About The Old Athens Farm
The Old Athens Farm is a small family run Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) certified organic farm in Westminster, Vermont. Since 1989 Michael Collins has been dedicated to growing the highest quality produce possible for the local market. Our specialty has long been early season greenhouse crops. We have developed a reputation for producing the earliest tomatoes and cucumbers year after year. When customers say, “Those tomatoes taste like real tomatoes.” We can proudly say that it is because they are real tomatoes, grown organically in rich soil, tended with extreme care, and picked as ripe as possible. Taste and freshness come first at the Old Athens Farm.
Michael started farming on Old Athens Road in Westminster West, Vermont, in an old greenhouse he took down and set up on an uncle’s land. The first years were lean and full of learning. At that time we drove our tomatoes all the way to Boston while exploring local options for sales. In 1994 we bought a five acre field on Daigel Road, seemingly the only flat farmable land we could find and afford at the time. Change was imminent as we re-invested in infrastructure, diversified our crops, built our home, leased more land upon which to grow food, and entered newly emerging local markets. We have sold at Brattleboro Area Farmers Market since 1989 and Mike was a founding member of the Londonderry Vermont Farmers Market in 1994. Today our produce can be found at many local stores, farmstands, and Co-ops across the state.
We have always been dedicated to making our farm as sustainable as possible and to that end heat our greenhouses with wood, and waste vegetable oil, gleaned from local sources. In 2008 we set up our first solar panels for heating the soil in the greenhouses, and in 2016 invested in a solar array which has the capacity to power our walk-in coolers, fans, and home.
Hear Michael talk about the solar hotwater project in a UVM Extension interview here.
Grown in Soil, Like Vegetables Should Be
For 29 years I have answered two questions more than any others: are these tomatoes organic and are they hydroponic? I have always answered that that would be an oxymoron, but now the national organic standards board has decided that hydroponically grown organic produce can be sold as organic. I am very much against this development and any other watering down of the organic standards. Our crops are grown in soil, which gives them their rich flavor and superior nutritional value. For more information on the movement to keep the soil in Organic visit: www.keepthesoilinorganic.org.
Much of the drive to allow hydroponics in organic agriculture comes from two or three international corporate growers. Beware of organic tomatoes and strawberries that are not locally grown. Ask your produce manager if they can assure you that they were grown in soil. Soon Vermont Farmers hope to start a new label that guarantees organic with the strictest guidelines, guidelines that the founders of the organic movement can laud.
Our community is very important to us. Years ago we teamed up with the Harlow farm to create a beautiful and productive vegetable garden at the Westminster Center School. We often host local school groups and agricultural students to visit our farm and learn from Mike. We have been active board members of the Brattleboro Area Farmers Market, Londonderry Farmers Market, Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association, and Putney Public library. We donate excess food to local organizations working to feed Vermonters and the homeless, such as the Vermont Food Bank which picks up unsold produce at our farm. We always support our local merchants.