HARWICH – Brent Hemeon has been working the soil on his farm between Grassy Pond and Bank Street for nearly 30 years, producing an abundance of fruit, berries, vegetables and salad greens, many marketed through his farm stand or sold to restaurants featuring locally grown produce.
Hemeon has long had a love of the land and what it produces, including trees. The farm has approximately 200 fruit trees –apple, pear, peach, plum and pau pau. But he is also taking interest in the many trees that sprout across Cape Cod.
While a farmer, Hemeon also worked much of his life as a carpenter, which nurtured a love for wood. As he grows older wood is becoming a more gentle companion to him than soil.
“I'm 71 years old and bending over weeding and harvesting is getting difficult. I've had two knee operations recently and it's catching up with me,” Hemeon said this week. “So I've built a wood-working shop.”
The Hemeon Farm sign along Bank Street has been a fixture there for years and the farmer hopes it will continue to hang for years to come. So Hemeon said this week he is looking for someone to work the farm for him or even run the four-acre facility.
In recent years there has been a movement away from chain store-bought fruits and vegetables toward the fresher, locally grown produce. The advent of local farmers markets and the desire by area chefs to prepare locally grown produce have been a benefit to Cape farmers.
Hemeon's farm stand was still operating this week with winter squash, turnip, beets, tomatoes and several other items on display. Some of those vegetables, including Swiss chard, beets and turnip continued to prosper in the garden. He said during the summer season the farm stand is supplemented with produce from a farm in Acushnet. Hemeon's wife, Peg, is often at the stand to greet patrons.
Hemeon said there are several restaurants in the area that purchase from him. Doug and Jennifer Ramler at the Cape Sea Grille in Harwich Port purchase a lot of his produce, including Swiss chard. Several other items, including beets, are favorites of the Ramlers. He said there are a couple of restaurants in Chatham, including the Bistro on Main, that purchase from the farm.
Hemeon Farm has been worked off and on for a century, according to Hemeon. He said Ted Hunt, part of an old Harwich family, farmed it for years. Hemeon built the house on the property for his brother, Walter Hemeon. After his brother passed away, Brent Hemeon said he purchased the property in 1988 and began farming it.
Over the years, he has planted fruit trees, tilled and fortified the soil, and expanded production. The soil produces lush crops of squash, tomatoes, beans, pole beans, Swiss chard, beets, and white Cape turnips, an offspring of Eastham turnip. There are raspberry and blueberry bushes, and Hemeon has planted a number of grape vines from which he is making wine. This past year he planted 19 pinot noir vines.
“It's heavenly, the best I've ever made,” Hemeon said of the pinot noir.
Mark Simonitsch and Stephen Daniels have beehives there and this past year produced 300 pounds of honey.
“I'm as close to organic as can be without being 100 percent organic,” Hemeon said of the operation. “I don't like to use chemicals.” He does, however, use some chemical fertilizer. He also said the fruit trees have to be sprayed every seven to 10 days or they will get worms. Hemeon said he planted corn this year which has to be sprayed or bores will destroy it. He does not plant much corn because it requires a lot of space.
“We do have room to expend with a person with the right energy,” Hemeon said.
There are two lengthy greenhouses on the property, which he said could be used to grow greens for eight months or longer each year. He uses one of those greenhouses late into the fall growing tomatoes, but there is also the potential for a longer growing season.
In the other greenhouse he is storing wood: cherry, black cherry, ash, white ash, maple and elm. The wood comes from different locations around the Cape and in many cases has been cut in shapes suitable for tables. Stacks of wood are drying in the greenhouse and much of it will end up in his new workshop, where he plans to spend more time making furniture. He displays a few of the table tops, varnished and exposing the characteristics of the wood.
“Each one has a story to tell,” he said of the shapes and colors of the wood.
Working in his shop is much easier on his aging body, so he wants to find someone who has an interest, experience and drive to run a farm. The details can be worked out, Hemeon said, adding he wants to keep his hand in, but he is looking for someone to do the work and get most of the proceeds. He said he might contact the agricultural department at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School to see if he can generate some interest.
“I'm hoping for someone to come out of the woodwork and say this is what I'm looking for,” Hemeon said.
Hemeon Farm is located at 186 off Bank St. Brent Hemeon can be reached at 508-432-3947.