The seeds of Dave Dumaresq’s future were planted early in life, when he would ride his bike down from Marsh Hill to Brox Farm on Broadway Road in Dracut to work the land when he was still a preteen.
“I worked with John Brox at Brox Farm since I was 11,” Dave says. “I was picking raspberries by the pint and beans by the bushel. I was driving a tractor at age 13.”
He laughs. “Maybe you shouldn’t print that.”
Dave went through Dracut schools, then Central Catholic High School before heading to St. Anselm College to earn a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. From there, he entered the Peace Corps, working as a crop extensionist in the Andes.
Upon returning to Dracut, he knew what he was meant to do.
“I started farming full time the day I got off the plane.”
He leased Brox Farm for nine years before buying his own in 2006, purchasing farmland from the Leczynski family at 437 Parker Road.
Today, he’s known, simply, by the name his farm bears -- Farmer Dave.
In addition to the 100-acre farm in Dracut, he leases East Street Farm in Tewksbury and Hill Orchard in Westford.
“There are over 400 acres of land we care for as stewards,” Dave says.
In May of 2022, Dave will open a brand-new, 70-foot-by-70-foot farm stand that will remain open year-round. He applied to the state’s Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program and received a $250,000 grant for the new farm stand.
“Once that happened, I said, ‘Well, I guess we’re doing this,’” he says. “It’s a big nut to crack, but we decided to go ahead with it.”
The year-round farm stand, which broke ground in September 2021, was the natural next step for Farmer Dave’s. The farm stand they had was fine but was unable to withstand the vagaries of the New England climate. The new stand will have all of the products grown on the farm, as well as the kitchen products cooked by Dave’s wife, Jane Bowie, and her kitchen staff. That includes soups, shepherd’s pie, raspberry white-chocolate scones and, yes, the chocolate-chip beet whoopee pies.
Farmer Dave’s also has a successful Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program, with nearly 1,000 members during some parts of the year. CSA is basically a crop-sharing program that allows farmer and consumer to share the risks of farming by allowing the consumer to sign on for a certain period of time and pick up boxes of produce.
“We started with about 50 families, and in January 2020, we barely had 100 members,” Dave says, adding that it would not be sustainable if it remained at those numbers.
Everyone knows what happened next. COVID-19 struck, and all of a sudden, folks weren’t so keen on going out to the supermarket.
“By the time we got to May 2020,” Dave says, “we had 900 members, and we no longer had a problem with income. It’s kind of like the stars aligned. I mean, we’re supposed to be feeding the community. We were going to about a dozen farmers markets that shut down because of COVID. But the CSA doubled, and the three farm stands were humming along.
“In March 2020, we were open one day a week, and we were swamped because people were eating more at home, so we said, ‘Let’s open two days a week,’ and then we were swamped two days a week, so we said, ‘OK, let’s open all week.’ 2020 was absolutely insane.”
Things are still a bit crazy on the farm, but in a good way.
Farmer Dave’s has not stopped growing since Dave bought the farm, so to speak. They continue to expand the greenhouses and have added two walk-in freezers so that, for instance, fruits and vegetables harvested in October can be sealed in airtight bins to be sold through June.
“We kept expanding the season, little by little,” Dave says.
And now, there’s no such thing as a fallow period. With solar-powered, year-round greenhouses in operation, Farmer Dave’s is growing produce year-round, and they’re able to store it for long periods.
“If you’re talking farm-to-table, you can’t get better than that,” says Denise Lee, Farmer Dave’s operations manager.
Farmer Dave’s is attuned to the need in the community and that the main purpose of a farm is to feed all members of the community, especially those who need the assistance most. And we’re not just talking about the Lowells and Lawrences.
“Even Dracut itself has a lot of need,” Dave says. “During COVID, a lot of food pantries were virtually shut down.
“The need is great in Dracut, and the local farm has always been the fabric of the community.”
Part of Dave’s purpose in farming is to pass along his knowledge to those less fortunate. He is part of a U.S. government program to teach people in needy parts of the globe successful farming techniques. He has spent weeks in the Republic of Georgia in the farmer-to-farmer program, teaching growing technology near the Caucasus Mountains.
“Farming is such a practical thing,” Dave says. “When you see it done, that’s how you learn it.”
Farmer Dave’s also hosts would-be farmers from around the world for 6-8 months a year. This year, they’re hosting 27 in the two farmhouses.
“They learn all different aspects of the business,” Dave says, “from seeding to the produce side, driving a box truck, selling at farm stands -- every skill they can learn to go back to their family farms and use what they’ve learned.”
Farmer Dave’s also has its ever-popular pick-your-own, or PYO, business.
“We’ve been doing PYO for six years,” Dave says, “starting with pumpkins and a corn maze, then apples, strawberries in June, then blueberries.”
They also have flower-cutting and dig your own potatoes and carrots.
“There’s always something to come to the farm for,” Denise says.
For more information on Farmer Dave’s, visit www.farmerdaves.net or call 978-349-1952