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A Taste of India
Small businesses and farms are a major part of what keeps Cape Cod up and running. Without them, the financial climate of the Cape would crash and there would be much less appeal to the island. Located in Forestdale, Gopal Farm is a new farm that is focused on harvesting and selling Indian produce such as snake seeds, black kuruvai rice, bathua, turmeric, and more. Some major attractions that have brought massive attention to this business are sunflower and pumpkin picking, and also hayrides in the fall. The name Gopal can be translated into “friend of the cow” in Hindu. Gopal Farm wants to spread Indian cuisine, and they have an older and bigger location in Upstate New York. Right now, the manager of the Cape Cod farm is Jack Thomas, and he and his team have worked tirelessly the past couple of years to transform the empty plot of land they started with into a high-functioning farm.
The land that Gopal Farms functions on has a lot of history to it. It started as just an empty plot of land and stayed that way for about 100 years, but in the 1990s it was sold to people who were going to try and make something out of it. Those buyers, however, weren’t able to transform it into a farm, so the land became part of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR), a “program which is intended to offer a non-development alternative to farmers and other owners of ‘prime’ and ‘state important’ agricultural land”(www.mass.gov). Because it became a part of the APR, the land could only be used as an extension of Joint Base Cape Cod or become farmland run by a local owner. When Gopal Farm obtained the land a few years ago, there were only about five acres of farmland that produce could be grown on, and now there are roughly twenty-five acres. That’s not to say it was a seamless transformation, though. Before the farm bought the land, there was illegal activity occurring on it pretty regularly. People would oftendump their trash and vandalize the land, so that makes the short cleanup and transformation even more outstanding.
One of Gopal Farm’s main struggles is that it is not located on a main road. Instead, it’s deep into Country Farm Estates, a neighborhood less than five minutes away from Joint Base Cape Cod. Because of this, attracting new customers and staying relevant has proven to be a big problem. It’s not easy for the farmers to bring attention to themselves and advertise their business, so they rely heavily on word-of-mouth and their social media to attract clientele and employees. Their most loyal and regular customers so far have been other small businesses such as Hometown Juice Co. and Lambert’s Farm Market, both on Cotuit Road in Sandwich. Gopal Farm also has a CSA, which is basically where a customer “buys a share of the farm at the beginning of the year and then receives produce boxes throughout the year”, according to the manager.
Another big struggle for them has been potential customers being extremely hesitant to try Indian produce. In their first year, Gopal Farm mainly grew North American produce to get started, but they have been slowly trying to incorporate more Indian crops into their selection. Jack Thomas feels that people, especially on Cape Cod, like to play it safe and eat “normal” foods that they are familiar with. The farm has tried to tackle this predicament by selling weekly, bi-weekly, or subscription-free Indian Farm Boxes that are full of both North American and Indian produce alike. In these boxes, the farmers sometimes give recipes and suggestions of how to eat the produce so that none of it goes to waste.
In the past year, the farm has also run into shortages and delays in terms of shipping and even finding employees and tradespeople. It can sometimes take more than a season for farming tools or parts to farming machines to be delivered, which means that a season’s worth of one or more crops can be wasted or not harvested properly. Jack Thomas said that it once even took “something from Italy eight months to ship”. Sometimes, the problem doesn’t require for something to be delivered; the farmers may just need something to be fixed, but can’t find anyone willing to come to the Cape to fix it because of the mass labor shortages as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid has also made it difficult for the farm to reach out and find employees and farmers.
Jack Thomas said that globalization, which according to the Cambridge Dictionary is “the increase of trade around the world, especially by large companies producing and trading goods in many different countries”, “hasn’t been a very big problem” for Gopal Farm. He did, however, say that businesses on the East Coast and on Cape Cod in particular rely very much on migrant labor to stay afloat, and travel restrictions due to Covid have made it somewhat difficult for businesses to find employees over the past couple of summers. Again because of travel restrictions, not as many tourists as usual have been able to come to Cape Cod and support said businesses. For a fairly new farm, this can be almost devastating.
Sandwich, Forestdale, Mashpee, Falmouth, and other towns near Gopal Farm can help keep this business afloat best by talking about it. The more people that know of the farm, the better. Members of the community need to not be afraid to try new things- even if it’s only an Indian vegetable. Regularly shopping at Gopal Farm and depending on it for produce will do wonders for it. The farmers want to “get to know people” in the community, such as potential employees, potential clients, or just handypeople and local farming suppliers. The community can support this small business and others like it by shopping locally, being willing to try new things, and by spreading the word.