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Workplace

Newton farmer mixes agriculture, marketing on the job

Newton Community Farm manager Greg Maslowe said he got into agriculture to engage people in thinking about what they eat and the consequences of their choices.

Michele McDonald/Globe staff

Newton Community Farm manager Greg Maslowe said he got into agriculture to engage people in thinking about what they eat and the consequences of their choices.

Greg Maslowe dresses for work in lace-up boots and cargo shorts. Suntanned and lanky, he fits a kind of modern farmer stereotype.

Maslowe, 45, is head farmer at Newton Community Farm. He gets up with the sun, spends his days outdoors, and comes home tired and dirt-smudged. But nothing gets his back up like some naive notions about farming.

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“There’s this idea that you spend all day out on a tractor, that you don’t have to be very smart to be a farmer,” he said. “But really, you have to know plant pathology, soil science, you have to run spread sheets, and know about marketing.”

Maslowe has learned a few things about marketing during his nine years as farmer in chief. Managing a farmstand was part of the learning curve.

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The farm doesn’t grow corn, winter squash, or potatoes because they take up too much space in the fields. But the farmstand didn’t do a very brisk business until it started selling corn, which Maslowe now buys twice a week from Verrill Farms in Concord. “People will stop at the farm stand if they see corn,’’ he says.

The city of Newton bought the 2.25-acre farm from a local family in 2005 and now licenses it to Newton Community Farm Inc., which runs classes and workshops in farming, a farmstand, and an 80-share Community Supported Agriculture group.

About half the farm’s produce sales come from CSA members and another 26 percent take place at the stand. The rest of the food is sold at a farmers market or to restaurants, or donated to charities.

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Maslowe lives in the narrow farmhouse on the land with his wife and two children. The barn, a few feet away from the house, and the adjacent fields, greenhouses, chicken coop, and farmstand are his workday destinations.

Maslowe developed his green thumb growing up in Colorado. “I started working as a professional gardener in college — conventional ornamental gardening,” he said. “Then I started getting interested in growing food as well as flowers.”

Maslowe, who holds degrees in bioethics and theology, was pursuing a multidisciplinary PhD in science, philosophy, and religion at Boston University when he quit to become a farmer. “I got into agriculture as a way to engage people in thinking about what they do every day [eat], and the consequences of that.’’

Amy Graves

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