First, John Smiarowski and his three brothers Bernie, Ron, and Jim, have since taken over the operations of the farm from their father. Each brother plays a different role in the maintenance of the farm such as planting, harvesting, sales, and irrigation. The farm has also expanded from 70 acres to almost 700 acres in the 64 years that it has been in operation.
As early as John can remember, he has been farming. “When I was little, I was always helping my father,” John says. “I probably started helping when I was 5 or 6.”
Another change in the farm over its history has been what it produces. For a dozen years up until three years ago, significant acreage was devoted to tobacco production like many farms in the Pioneer Valley. Now, the farm has gone back to its roots.
“Potatoes are our main crop now,” John says, “But we have about 10 acres devoted to strawberries and we also grow a little asparagus, squash, and pumpkin.”
With technical assistance from UMass Extension, Smiarowski Farm uses a system of pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Rather than spraying pesticides indiscriminately on their crops like many industrial-scale farms, the farm judiciously sprays as little as possible in order to protect the food, soil, environment, and the health of the farmers.
This is not the only practice that proves Smiarowski Farm wants to produce food in a conscientious manner; they also strive to reduce their use of water for agricultural purposes as much as possible. Agriculture is responsible for 80% of the water consumed in the United States.
“Over the past ten years, we have installed a center-pivot irrigation system which is very efficient in conserving water,” John explains.
John and Smiarowski Farm provide a great example of how farmers and universities can support each other. The university provides technical support for the farm in soil testing and pest management; the farm provides healthy, local produce for the university. Furthermore, John graduated from UMass with a degree in Agricultural Economics which has been invaluable in successfully operating his own farm.
This community-based partnership between Smiarowski Farm and UMass is why John Smiarowski is our Farmer of the Week.