Durocher Farm in 2015 enters its 72nd year of operation and innovation. In its earliest days, Durocher Farm was a small start-up operation consisting of some chickens and a couple of cows. Over the years, the farm evolved into a larger poultry farm, then into a 150-acre vegetable farm with its produce trucked to Boston wholesalers and, since the 1970s, it has specialized in pick-your-own berry operations.
The family farm began in the summer of 1943 when Herve and Marie Durocher relocated from Nashua after their downtown auto repair and sales shop was forced out of business when the city widened Main Street. Finding the wherewithal to start a similar business was difficult during World War II because the federal government heavily rationed the sale of gasoline, tires, cars and automotive parts in order to supply the battle front. So Herve and Marie, now the parents of five children, bought a farm in Litchfield.
Both were raised on farms in Canada and were essentially returning to their ancestral roots. Marie's ancestors began farming in the environs of Quebec City after their immigration from France in the 1600s and Herve's did likewise on the outskirts of Montreal after arriving there from France in the early 1700s.
In 1943, the Durochers began farming with a borrowed horse, a used truck, a small flock of hens and two cows. Herve eventually built a three-story chicken house with lumber salvaged from his demolished auto garage. The children helped their parents hand churn the butter, gather the eggs and till the vegetables that Herve peddled to housewives and restaurants in Nashua.
Eventually, Herve and Marie had eight children and all worked on the farm. Their eldest son, Hervey Jr., along with his wife, Joan, and their three children, Elizabeth, Kristina and Bill, established the strawberry, blueberry and raspberry picking operations after the elder Herve's death in 1975. Also helping in establishing the pick-your-own operations was Hervey's brother, Ray.
Blueberry bushes were first planted in 1975 and it took eight years before the first batch produced enough fruit for the pick-your-own operation.
Maintaining the blueberry fields is labor intensive. The bushes must be hand-pruned annually. That operation usually begins in late February, weather permitting, and must conclude by early May when the bushes bloom. The farm's beehives are moved into the fields to assist pollination and moved out for the harvest season. Netting is spread over the fields each year to prevent birds from raiding the ripened fruit. The fields must be irrigated as blueberries do not tolerate dry spells well. Mulch is also applied to keep the blueberry roots moist and to control weeds. The fields are mowed during the entire picking season for the convenience of visitors and to prevent the proliferation of unwanted vegetation. Annual checks make sure the soil has the correct pH level and balance of minerals to maintain healthy plant growth and berry production. In the fall, the netting must be rolled back and tied down to prevent winter storms from shredding it.
The weather plays a decisive role in berry production. A warmer-than-normal winter may hasten blooms which could then fall victim to late frosts, diminishing berry production. Too much rain in late spring can interfere with pollination and cooler-than-normal summer days can delay the ripening process.
Opening the fields to the public for berry picking is a special time at Durocher Farm. As Hervey once said, farming can be a solitary occupation, with days spent on a tractor or wielding a hoe in quiet fields far removed from the public eye. But harvest time is special. Hervey welcomed people crowding his fields for pick-your-own. He compared it to hosting an annual festival, and he and Joan established ties with many families who have made a summer trip to Durocher Farm a tradition.
The last Durocher Farm strawberries were harvested in 2001. Joan continued raspberry and blueberry farming after Herve's death in 2004. Scott Cannella managed the blueberry fields from 2008 through 2012. Ray Durocher continues to work with both the berries and bees. Honey is available for sale during picking season.
As of April 2013 Kitt and Cathy Plummer have taken over the operation of Durochers Blueberry Farm. Kitt and Cathy also manage Hazelton Orchards in Chester NH raising peaches and PYO apples and assorted veggies.
Durocher Farm is again gearing up to welcome its many visitors come the long, sunny and bountiful days of summer. See you in the fields!
Thursday, Sep 9, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Thursday, Aug 5, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time
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