Since 1946, the E. Cecchi Farms roadside farm stand has not only been an enduring landmark, but a staple for the residents of Agawam and its surrounding towns.
2022 marks 76 years for the business, which now rests in the hands of brothers Bobby and Michael Cecchi. Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan traveled to the Feeding Hills section of town to visit this enduring family farm that’s three generations strong.
Michael Cecchi talks about the evolving nature of farming in a digital exclusive interview.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Since 1946, the E Cecchi Farms roadside farm stand has not only been an enduring landmark, but a staple for the residents of Agawam and its surrounding towns.
2022 marks 76 years for the business and Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan traveled to the Feeding Hills section of town to visit this family farm that’s three generations strong.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Anyone looking for signs of summer need look no further than the local farmstand. Its greenhouses bursting with vibrant colors, and carriages overflowing with flowers and plants.
For visitors to 1131 Springfield Street in the Feeding Hills section of Agawam, it’s a chance to see brothers Bobby and Michael Cecchi going about their business, running the family business that’s been here since the end of the Second World War.
And while their presence here is as predictable as the sun rising in the East, their parents made sure that they got an education just in case this farm, now in its 76th year of operation, didn’t work out. And they were going to get an education whether they wanted it or not.
Bobby Cecchi, E. Cecchi Farms: After I graduated high school, I went to Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass, did the two-year program there. Then I did a year program at DuPage Horticultural School in West Chicago, Illinois. And then I came back to the farm.
Michael Cecchi, E. Cecchi Farms: Actually, I didn’t want to go to college, for some reason. I figured I could just work on the farm, but my parents thought it’d be a good idea in case, you know, we’re going to have my brother and I and so be two to more people on the farm.
And if something didn’t work out or couldn’t support everybody, at least we would have an education, you know, to fall back on.
Brian Sullivan: One Cornell education and several years later and Michael can be found with his crew tending to the original acreage purchased by Erminio Cecchi back in 1946.
What started as 30 acres back then has now expanded to 40 on this lot. The family also rents 40 acres of farmland all around town.
The secret to maintaining a prosperous mid-size farm like this one nearly a century after it first started, has been their ability to not have to rely heavily on only one crop to sustain them.
Michael Cecchi: We’re pretty diversified. We — we grow a little bit of everything. We do a lot of wholesale with Big Y foods — they’ve been great to us.
And we do retail, we do flowers, we do vegetables. So, we’re — we’re kind of spread out, you know?
So we may take a bath on strawberries this year or, you know, last year was a terrible year for squash, but it didn’t put us under because, you know, we have other crops, you know, we have different land, we have heavy land, dry, you know — we’re pretty diverse. And that just spreads the risk for us.
Brian Sullivan: As nearly anyone who stepped foot inside a farmstand store knows, there is a certain smell in the air that may rekindle childhood memories, perhaps memories of coming to a place like this with parents or grandparents to get the good strawberries or asparagus that’s now in season. It’s almost as if our olfactory senses were designed for just such occasions.
A lot of times the appeal to a roadside farm stand like this one, aside from the convenience of being a local source for fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers, is the nostalgia that’s baked into it. In 1946, the original farm stand was right here under this tree. Then in the 1950s, they built this structure out of concrete blocks. And this is where people have been coming to ever since.
While farming of all types has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in recent years, whether it’s permaculture or traditional, it’s not even remotely a fraction of what it was at the turn of the 20th century, when several different farms could be found just within the town of Agawam.
And that departure from a majority agrarian population to what we have today, has led to a disconnect with many people when it comes to buying food.
Bobby Cecchi: It’s still surprising what little people know of how and where their food comes from. I mean, I remember as a kid going to the market with my grandfather, it was a big deal when summer squash came out. You know, the owners of Big Y would come down there and buy it.
And then it got to the point where you could get summer squash — not just summer squash, vegetables — year-round. So, people just go to the store and it’s there.
They don’t know the seasons of the produce around here. You know, like asparagus finishes in a couple of weeks and after it’s done, I don’t sell asparagus, I just sell our own. But they’ll keep coming in and asking for it and they see it in the store and they wonder why I don’t have it.
Brian Sullivan: When we drop by at late May, it was kind of the calm before the harvest storm that the summer months bring, when everything that’s been planted in the spring gets picked, brought to the store and eventually ends up on someone’s kitchen table.
But for brothers Michael and Bobby Checchi, it’s one more season here in Feeding Hills. The question now is, after 76 years, will Checchi farms make it to the 100-year marker?
Michael Cecchi: Right now, I don’t — we don’t really don’t know, you know? So no, we’ve got none of the kids that are interested in doing it.
So, we’ll keep going. You know, we’re — we’re old, but we’re not that old, so we can keep doing it.
Bobby Cecchi: I may be around long enough to see it reach 100. Time will tell. I mean, I think I’ll be here for 100 years. That’s 25 more years.
I think I could do it.