Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Farms of Framingham

With snow falling today it's perhaps a little difficult to think back a few months to when our local farms were finishing their fall harvest after the spring and summer growing season.

For a large town with the population density and commercial development that Framingham has, we are blessed to still have a living agricultural tradition to enrich our community. Clustered in the northwest corner of town, there are several working farms that offer a variety of products to the public.

Last October, the neighborhood group Nobscot Neighbors and the Framingham Agricultural Committee sponsored Framingham Farm Day, during which most of the properties described below were open to the public. If you missed the event, hopefully it will be repeated next year, but until then, drive by and admire the bucolic views, visit the web sites, and most importantly, support your local farmers!

Hanson's Farm at 20 Nixon Road has been run now by five generations of the Hanson family. With 52 acres dedicated to fruits and vegetables and over 100 acres of hay fields, Hanson's has an abundance of products that they offer at their farm stand, local farmer's markets, and through their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which local residents buy a share of the harvest.

Stearns Farm at 862 Edmands Road dates back to 1723 when Timothy Stearns bought a large tract of land in the area. It was run as a family farm for over 270 years before being incorporated as a non-profit CSA in 1994. Much of the work on the farm is performed by volunteers, most of whom are CSA share participants.

Eastleigh Farm at 1062 Edmands Road is a licensed dairy farm that was in the same family from the early 1900s until 1981. For fifteen years it operated as a beef farm until being converted to a dairy seven years ago by the current owner, Framingham native Doug Stephan. With the price of milk sold into the federal milk pool unprofitable for many producers, Stephan is now transitioning to selling raw milk, locally made cheeses and other dairy products directly to the public.

Baiting Brook Tree Farm at 32 Nixon Road is a blend of a commercial Christmas tree operation and 80 acres of permanently, publicly accessible open space. Owners George and DD Harrington still operate the seasonal tree business, but granted a conversation restriction to the Sudbury Valley Trustees so the land will remain protected from development.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Young Boxer Going Places Fast

From his name to his green boxing gloves and trunks and Irish-themed tattoos, Danny O'Connor wears his heritage with pride. But did you also know that this 24 year old, up-and-coming junior welterweight is a Framingham native?

Considering he didn't take up boxing until 2004 when he was 19, O'Connor is going places fast. He won more than 95 bouts as an amateur, went to the Bejing Olympics in 2008 as an alternate on the US Boxing team, and is now fighting professionally.

Growing up in Saxonville, O'Connor was introduced to boxing by his late grandfather, who lived across the street and would show the boy videos of old boxing matches. He was a standout wrestler at Framingham High, but didn't take up boxing as a sport until after he graduated in 2003.

Since turning pro last September, O'Connor is an undefeated 7-0, with two knockouts. Boxing pundits have said he has the potential to become a world champion. Remember the name and face, give him a thumbs up if you see him around town, and maybe someday you'll be saying, "I remember him way back when ..."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Our Teacher of the Year - Another Thumbs Up for the Town's Education System

In late June, as many Hamsters know by now, Jae Goodwin, a 5th grade teacher at Charlotte A. Dunning Elementary School, was named the state's 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year.

What's more, she lives in Framingham, and has had children in the school system, which is often not the case in many nearby towns, whose public servants are frequently priced out of the communities they serve. Having teachers who live in the community I believe strengthens their ties to it. And when they themselves have children in the school system as well, the commitment is even stronger.

Ms. Goodwin came to teaching as a mid-life career changer, after volunteering in her son's school, then becoming a kindergarten aide, and eventually returning to school herself for a master's degree and a full-time career as an elementary school teacher. She is an inspiration to anyone considering teaching as a career, and one of the jewels of the Framingham Public Schools.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Edgell Library Win Shows the Power of the Ballot

By now many of us in Framingham have heard the great news that the Edgell Memorial library, one of the architectural jewels of Framingham Centre, has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The money will go towards the renovation of the building's windows.

What's amazing and inspiring is that the award was obtained through online voting at the Trust's web site. Enough Framingham residents and other supporters voted to put the library in the winner's circle, against many other worthy, and in many cases more well-known, structures around the state.

But this was no happy accident or stroke of luck. The Framingham History Center, which uses the building as a cultural community center, really did a great job publicizing how to vote, relentlessly getting the message out in a variety of ways. Director Annie Murphy and the other staff and volunteers deserve a lot of credit for this effort. It's nice when a local story like this has a happy ending.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Framingham State College Newspaper Wins Awards

Congratulations to the student journalists at Framingham State College. The Gatepost, the college's student newspaper, was honored recently as one of the top three student-run news organizations in the United States for a story about a campus bomb scare in February 2008.

And the previous month, the newspaper won two first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists' schools in the mid-Atlantic states region, one for editorial writing, the other for breaking-news coverage.

I cut my journalistic teeth as an editor at another Massachusetts state college newspaper, at Bridgewater State. As a proud graduate of the state college system, I can fully attest that it's often the experience you get, and not necessarily where you get it, that matters most.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Spring Migration of Classic Cars to Nobscot

In the village of Nobscot, there's no surer sign of spring than the return of classic cars to Riley's Roast Beef on Saturdays. From 2 p.m. until late into the evening, when the weather cooperates the parking lot of the 1950s-style eatery at 911 Edgell Road is crammed with enough beautifully-maintained autos from Model Ts to 70s muscle cars to open a museum. Give most of the owners, often sitting in folding chairs near their beloved vehicles, half a chance, and they'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know, and more, about their cars.

Music from the 50s and 60s blaring from loudspeakers adds to the festive atmosphere, and trivia contests and raffles keep things interesting for both the car owners and spectators. And motorcycle and truck owners are also represented as well. The only requirement is that the vehicle be at least 25 years old.

So stop by, grab a burger and a drink, and enjoy Nobscot's best free outdoor entertainment!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Santa Claus in Baghdad

Framingham's own award-winning filmmaker, Raouf Zaki, has created a beautiful story in only 38 minutes of film. Santa Claus in Baghdad, released in 2008, was filmed almost entirely in our town. Unbelievably, a Baghdad marketplace in the film was actually a set constructed within an empty warehouse on the south side of Framingham.

A tale of sacrifices and the power of a simple gift, the film is being used as an educational tool in schools, featured at film festivals, and other public screenings. At a cost of only about $100,000, Zaki's work was made on a shoestring but is extremely well-crafted, and clearly a labor of love.

Check out the film's web site for a schedule of public showings, or better yet, buy a copy of the DVD to support your local filmmaker!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Framingham's Award-Winning Brewery

Many of you from The Ham and nearby have probably drained a pint or two at John Harvard's Brewhouse at Shopper's World, and enjoyed both the beer and the food there. But did you know that the brewpub has the bragging rights of winning medals at a recent international beer competition?

Head brewer Maria Poulinas took home a gold medal at the World Beer Championship for her Mobay Stout, a Jamaican-style stout brewed with pure Jamaican cane sugar. She also brought back a bronze medal for another stout she created, Atomic Espresso Stout, a coffee stout brewed with espresso beans roasted for the brewpub by the Atomic Cafe` in Wakefield.

Congratulations John Harvard's, and Maria specifically! Save some for me.