved it straight away.”
Bardwell farms over 30 acres of land and produces more than 100 crop varieties. He offers a roadside stand, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share program and wholesale distribution services.
“I remember seeing my grandfather sitting on the back porch and I brought a big bucket of pickles,” he said. “My grandfather told me that we have so many cucumbers, more than enough to feed our family – how can we give them a new home?”
Bardwell started farming at the age of 10, and since then, he has been passionate about agriculture.
He continued his education at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and after finishing his associate degree, he worked and managed Bardwell Farm while continuing his education.
“I began official work on this farm in grade 11 and worked and managed Bardwell Farm while continuing my education,” he said, according to Mass Live.
Bardwell believes in keeping the soil rich in nutrients, and he adopts practices of no-till and limited bottom-seeding in his fields. Bardwell uses greenhouses and tall tunnels to harvest vegetables year-round.
“My grandparents taught me the basics of planting a seed, laying out the care and maintenance between planting and harvesting, and I became more and more intrigued,” he said.
However, climate change has affected the way he farms. He explains that when he started farming seven years ago, there were regular rains and it got cold in late October or early November.
“Any type of soil thrives on diversity, so when you change the plants it gives so much more energy to the life of the soil.You have to help the life in the soil so that the plants can grow optimally,” he said.
Over the years, they have lost the nice steady rain, and it was replaced by heavy, violent thunderstorms that brought in a lot of rain in a short period of time.
“A three-week drought and severe thunderstorm scares me more because they can drastically affect the condition of a crop or a field,” he said. “My grandfather used to say, ‘You’re at Mother Nature’s mercy,’ and that’s 100 percent true,” Bardwell said, according to Mass Live. “The weather dictates what you do every single hour, every single day of your life.”
This has affected crops and required twice as much labor to produce a quality crop.
Bardwell looks back on his gratifying career as a farmer and expresses his appreciation for what he has learned from the region’s farming community and, in turn, works to share that knowledge.
“It took countless hours and dedication from other farmers in this town, along with friends, family and my mom and dad who helped me get to where I am today,” he said. “If every person on earth could spend a day on a farm doing hands-on manual work, it would allow people to see its importance as we could not survive.”
He invites elementary schools on field trips to Bardwell Farm, and students from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture also visit for tours or work-study programs. Bardwell believes that the farmers have to work together to sustain agriculture and preserve the land.