NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 21, 2013

Growth spurt

Heron Pond Farm expanding with local food hub

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — SOUTH HAMPTON — What started 15 years ago on a humble, 2-acre plot has steadily grown into a sustainable agricultural venture.

And now Heron Pond Farm is about to take another leap — with the opening of a full-service retail store and local food hub this spring in neighboring Kensington.

Co-owners Andre Cantelmo and Greg Balog, who together have run Heron Pond Farm on Main Avenue since 2000, have been planning the new store at the junction of routes 150 and 107 for two years now as a way to expand their year-round business.

The new farm store is expected to open in May, with a grand opening celebration set for June 22. The hope is it will provide a retail outlet for Heron Pond Farm’s 250 to 300 different varieties of locally grown food products, including its frozen foods that the South Hampton farm stand isn’t capable of storing. The existing farm stand in South Hampton will remain open as well, and will actually see renovations of its own over the next couple of years, Cantelmo said.

Beyond just simply serving as a store, Cantelmo said the Kensington location will also act as a local food hub that provides a variety of community services as well.

“Heron Pond Farm is based on the idea of building community through local agriculture,” Cantelmo said. “So we have a community space on the second floor where we can hold classes, nutrition stuff, cooking, yoga, how to live on a budget.”

There are three components that make up a local food hub, Cantelmo said. The first is being a place where customers can find all local food options for sale in one place; the second is having a certified kitchen that provides catering and other services; and the third is providing community space.

Cantelmo said he believes the local food hub concept is gaining momentum nationally, and by building its own venue, Heron Pond Farm would have an innovative outlet to promote local food and grow its business.

One way Cantelmo plans on introducing people to local produce is through “Farm to Fort” dinners.

“Farm to fort dinners have traditionally been a place where people can get a dinner made completely out of ingredients from the farm,” Cantelmo said. “These are done by different chefs, usually from super high-end restaurants, and they prepare a menu based on what we offer and serve dinner.”

In addition, Cantelmo said the Kensington store will also open early at 6 a.m. to serve coffee and baked goods to commuters on their way to work.

“Again, all from a local base,” he said. “Obviously, coffee doesn’t grow locally, but we’ll be using local companies.”