I took the trek to Siena Farms South End farmstore because I was curious to see what farms sell when they are on their off season. I was also itching to meet the manager of a store I had heard so much about! The store, located on Waltham Street in the South End, consists of one room. The walls are burnt orange, and the wood floor creaks and groans with every step. So this is where the consumer and the farmer meet.
Trevor Sieck, 28, is the manager of this quaint farmstore. He sits behind the cash register, greeting customers bagging farm-grown carrots that have been sitting in winter storage from last season. He graciously took time from intense carrot-bagging to give me the low-down on his life with Siena Farms.
Q: Do you have a strong background in farming? How did you wind up working for Chris Kurth at Siena Farms?
A: I grew up in Sudbury, and we always had gardens and stuff. I worked with Chris in high school; it was the same farm, (Siena Farms) but it was called Meadow Brook Farm.
Q: Where did you go to school, and did you get an agriculture degree?
A: I went to UMass for Social Thought and Political Economy. I also did some work in the plant and science department. This guy I worked with at Meadow Brook was my TA there, and he gave me a really shitty grade.
Q: Why did you wind up back at Siena Farms after going to college?
A: I missed a lot of the aspects of being on the farm and doing that kind of stuff. As I got back into it, I discovered things I didn’t even know, like our connection to the food industry. My major motivation to come back was to be outside, but there’s so much more—like the community at large—that I hadn’t really considered.
Q: So, this store is pretty new. How have you been doing?
A: It’s only the eighth week, so I think we’ll have a different perspective in awhile. I don’t think any business in the food industry has that high of a profit, even restaurants, even the really good restaurants. The trick is not to kill yourself working too hard. We lost half of our customer base when we moved three blocks. That’s how it is in the city. It’ll just take time, hopefully.
Q: I know Siena Farms considers themselves “non-certified organic.” If you use all organic methods, why not get the certification?
A: It’s expensive. It’s a lot of paperwork. Inspectors come out and shit like that. It’s political in a way. It’s political in that organic isn’t made a high priority. Just because something’s organically grown doesn’t mean it’s good for you or it tastes good. The customers respect us, and we wouldn’t buy from a provider that’s dishonest.
Q: I thought the general consensus was that organic is always better. For what reason would organic not always be good for you?
A: Sulfur-based sprays are natural. It’s a chemical that’s fine in low doses (to the consumer), but it’s toxic to the farmer. It’ll burn your skin. Corn and tree fruits are difficult to harvest without conventional spraying. Otherwise you have to spray every time it rains, and it’s toxic shit.
Q: Random question: Do you have any funny farm memories? I’m sure people wonder what goes on around the farm.
A: They usually involve alcohol (laughs). When we first started, we drove around in a four-door Volvo. We came back one time and some of the farmhands had set it on fire. They had too much rum I guess. There was duct tape on the seat, like the idea was to hide it with duct tape. All-in-all though, it’s a lot of good hardworking people.
Q: I believe it! So what’s your favorite part of the work?
A: It’s collaborating with the community. We have many layers, and one is working close with people. Our customers are awesome. It’s a pretty unfriendly city, but our community makes it feel like a small town.