|Mario Marini checking on his corn burning stove in his home|
Mario rises each day excited to get on his tractor and see the progress being made in the crop fields. It is clear when you have a deep rooted passion for farming as Mario does, the term “hard work” never gets mentioned. He feels good about what he does and loves that the customers have trust in him. “A farm is always changing. There is no such thing as finished. Work comes in a stream and has no end”, says Mario.
It all started in 1928 when two brothers and two cousins emigrated from Italy to the United States. They first settled in Ipswich, but in 1938 two split to start a farm in Wenham. Marini Farm started as a chicken wholesaler until 1972 when Gina Marini set up a roadside stand to sell strawberries.
How did you first get introduced to farming?
I was born and brought up in a farming life and have worked ever since I was a kid at the age of ten. Farming will “make a man out of you”, my dad would always say. My dad died when I was 18 years old, so I transitioned into the management role very quickly.
Was there ever a time you thought of pursuing another career?
No, farming is a good life and all I know how to do.I worked hard and got the education needed to run the farm and incorporate the best techniques for crop management and sustainability. I graduated from the The Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, and took over the farm at age 21.
What wisdom did you learn from your father?
How to grow crops and get out and do what was needed to be done. I love what I do! Ever since I was ten years old I was learning about planting and spraying and everything else. It was long hours from sunrise to 11:00 PM most days of the week.
What was your biggest challenge?
Surviving financially. We worked long hours for a little bit of money. I enjoy everything about farming and don’t view anything as a challenge, but instead an opportunity to improve. I love what I do and handle the challenges the best that I can.
What was your biggest accomplishment?
Building a roadside stand. That was when things changed financially.It was in the front yard and mom ran the stand selling fruits and vegetables. We stuck to it and it got better and better and bigger and bigger.
What advice do you have for farmers today?
I was fortunate and owe a lot to my family for continuing to farm and not sell our property. Today it is harder to buy land and start a farm, so I am blessed my family stayed committed to farming. I owe a lot to my parents.
What is the best thing about farming life?
It is a good healthy life. You can push hard in the summer and relax in the winter. You start with a seed and if you take care of it well you eventually have a good crop. Different crops require different care, so I love the diversity of the farming process.
If you had a crystal ball twenty years from now, how do you think farming would look?
They would be more advanced in improving the quality of crops. Corn is different today than it was 20 years ago. There is a big difference in flavor and taste. You’ve “got to get the water boiling before you pick the corn”, was the way it used to be. Corn would lose its flavor during the cooking process, but today it stays sweet and maintains its flavor.
What do you enjoy doing the most?
I like all that I do! I like the challenges of farming and enjoy studying and getting into it all. I like to figure out why something is not growing well and determine what to do to make it better. I go to agriculture conferences and am continuously learning about agriculture and techniques for improving the quality of our crops.
You must be considered a local role model for regional farmers. How does that make you feel?
Yes, a lot of people call me for advice. I utilize the best resources which help make Marini farm look good. I love to help people and know we can all learn from each other.
What sustainable techniques do you use?
We have five greenhouses heated with corn burning stoves. The cost of oil affects us financially, so we are doing all we can to manage those costs. I am heating the original farmhouse with a corn burning stove, and have cut my heating costs by one-third.
What is your favorite part of farming?
Being on my tractor! I just love tractor work, especially the new modern tractors. Life doesn’t get much better than plowing, harrowing, seeding, cultivating and irrigating the fields. If you want to stay with it, you have to change with the times!I also love contributing daily to the welfare of society.
What age are you planning to retire?
NEVER! I love being committed to my profession and doing the best job I can. Sitting around at coffee shops or diners simply doesn’t excite me. I like to keep moving!
What is your favorite crop?
Corn. It has changed so much over the years. Also, I love my strawberries and having the first crop of the season. It’s always great to outdo our fellow regional farmers.
What else excites you about farming?
I love seeing how the irrigation can quickly change the fields to be more alive, and I can watch crops literally come back to life in front of my eyes.
What’s the coolest thing you have done?
I grew a half acre of corn on Hog Island for the movie “The Crucible”, staring Danielle Day Lewis. It was a challenge giving the island weather, irrigation challenges and transportation issues. It was pretty exciting that they approached me directly to grow the corn.
Mario spoke throughout the interview about how blessed he is with his beautiful family. He has been married for 52 years, has four children and eight grandchildren. “The good lord gave me Michael to take on the farm, and keep the momentum going", states Mario. He feels lucky to have the life he has and owes a lot to his parents for staying committed to the farm.
“There is no better feeling than taking on a challenge and doing it better than the next guy”, says Mario. He loved referencing the farm’s victory in the World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest, and how their pumpkin went the furthest at 4,693 feet.
His eyes light up when he speaks about the customers and how he welcomes their waves of appreciation. He feels responsible for making a better life for everyone. He is a steward of creation and sees farming as ever changing the quality of the world we live in.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrect or, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, and death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
- Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
Written by Lightning Consulting/Blogger Pros