New @ 95: The New Building, A Closer Look
Week 2: The New Building: A Closer Look
Sitting down to write this entry, I realized just how many small details have gone into the building process. Trying to outline all of the steps that we have taken in the last three years is pretty daunting, and would also be a pretty boring read. Burying our heads in the building code, the bylaws, and all of the design specifications was and continues to be a very educational and eye-opening experience.
The current construction began with an aggressive five-year plan that was fully established once the new greenhouse was completed in 2008. We knew we needed to upgrade our farmstand for a variety of reasons, and we had begun planning the details during greenhouse construction. The plan for the final product was one complete facility that would be an enjoyable and easy-to-shop stop for all of our customers.
Each of us had a lot of ideas for the new farmstand, from types of structures to different overall site layouts. As a family, we set out to visit and take notes on all the different farm stands in the Northeast, not in an effort to mimic any particular building, but to take aspects that were working for each farm and see if they would be applicable to ours. We came to an agreement that the most important goal for our new building was to maintain the feel and experience of our original farmstand.
We want you, our customers, to understand you are still shopping at a real working farm. Therefore, the new stand needed to be an extension of the existing farm stand, just a more comprehensive offering of the same great products that our family has been growing and harvesting since 1917.
So, with that main goal in mind, we set out to find the right designer and company to build our dream for us. We met with numerous architects and general contractors, and with some design build firms. After learning the concept of “design build”, where the firm employees both the designers and architects along with general contractors and builders, we found ourselves connecting with that particular process. After interviewing numerous firms, we selected Sage Engineering out of Westfield, MA to bring our collection of ideas to life.
Once Sage began the design process, they came to a couple of quick conclusions. First, it would be best to move the parking lot entrance away from the intersection of Forest St. and Central Ave., increasing both parking lot flow efficiency and overall safety. And, second, the corner view of the farm needed a makeover; the old green barn and farm-house really had to go! From our end, the only strong guidance we gave to Sage for the look and feel of the actual building was to try to tie in some of the themes of the old stand. Our main edict, as Frank, the president of Sage quotes, was “don’t pave the farm!”
After eight months of back and forth decision-making, we settled on a design remarkably similar to the building you see today. We decided to use three different types of construction. The back area, where we do all of our vegetable washing and walk-in cooler storage, is a pre-engineered metal building system. The main retail area is as we originally imagined it: a traditional post and beam barn. The side section is regular wood construction, but using the same timbers as the post and beam portion. Sage’s job was to find a way to join all three styles of construction together (no small task!). Once the engineering was complete, and the appropriate steps were taken with the Town of Needham, we were ready to construct.
The metal building construction began first, behind the old farm stand while we were still using it this past summer. Many of you must have noticed the huge hole behind our retail building, and then the metal posts rising out of it. This whole portion of the building also has a storage basement underneath it. We used to have small storage spaces in four different buildings; now, the basement will allow us to store everything in one space, easily accessible by fork truck. By the time we were ready to demolish the farm stand, around mid August, the metal building was almost complete.
At this point we still had one more huge decision to make: who was going to be supplying the most
important part of the building, the post and beam. Again, we set out to see other companies’ timber-framed structures. From a barn in Northborough to Morning Glory Farm in Martha’s Vineyard, we looked at many beautiful examples of post and beam timber frame buildings. Eventually we settled on Hardwick Post and Beam, a family owned company based in Hardwick, MA. They carefully selected Hemlock timbers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and brought them to their workshop in Hardwick. From there, every single timber was hand cut, hand hewn, treated with a custom stain-and-linseed mix, and then carefully numbered. The numbers were then used as a guide when the timbers were delivered to Needham and assembled. With the use of a crane and a lot of wooden pegs, the timbers were lifted and fastened to each other. It proved to be a popular show for both customers and employees. There is something about seeing a modern-day building being constructed with amazingly antique methods that really catches your eye and your imagination!
Now, at this point in the construction project, there are five or six different sub contractors on site each and every day. Electricians, fire suppression technicians and insulators all are working like mad to get our farm stand built on time; and we are pushing them to make sure they do! We have been very happy with the decisions we have made, and our new farmstand is just as we had hoped for so far, both inside and out. Thankfully, everyone involved in the process has understood that we are farmers, not builders! We are so excited to show all of our loyal customers what we have been working on since June, and we are rapidly approaching our targeted grand opening date. We look forward to showing you all around our new farmstand in the very near future!
**For more information on the construction project look back at our Farmstand Renovation Updates**