He’s digging it

The farmer behind Siena Farms in Sudbury has had a hot, dry summer. That’s good news for tomatoes.

By Sebastian Smee
Globe Staff / August 11, 2010

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Q. What’s growing well on Siena Farms and good to eat right now?

A. Tomatoes! Best crop I’ve ever grown in my young 15-year farming career. All the other “hot crops’’ are doing great this hot summer as well: peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers . . .

Q. We’ve seen some severe weather this summer. Has this had much effect on you?

A. [It’s] the complete opposite of last summer, weather-wise. We’ve received 1.5 inches of rain all summer long so far . . . which combined with the record heat makes for some unusual growing conditions (and some innovative irrigation projects!). The salad greens have suffered but the hot crops, especially tomatoes, are loving life. Dry conditions make for super-sweet tomatoes, which after last summer’s cold, wet “late-blight’’ tomato disaster is delicious news.

Q. You supply a lot of well-known restaurants in the area, including your wife’s restaurant, Oleana. Do you get any especially challenging requests from them?

A. The challenge is what we’re in this for. We meet every winter with our core restaurant customers to review crop and varietal selections for the coming season.

Q. You also supply food to individuals. Is demand outstripping supply yet?

A. The demand for our CSA boxshare program and our produce at the Copley Square farmers’ market has been nearly doubling every year for the last several. We’re a long way from feeling like we, or other local farms, can keep up, which is great. This also provides a great sense of cooperation with our neighboring farms and farmers, rather than competition.

Q. How do you manage to farm over 100 acres and go without chemical sprays and the like?

A. The biodiversity of our cropping (over 200 different varieties) is the key to making organics work. I can’t imagine any kind of organic mono-culture working for very long; there are just too many creatures out there who like to eat what we grow.

Q. What’s your favorite fruit or vegetable at the moment?

A. Garlic is usually my go-to favorite. It’s the last crop we plant each season, going in the ground in early November to sprout roots before the soil locks up, and then it shoots up first thing in the spring. Back in the early years the garlic planting was always the moment when I had to decide: Am I going to make it through another season and make this farming thing work? The answer always had to be yes, so the garlic always got planted.

Q. You named the farm after your daughter Siena. How old is she now? Does she spend time with you or help you out in the fields or in other ways? And what are her favorite foods at the moment?

A. Siena is “4 3/4’’ and will be starting kindergarten this fall at Haynes School, which was my own elementary school, just a half-mile walk up from the farm where her grandparents still live and where Ana and I purchased a house a couple years ago. It’s all pretty ideal. She loves to be out in the fields with her dad as long as it doesn’t cut into her princess time. Her favorite farm product for several years running now is Wrinkled Crinkled Cress, an extremely spicy baby salad green. Ask her what she wants to be when she grows up though and she’ll confidently and consistently reply “A dentist who is a Mom . . .’’ Sebastian Smee can be reached at