Varney Farm in South Windsor CT and Foodshare


I helped man the Master Gardener Help Desk early one spring morning. The morning was slow and a couple of us got to chatting and it was here that I learned about the Varney Farm. Intrigued, I asked more about it and eventually I had a chance to visit the farm, meet the owner and came away inspired.

The Varney’s have private land that they rented to a farmer. One year his eggplant crop was quite large. He had his share, the Varney’s gave away what they could and still had more. They contacted Foodshare in Hartford who gladly picked up the surplus. Foodshare has been the food bank for Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut for about 30 years. Their goal is to not only feed the hungry but to help be a part of the solution to end poverty.

            “Foodshare will work to end hunger as a part of the overall community effort to alleviate poverty in Greater Hartford.”

The Varney’s were intrigued and looked into Foodshare further. They realized the demand for food for those in need was great. Foodshare relies on CT’s farmers to supply some and folks, like the Varney’s, who have land to grow crops, harvest and then give to Foodshare. In 2007, they began a cooperative effort with Foodshare.

What is the operation like? I visited them on a beautiful New England sunny, summer morning, met Sandy Varney, owner, and Bill Marshall, Master Gardener who helps oversee the farm’s operations. Various volunteer groups were out tending the fields. Sandy, related to me that it takes one person one hour to hoe one row.  Volunteer hours are from 9-12 noon on a Wednesday. One person can hopefully complete 3 rows.They have 100 rows of crops.

Weeding is demanding and in this type of operation it is vitally important in order to harvest a viable crop. Many hands make light work. We all know that saying and at this farm it is evident. Corporations have community outreach services where employees are given time to perform some type of community service. Folks from some of these companies come here and help out. Other community groups participate as well. Foodshare does all the coordination.

They do not use pesticides, herbicides or insecticides and rely on nature to provide water. When non beneficial bugs show up they use powdered lime and treat plant by plant and by hand. They keep it simple and are very aware of weather patterns and what gets created in their plot of land.

What do they grow? Eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, peppers, zucchini, and this year pumpkins. During the course of one growing season, this farm can harvest about 20,000+ lbs food for Foodshare. In 2008, their best year, they produced 28,000 lbs. To date, spanning the last 8 years, they have produced 131,925 lbs to Foodshare. Amazing isn’t it what one small farmer and farm can grow, harvest and contribute? With help, of course.

The Varney Farm needs volunteers: Do you home school and need an agricultural project? a community service project? Does your company support outreach efforts? Master Gardeners can contribute and earn volunteer hour credits. Please consider this farm! Get out in the elements, you’ll get sweaty and you’ll get dirty, sing while you hoe and reconnect with nature and all she gives. It’s worth it.

To volunteer please contact Foodshare: 

450 Woodland Avenue
Bloomfield, CT 06002-1342
Tel: 860-286-9999
Fax: 860-286-7860
Varney Farm is located in South Windsor CT.
Enjoy. Judith
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener. ©all rights reserved. 





Happy Valentine’s Day : Hafiz: All the Hemispheres

                                                                      All the Hemispheres by Hafiz

                                    Leave the familiar for a while.

Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season

Onto the meadow and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.

Make a new watermark on your excitement

And love.

Like a blooming night flower,

Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness

And giving

Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

 All the hemispheres in existence

Lie beside an equator

In your heart.

Greet Yourself

In your thousand other forms

As you mount the hidden tide and travel

Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven

Are sitting around a fire


While stitching themselves together

Into the Great Circle inside of


 Dear Family, Friends, Readers, I send love and blessings this Happy Valentines Day to all of you.



Four Interviews for July: Meet Rick Hueston, part 1






My first interview  for this month took me to the Baltimore MD area where I met Rick Hueston.




Rick started a Facebook presence last year and soon a web blog called Primitive Cafe, one I tend to follow. I “like” many of his photos showcasing the delicious recipes he makes using wild edibles. I emailed him and asked him if I could come up and interview him for my blog. Obviously he said yes.

My purpose is to visit the “grass root” level of innovators out there in the garden arena. We are drastically losing our wildlife habitats. Over 4500+ species are in danger today of being lost soon.  When I visit or hear about gardeners going organic, reclaiming lawn, setting aside land for vernal pool or habitat such as a butterfly garden, creating a bee sanctuary, it simply renews my hopes and dreams that somehow we are making a difference.  So what can I do to help? My life is shifting into writing and teaching more strongly.  I enjoy meeting people and seeing first hand their creative ideas manifest into garden forms or in the landscapes.  Last week I showcased a Master Gardener’s beautiful raised bed backyard that provides so much food in place of lawn. This week I would like to take you to meet Rick Hueston.

Rick’s journey into the world of wild edibles began at the edge of seven. Like many of us at a tender young age there can be times when the urge to runaway is overpowering. Rick tried it and realized he did not know what he could eat.  He spoke with a teacher at school who gave him a copy of the book My Side of the Mountain. I thought it was pretty nice of that teacher to give him something that in a way fed (pun intended) him, sparked an interest that has become a life’s passion. No matter where he was stationed or lived (Army) he explored the local population of plants and learned what is edible. Rick also through synchronistic circumstances met and worked with a Native American teacher.  In my own journey with Native American elders the circles, the walk on the medicine wheel of life seems to deepen us and remind us we are all related, we are all connected.

I asked Rick what is the most important concept he would like to convey to my readers. He replied edible plants exist all around us. They are free and somewhat convenient. When one is taught to collect in season, collect mindfully in relation to other plants, habitat, toxicity and/or contamination, one can gather a delightful array of flowers and other plant parts and create easy delicious dishes.  Obviously we need to be careful of poisonous plants. Sometimes they can be easily confused with non toxic varieties. However so many, literally beneath our feet, are edible.

“He wants to bring wildfood to your table,” in easy practical ways. Friday we’ll continue with Rick and his backyard treats. In the meantime check out his website and recipes.

Enjoy your day. Judith


Spring Equinox


unknowingly, we plough the dust of stars,

blown around us by the wind, and drink the

universe in a glass of rain.” (Ihab Hassan)




Winter is over. Spring begins. Our wheel of seasons turn, an endless cycle of birth, growth, harvest, death and rebirth. Gardens are clean, some have begun planting all in anticipation of the gifts to come.

My Native American elders taught me to give thanks this day for the blessings of winter that is ended. What gifts came in this season? Did I utilize the quiet time to mend, repair, tell and enjoy the stories? Like the bear I feel the waking up time of stretching into the sun, feeling springs breath upon my cheek, hearing the mating sounds of the birds. Daffodils and crocus bloom here before the trees dress themselves in new leaves. The wind still blows in from the northwest and contains a chill but the air is fresh and for that I am grateful.

Spring blessings to all of you.