GROTON -- Sun, fun, live music and a giant, spit-roasted pig partnered with cold ale from John Harvard's Brewhouse welcomed almost 400 guests celebrating the first day at the newly opened John Crow Farm located at the former Hillside Orchards.
As the music from the local acoustic band Back To The Garden (with Bob Wright, Debbie Thompson and Emma Riffelmacher) played feel-good tunes, children chased the small, shy lambs around the property as staff from the nearby Maple Shade Farms provided wagon rides to those who waited patiently for the steeds to make their rounds. During one song, the pair of lambs, seeking a refuge from their adoring fans, unbeknownst to them, hid in full view of the audience behind the stage's curtain.
The eating was terrific as Rick Lamay and staff sliced the amazingly tender pig and morsels of succulent, cooked-to-perfection meat filled everyone's plate. The Main Street Café provided a stellar lineup of pasta salads and coleslaw and huge coolers were filled with icy beverages for those not quaffing ale. Inside the farmstand, with its pine walls and pitched beamed ceiling, were a cache of freshly baked cookies, including melt-in-your mouth mint chocolate chip.
The farm sits on 40 acres, and the bucolic vistas provide a visual refuge from the fast-paced life beyond this land and the rolling hillsides that cradle these pastures and its inhabitants. This is a community supported agriculture farm, where customers' prepay for their share of certain products, which they pick up throughout the year. Pickup locations are listed on their website.
The farm sells their own beef or pork hot dogs, hot and sweet sausages, chorizos, ground beef, pork and lamb, bratwursts, knockwursts, steak tips and all kinds of chicken parts. All raised without hormones, antibiotics or factory grains. Their garden is pesticide free and free-range eggs have a flavor that in no way resembles supermarket varieties.
The farm is named for John Crow, who was the last settler to be killed and scalped by Native Americans in 1789 in a place called Crow's Run in West Virginia.
The owners, Aidan Davan and Robert Varisco, work the farm with Varisco's nephew, Tyler Ellison. "This is a long nurtured dream come true for Aidan and I," said Varisco, as he knelt to pet one of the cuddly lambs. "We've gone back to the farm to provide pesticide and hormone-free meat, eggs and produce for our customers, and things couldn't feel any better than this!"
The farm's business manager is Laurelin Gove, who is working to stock the farm stand with locally made products, including breads from Nashoba Brook Bakery and small-batch jams, sauces, cookies and other grocery items.
Providing our tour was 13-year-old Tyler, who helps on the farm each day. We enjoyed watching the pen of baby ducks whose mother was attempting to corral them into a calm corner of the pen while they ran around in circles as visitors kept trying to touch them. We cradled a tiny, downy chick in our hand as squealing toddlers ran around in sheer delight.
Nearby a baker's dozen of piglets lay napping together under a shady, tented awning and all we could hope was that the giant barbecued pig was in no way related to these rosy pink cuties. As 11-year-old Amr Elkordy stood watching the innocents, he said softly, "If that giant pig was their mom or dad, I sure hope no one tells them!"
John Crow Farm, 133 Old Ayer Road, farm stand open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 978-448-9100 or 978-842-IJCF, johncrowfarm.com. Barbecues by Lemay & Sons Beef, 603-622-0022.