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A tribute to Patrick McGrath, a Concord farmer

A display in September at the McGrath’s farmstand in Concord reflects the work of volunteers who stepped up to keep the operation running after the death of owner Patrick McGrath.

Brian Feulner for the Boston Globe

A display in September at the McGrath’s farmstand in Concord reflects the work of volunteers who stepped up to keep the operation running after the death of owner Patrick McGrath.

In a way, the entire farmstand operation was a memorial tribute to Concord farmer Patrick McGrath’s life — so it seems fitting that the harvest season officially ended with a more formal ceremony. Though, as memorial services go, it was not formal at all.

“We called it a celebration of Patrick’s life,” recalled his cousin, Susie Davies. “It was not religiously oriented; just a gathering at the farmstand, with a tent in front. People brought food to share, and we all shared lighthearted memories and stories.”

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Her two adult sons and the other members of their band played a song that one of them had written in McGrath’s memory.

“What really came through was that people appreciated what a good influence Patrick had been on the neighborhood, the community, and the children,” Davies said.

When McGrath died suddenly in June, neighbors missed the man — a local institution who hearkened back to an earlier agricultural time in the history-rich town — as well as the corn, tomatoes, blueberries, asparagus and other forms of bounty he cultivated almost single-handedly year after year.

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Friends and customers stepped forward to help, and with nothing more complicated than a Facebook page and a whiteboard, Davies and a couple of other neighbors had soon set up a volunteer schedule that kept the McGrath’s farmstand on Barretts Mill Road running through the entire harvest season.

Now comes the bittersweet task of making decisions about what happens next with the land.

Previously imposed agricultural restrictions mean that the fields will remain as open space, with development not an option; however, the question is who will maintain the property, and how.

According to Davies, various town and state agencies, as well as the National Park Service, have expressed interest in the land, and the logical thing would be to keep it legally connected with the historically preserved Barrett Farm property across the street.

“We’re still in the process of figuring out how that might work,” Davies said.

In the meantime, she continues to sense her cousin’s quiet influence as she goes about the work of settling his estate.

“Among his papers, I found an essay he wrote when he was 7 or 8 years old,” she said. “He wrote that he wanted to be a farmer.”

Nancy Shohet West canbe reached at nancyswest@gmail.com.
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