Acton Eats: The Super Stands

Part 3 of a series

In my previous two posts, I mentioned a few area orchards and farm stands that are worth visiting if you want to get in on the fall harvest. But picking your own apples takes time, and most farm stands carry a limited selection of products. What if you want to grab some fresh cider and a few pumpkins and also pick up tonight's dinner and a few other groceries while you're there? For this type of occasion, there's always the super stand.

If you haven't been to the new Verrill Farm, just off Sudbury Road in Concord (www.verrillfarm.com, 978-369-4494), it's definitely worth a visit. After a September 2008 fire, the farmstand rose like a phoenix from the ashes and is better than ever before. While the old building had a bit of a ramshackle, temporary feeling, the new store is handsomely designed and looks built to last.

Of course, the centerpiece at Verrill Farm is the produce it grows in the fields that surround the farmstand. Verrill supplies vegetables to many of Boston's finest restaurants, growing everything from Arugula to Zucchini. And fall is the time to pick up kale and other late greens, root vegetables, and winter squash.

Like many other farm stands, Verrill also sells cheeses, such as Smith Farmstead Cheddar or goat cheeses from Westfield Farm. And you'll find honey products from Boston Honey, jams and preserves from Stonewall Kitchen, and breads from Nashoba Brook Bakery and Iggy's Breads.

But what sets Verrill Farm apart is its bakery and kitchen, the fastest growing components to Verrill's business. In the bakery section, you'll find scones, cider donuts, pies, cakes, and other pastries, prepared right on the premises. The deli features a selection of Boar's Head meats, makes fresh sandwiches and paninis, and offers a wide assortment of salads. And the kitchen stocks a large cooler with dozens of prepared dishes that you can heat at home, with everything from braised beef brisket to vegetable lasagna to roasted duck with cranberries.

Verrill Farm is also known for its special events, such as the Strawberry Festival, Tomato and Corn Festival, and annual barbecue. In fact, events go right through to the end of the year, with a Visit with Santa Day (December 5th) and two Gingerbread House Workshops (December 6th and 12th).

While Verrill Farm stayed open almost without interruption after the fire, after operating out of a tent for a year, it's back in a big way.

And, of course, there's Acton's own Idylwilde Farms on Central Street (www.idylwildefarm.com, 978-263-5943), which you undoubtedly know if you've been living in town for any length of time.

The Napoli family started selling their vegetables from a pushcart at the turn of the 20th century, and, over the years, the business has grown into a farm stand and now a full-fledged supermarket. In addition to selling fresh produce, both local and from around the world, Idylwilde has its own bakery, making breads, cookies, and croissants. It also has a large selection of cheeses, sells its own prepared foods, and even has its own greenhouse and florist. In short, you could do your entire grocery shopping here.

As far as seasonal products go, Idylwilde sells cider from Box Mill Farms in Stow and apples from Flathill Orchards in Lunenburg. You can also find fall decorations, like corn stalks, Indian corn, and chrysanthemums, and Idylwilde probably has the most spectacular display of gourds I've ever seen. And if you're a bird lover, Idylwilde even has a large cooler stocked with seed.

Today's super stands, like Verrill Farm and Idylwilde Farms, sell a whole lot more than just produce.

Previous: The Farm Stands of Route 119