Ricky Boardman grew up between two farms in two different states: Carlwood Farm, a dairy with about 50 milking cows owned by his mother’s family, and Boardman Farm, a vegetable farm owned by his father’s family. Luckily the two are only about 10 miles apart, even though one is in Connecticut and the other in Massachusetts.#CabotFarmers who know their corn as well as their dairy. #sweetcorn #FarmLove Click To Tweet
The dairy farm is now run by Ricky’s mother, Sandy, along with her father, Doug Carlson. Doug’s grandfather came from Sweden and started farming in Canaan in the early 1900s. On the Massachusetts side, the Boardman family began selling their own freshly grown vegetables from a small wooden farmstand in the early 1960s.
Ricky was still in high school when he started helping his paternal grandparents with the vegetables and then took it over in 2012. He wasn’t quite sure that was what he wanted to do for a career, he acknowledges, but “my grandfather got sick and I didn’t want to let the family business go.”
A few years in, Ricky says happily, “I love it. It’s awesome watching everything grow from the beginning of the season to the end.” He also pitches in on the family dairy farm, does some trucking, and hays and does other work for several other local farms as needed.
The young farmer is proud of the fresh yellow coat of paint on the original farmstand his grandparents built. It matches what is arguably Boardman’s Farmstand’s most popular crop to which Ricky devotes about half of his total 15 acres. It also matches the Cabot butter Ricky enjoys slathering over his own super-sweet corn.
Devoted farmstand customers come throughout the season for tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, green beans, eggplant and watermelon, among other crops Ricky grows, as well as a few prized items he imports from Pennsylvania like peaches. But it’s the corn that has earned a permanent spot on the farmstand sign and is definitely the signature crop. His father, Rick, helps with planting sweet corn and haying and Ricky also works closely with his mother. “Mom will help me out with the vegetables and I’ll go over there and help her out,” he says. “Myself and my busy mother, we’re back and forth all the time.”
This year the corn has been a little slow to ripen, but it’s about to hit full force. Ricky has 10 varieties, including six new ones his seed company has entrusted him to test. “We’ve had loyal customers for our corn for more than 40 years,” Ricky says. “People say we have the best-tasting sweet corn around. It’s our river-bottom land.” The other secret, Ricky confides, is that “I don’t like to pick too far ahead of myself.” His goal is to have his corn sit in the cooler no longer than six to eight hours. During peak season, he heads out to the fields to pick about three times a day.
Probably the only way to get it fresher is to grow it yourself.
Find out what’s in season at Boardman’s Farmstand on Facebook
The Boardman family shared their favorite recipe for corn chowder, which they make year-round with fresh sweet corn from Ricky’s farmstand or their own frozen corn.
6 strips thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon Cabot butter
1 small onion, minced
4 cups diced all-purpose potatoes
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups half and half
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
In a medium soup pot or deep sauté pan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan to plate lined with paper towels and cool. Crumble and set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat in pan. Add butter. Set over medium heat and add minced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add potatoes with half and half and milk and a good pinch of salt. Bring pot to a simmer, cover and cook until potatoes are just starting to get tender, about 10 minutes. Add corn kernels and simmer another ten minutes until potatoes and corn are both cooked. Take a spoonful of hot liquid and whisk in a small bowl with cornstarch. Whisk cornstarch mixture back into soup over low heat and cook another few minutes until thickened to desired consistency. Adjust thickness with a little more milk if desired. Season to taste with more salt and black pepper. Serve sprinkled with crumbled bacon. Serves about 6.
Here are a couple fresh ways to use the season’s best sweet corn:
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming, and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).