Liz Green was not quite sure how she would break the news to the regulars who patronized her Essex farm that some of this year's new and most adorable livestock — baby goats — were headed for the dinner table.
Many of the 75 families with shares of the produce from Apple Street Farm, which she manages for chef Frank McClelland, "will get attached" to the little ones, said Green.
No wonder. The kids are cunning, with four springing coltishly around their two mothers in the pen — before another doe, Peekabo, gave birth to two more last week.
But Apple Street Farm is a working farm, not a petting zoo. The boy goats are used for meat. This year, for the first time, the farm will host a "community day," Saturday, May 26, with its annual seedling sale, plus live entertainment and food on the grill.
Home to pigs, geese, goats, hens and chickens, Apple Street is the primary source for meat, cheese, eggs and organic harvests for McClelland's famed restaurants in Boston. He personally delivers his bushels of harvests to his awaiting chefs at L'Espalier — the city's only AAA-Five Diamond establishment, the equivalent of a 5-star hotel — two Sel de la Terres and his catering business, Au Soleil.
McClelland and his wife, Heather, who have five children, bought the 377-year-old, 14-acre farm in 2008. This is the fourth year of his harvest from Apple Street and its three satellites in Essex, a total of six arable acres. About one-half the resultant crop goes to the restaurants. The other feeds the 75 families in the shareholder community, who pay $450 per season (20 weeks).
The farm produces spring vegetables such as carrots, beets and greens, and a summer crop of onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and so forth. The farm intends to open a small stand on the property, said Green, and also will host, for the second year, gourmet dinner parties on the lawn. (See Apple Street Farm website)
The aptly named Green, 30, who holds a degree in political science from Wheaton College in Illinois and worked as a public policy advocate for nonprofit organizations, later opted to apprentice at farms in Greater Boston and came to manage McClelland's farm two years ago.
"And I love it," she said, mucking about in her barnyard boots, with hose in hand.
Green has two full-time apprentices and a part-time consultant, Erica Gorgenyi, who is a goat expert when she isn't teaching rock climbing at Gordon College.
New elements this season, in addition to the "community day," include a poultry share (the vegetable shares are sold out.) For $450, a member can get what must be the most pampered chicken in town, one per week for 20 weeks. Half shares are available, said Green.
At the moment, the little fuzzy poulets are free ranging during the day, and in a "hoop house" at night to protect them from critters such as coyotes, said Green.
"We know they're expensive," she said, "but they are organically pastured, heritage broilers. And organic fed is really expensive. Plus, they grow slowly and have to have about twice as much feed as a factory chicken."
They look awfully cuddly, too. Gulp.
Nancy Gaines is a regular Times correspondent and a longtime journalist, writing and editing for both Boston-based and national publications.