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The DeFrancesco Farm spans four generations of farmers, (while the fifth is helping grandpa on the side), in Northford, Connecticut. Around 1907, the first DeFrancesco emigrated from Italy and settled here and began farming. Every day the DeFrancesco great grandfather would go to market with his horse and wagon to sell his vegetables. His son, Joe, Sr., took over with his wife Raffaela “Rae” and continued the farming tradition, along with starting the greenhouse part of the operation. In 1972 when Joe, Jr., and his wife, Linda, started managing the farm, they expanded from four hoop greenhouses to 20. They moved the sales from farm pick-ups to on-road deliveries to customers all over the Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Eventually as the four sons, Joseph III, Michael, Darren, and Alex grew up, the DeFrancesco family farm continued to be on the leading edge of modern technology and replaced the hoop houses with state of the art greenhouse ranges that are equipped with weather stations and auto watering systems. More efficient growing ranges and techniques meant higher quality products both in the greenhouses and from the fields as well as getting closer to being completely green.
Joseph DeFrancesco III leads the field work, the mechanical work, and is for the most part a jack of all trades when it comes to being a farmer. He and his wife, Ida, recently won the 2015 Connecticut Young Farmers award and more recently won the 2016 National Young Farmers award. Michael DeFrancesco manages the greenhouse operations, including ordering all the types of plants, scheduling the various plant programs, and plant care. Darren DeFrancesco helps with customer relations and managing the employees. In recent years, Alex DeFrancesco has helped bring the hop specialty crop back to Connecticut, including raising an acre of hops on the DeFrancesco’s own farm, as well as forming and being elected president of the recently formed Connecticut Hop Growers Association, Inc.
The DeFrancesco farm is into being green in many ways. It does not use any GMO seed. It uses beneficial insects to control pests, and grows with the environment in mind, both in the greenhouses and out in the fields. The DeFrancescos say they are determined to find a balance of environmental sustainability. Since 2000 the DeFrancescos have been conserving water with new, innovative watering systems that drop the water consumption by 50 percent. In 2008 greenhouses got a little greener. As part of its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, the farm is integrating biological management techniques that eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides. The DeFrancescos also converted their heating systems to now run on renewable and clean heat sources. Their nursery also reduces waste by using recycled plastic materials. The DeFrancescos say that when customers buy from the DeFrancesco family, they are not only supporting “Locally Grown”, but they are doing their share in keeping the environment clean.
The farm currently grows about 120 acres of fruits and vegetables each year. It also grows about six acres in the greenhouses to provide everyone with beautiful planters, hanging baskets, and flower and vegetable plants for the gardens. The farm also operates a retail farm stand located at 326 Forest Road, (Route 22 next to the North Branford Police Station). The farm stand also does a “Farmer’s Harvest Program” that runs for 14 weeks all summer long. Customers can purchase a full share for $378 for a box of fruits and vegetables that the DeFrancesco family hand-picks fresh daily. A medium share costs $275 and will feed one to two people comfortably. Customers can apply at the farm stand or call Linda at 203-641-0554 for a mailed application. Customers can also follow the farm on Facebook at DeFrancesco Farm to see what’s the latest on the farm.
The farm stand is seasonal. It opens for Easter and closes just before Halloween. DeFrancesco greenhouses grow a premium selection of Easter bulbs, lilies, and hydrangea. After Easter, the stand concentrates on everyone’s garden needs. The greenhouse is full of wonderful blooms aimed at satisfying any location, any budget, any style. The DeFrancescos also provide a huge array of statuary and other props to uplift customers’ gardens. Summer brings all of the 120 acres of harvest, and come autumn, the farm is a great destination for mums, pumpkins, corn stalks and decorative items for home displays.
In all of this mix, the DeFrancesco Farm stand supports “Made in Connecticut”. It promotes many delicacies from other farms. The farm sells milk without hormones in it and offers many varieties of cheese and more. If that’s not enough to encourage visitors, the farm also bakes delicious pies and cookies everyday throughout the season.
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