by Kristen Levine
Founded in 2022 in the shadow of Mount Wachusett, Rattle Root Farm is a no-till, beyond-organic
farm focusing on sustainable farming practices. The farm, currently at one acre that is tended without
the use of machinery, is seeing its first year of mixed produce yielded from the labors of its three
founders. Joey Hersh, Hannah Romig, and Peter Herceg adhere to no-till farming; this technique
grows crops without disturbing the topsoil, protecting it from erosion and establishing healthier soil.
While many farms are monoculture, or single crop, common in large-scale farming operations, Rattle
Root has a thriving variety of produce. This prevents soil exhaustion and allows the growth medium to
keep crops healthy without depleting nutrients.
2022 saw the farm being established, with the soil prepared for planting, and raised planting beds
and buildings ready to host their first crops.
“Everything we did last year freed up a lot of time [for 2023],” Hersh said. “Not having to worry about
harvesting and processing everything [the first year] enabled us to build the infrastructure.”
Hersh, Romig, and Herceg brought in ideas and techniques learned from farming apprenticeships
and research into sustainable growth. The farm uses no pesticides or chemical means of pest control,
even organic-certified materials; instead the farm uses natural pest deterrents such as marigolds
planted alongside cash crops and techniques like solarization to get rid of unwanted weeds. All three
credit their time studying with other farms as a way of passing along knowledge and experience to
create Rattle Root’s foundations.
“[Apprenticing] at different farms is what helped us make the blueprint for a no-till system,” Herceg
said. “A farm is a sum of a bunch of different systems, because that’s what makes a successful farm.
It’s not immediately visible, but a lot of systems are at play: we have a lot of wood chips to control
weeds, we have a lot of rotations for things planted. All the systems are cobbled together from our
The planting season began with work in the greenhouse, preparing twenty thousand various
seedlings for transfer into the field. Out of the twenty thousand plants, there was minimal loss in the
transfer from preparation to final planting, and an abundance of produce has resulted. Specialized
growing in one of the greenhouses features vertical plants for cucumber and tomatoes, allowing
hothouse yields that produce faster than plants outdoors.
“It was in our plan to convert [half the greenhouse space] into cucumber growing space,” Herceg
said. “We’ve been able to harvest quite a lot of cucumbers already, whereas the ones in the field
weren’t even putting out fruit yet. It’s very hard growing in this climate because it’s such a short
season, so anything to extend the season always helps.”
The kickstart to the growing season, which added an estimated two to three weeks to prepare crops,
is important to Rattle Root’s contributions to Community Supported Agriculture [CSA]. The program
works as a subscription service, with members paying up front and the farm committing to twenty
weeks of fresh produce.
“A lot of farms [like Rattle Root] do this,” Herceg said. “We set up tents and put things on display like
at a farmer’s market, people come pick up their produce and have a mix of fresh vegetables.”
“We have ninety members as of now,” Hersh added. “We’ve been so pleased with the level of local
support and all the members that joined; we’re hoping next year to have even more participants.”
The farm, beyond not using heavy machinery, also adheres to organic growing standards such as no
usage of chemical pest control. Regenerative techniques applied at Rattle Root Farm are considered
beyond-organic, a term that acknowledges practices like cover cropping and reduction of soil erosion
through hand tilling. Rattle Root Farm is not officially organic certified, but their practices strictly
adhere to organic standards.
“The process [for organic certification] is quite long and expensive,” Herceg said. “The farm adheres
to organic principles and some things we do exceed organic standards. CSA has the benefit of
members coming up and they can see what we’re doing; we’re transparent about our growing
practices, and if members have any questions we’re happy to answer them. It’s satisfying to go pick a
head of lettuce and know it doesn’t have any kind of harmful substances on it.”
The farm boasts one and a quarter acres over the seventeen months of its operation. Each plot has
twelve hundred foot-long beds opened by hand plows; the farm is looking for practical usage over
maximizing space in the six acres leased to the farm. While apprenticeships are not currently in Rattle
Root’s future, the farm has had many volunteers helping tend to the field and learn about Rattle Root’s
techniques. Between the three founders, the current acre and a half is enough to meet current
“Expansion depends on what we can manage without pushing ourselves too hard,” Romig said.
“And we’ve been able to produce so much food already.”
“It’s been easy to serve ninety households [with farm produce],” Herceg said. “And we’ve been
working with Growing Places in Leominster, they work to expand food access in North and Central
Massachusetts; we also started a farmer’s market at Mountainside Bakery and Cafe every Saturday
from 11 AM to 2 PM. That will run until the end of October…we’re exploring outlets that can use this
abundance of vegetables.”
There’s minimal waste of food produced by the farm. Vegetables that look less than perfect but are
still fresh and healthy are used for sales to Roots Natural Foods in Leominster, providing produce for
the organic market’s juice bar. Other excess produce finds its way into donations to charitable
organizations like the Rutland Council for Aging, providing fresh vegetables to elderly citizens who
may otherwise miss out on healthy vegetables.
The farm also accepts SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and EBT benefits, both
through the CSA program and at their weekly farmer’s market at Mountainside Cafe. While the farm is
not equipped currently to accept HIP [Massachusetts Healthy Incentive Plan], hopes to expand into
accepting the benefits for produce are on the agenda.
“[The farm] is about building a community and serving that community,” Romig said. “It’s a big
priority, figuring out how to get food out there to the people who need it.”
“It’s been amazing to see CSA members at weekly pickups; it’s nice to see neighbors bumping into
each other that haven’t seen each other for a long time, stopping to talk,” Herceg said. I think if we can
keep going in that direction, continue to make [Rattle Root] into something that’s really appreciated by
the community, we’ll know we’re on the right track.”
Rattle Root Farm is open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 6 PM, at 33B Hubbardston Road in
Princeton. Additional information about the farm, its mission statement, and general updates and
contact information can be found at rattlerootfarm.com.