Figs help farms branch out

Recorder writer Rachel Rapkin interviews Tom Ashley about figs

by Rachel Rapkin

LEYDEN — Some residents may have seen figs for sale at the local farmers’ market and wondered where they came from.

Tom Ashley of Dancing Bear Farm has been growing figs for about seven years. It all started when a longtime friend and customer introduced him to fig farming when she gave him four dead-looking sticks to plant and told him to observe the results. To his astonishment, two of those sticks, or branches cut from her fig tree, sprouted into two new trees and produced the juicy fruit.

“The only fig I knew was a Fig Newton,” he said. “I really knew nothing about figs and now a lot of people call me a fig expert, but I have a hard time with that.”

Ashley believes Companions of Health Farm in Wendell and Dancing Bear Farm in Leyden are only two fig harvesters in the Pioneer Valley. He said fig farming is rare in the region and the fruits are most commonly grown in Mediterranean and Middle East countries including Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

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