How Killam & Bassette Farmstead was born….
Kevin Bassette started working for Henry Killam when he was 9 years old. Henry never married and never had any family who wanted to take over the farm. Henry had run the dairy & tobacco farm all his life (his family bought the farm from the Holister family in the 1800’s).
When Kevin started working for Henry, we had 35 head of Milking Cows and 12-20 Heifers & Calf’s. We stopped harvesting broad leaf tobacco in 1983 as the prices were so low, it did not pay to produce it.
I started dating Kevin in 1986 and joined in on all the fun at the farm (especially if I wanted to see my new boyfriend – that meant working along side him in my “free” time). Though farming is tough work, we always try to have fun doing it. It’s a way of life, never a “job”. Kevin & I married in 1993 and with the decline in the milk prices and the middle man (processing company – aka Guida’s, etc) getting any additional money, we convinced Henry to get out of the dairy business and go into produce. We already had some fruits on the farm and just added to it. We initially wholesaled everything.
Then I remembered how I used to attend the farmer’s markets when I worked for another farmer in Middle & High School. I asked a few friends & found out that there were still farmer’s markets around. In 1998, we attended our first Farmer’s Market – Old Saybrook. It was a modest start with myself and only one other vendor attending the market. Now we attend over 26 farmer’s markets all over the state of Connecticut.
We work very hard to provide the most nutritious & best quality product for our customers. We start planting the first of April and wait for Mother Nature to allow us to continue. We use no pesticides wherever we can. If we have to spray, we spray minimally as we eat it too and it’s very expensive. We also use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) where we bring in good insects to eat the bad ones (Ladybugs to eat Whiteflies, etc). We cultivate and hoe. Water with irrigation on dry years and just sit back and watch during wet years. A wet year is worse then a dry year as there is nothing you can do about it. There is also much more disease associated with too much water than with no water
My husband’s typical day starts at 2:30 am. He gets up, loads up the truck with any surplus produce we have and takes it to Regional Market in Hartford to wholesale to other farmers/distributors. He gets back to the farm around 4:00/4:30 am and gets dressed to go pick corn. Our employees join him at 4:30 am to pick corn. Full rain suits and rubber shoe covers need to be worn as it is very wet in the morning. They pick all that we need for that day (as we only sell corn picked that day) and place it in a trailer pulled behind a tractor. When they get up to the farm, they bag the corn for easy transport (60 ears in a bag). Once the corn is bagged (around 6:00/6:30), loading the trucks is next. Everyone chips in. We have employees loading the truck, some picking what else is needed for the day’s markets and others bagging green beans in one pound bags for easy purchasing.
By 7:00/7:30, all trucks are loaded (2 to 5 trucks, depending on the day of the week) and they are off. Each truck has 1 to 2 employees who travel near and far. For example, on Saturday’s, we have 1 truck that goes to Newington, 1 truck that goes to Lyme, 1 truck that goes to New Haven, 1 truck that goes to Shelton, and 1 truck that goes to Old Saybrook. All markets have different hours but most are 3 to 4 hours each. Once we get to market, we park, pull out two to three 10’x10′ tents and set them up. Tables & table cloths are next, then the produce, jam, cut flowers, & eggs. We put price signs on all items for sale and each of us gets an apron to wear (as we do not have a cash register or calculator, all adding is done in our heads – let me tell you that Math is our kids best subject!).
Some markets are very strict about no selling before they open while others allow you to sell if you’d like before we open. We try to keep all products on the truck so nothing “cooks” on the ground. We offer recipes and advice on home farming. One of the best reason’s for doing the markets personally is the direct feedback we get from the customers on what they like/dislike. I also think one of the benefits to coming to a farmer’s market is the ability to ask the farmer more information about what you’re buying. For instance, some customers like to know exactly what variety of Butter & Sugar corn they are buying. For two weeks, we may have “Temptation” but it changes to “Providence” after that. If they really like “Temptation”, we can let them know exactly when we are picking it. We can also give them advice on their own gardening practices, especially if they are having a problem.
At the end of the day, we pack up all the unpurchased produce (which is used to feed our free range chickens and the neighbor’s pigs) and load them back into the truck, take down all the tables & tents and head back home to unload.
We have met a ton of wonderful people and learned so much by doing markets across the state. We have many of our customers who we now call “friends” and are honored to be a part of their lives! We are very thankful for their support!
We, Kevin & Chris Bassette and our 5 kids (Abby-21, Olivia-19, Dina-17, Henry-16, & Jamie-13), along with our partner, Henry Killam who is 86 and still going strong (pictured on the right) own Killam & Bassette Farmstead, LLC. We all have an active roll in the day to day responsibilities of our farm, including our kids – from gathering eggs, feeding the chickens & pigs, planting, harvesting, and selling our produce, to making our award winning canned goods, cutting beautiful flower bouquets and stocking the stand. We have 85 acres along the beautiful & bountiful, Connecticut River. We raise fresh, quality veggies & fruits, picked that day or the day before. We also carry award winning homemade canned goods (made only from the produce on our farm) and jam gift baskets, as well as fresh cut flowers – all Connecticut grown/made. We also raise our own, all natural, non-GMO, USDA pork & chickens – 450 happy layer hens & 400 meat birds and sell our delicious and nutritious “free range” eggs for your enjoyment and health. We also offer 4 versatile CSA programs, 3 fundraiser farm dinners, & 4 free farm tastings. We raise 10 acres of broad leaf tobacco used for wrappers on cigars! Our CT River Valley Tobacco is world renowned!
Quality produce/product & customer service is our top priority! We have been running our family farm for over 30 years and take pride in every aspect of it. This is a “Family” run business! Feel free to come on by our “Honor System” farm stand any day of the week and pick up some delicious products!