Jim Wilson: "Protect the soil. That's job 1"

Welcome to the latest round of “10 words or less,” in which I ask brief questions and ask for brief answers. This installment is part of a group of interviews in advance of the Boston Museum of Science’s “Let’s Talk About Food” festival this weekend. Today’s subject is one of New England’s foremost farmers, who’ll join chefs Frank McClelland of L’Espalier, Franco Carubia of Sel de la Terre, and others in a discussion and demonstration about farm-fresh ingredients. Remember, please: No counting. 10 words is a goal, not a rule, and it’s not that easy!

Jim Wilson of Wilson Farm, a 127-year-old family-run business.
Name Jim Wilson (above left, during a tour of his farm)
Age 56
Residence Lexington
Business Wilson Farm, which grows and sells produce — and lots of other goods — in Lexington, Mass., and Litchfield, N.H.

What did you want to be when you grew up? “I always wanted to be a farmer, and I knew I’d be a farmer.”
The best job you ever had “This is pretty much the only job I’ve ever had.”
You mean you’ve never left? “I was a ski bum for two winters.”
Something the land has taught you “To be humble.”
Your favorite farm implement “The cultivator.”
What is it about that? “It just makes things very orderly.”
How big is Wilson Farm? “We grow on almost 600 acres.”
Tell me about your CSA “We’ve only been at three weeks, so we’re still in the learning process. i think the thing we bring to it is that we grow more crops than anyone I know of in New England, so the CSA recipient is getting more variety in our package.”
How many different crops do you grow? “I can name 125 without too much effort.”
The toughest part about suburban farming “Many crops we grow [in Lexington] are very small in quantity, and that can be challenging. We have to use a lot more hand labor.”
Something you do in the name of sustainability “Protect the soil. That’s job 1.”
Someone you admire professionally “Rich Bonanno. He’s a farmer from Methuen, also an extension agent. He’s president of the Farm Bureau in Massachusetts. He’s a PhD. He has that rare balance of common sense and academic achievement.”
What’s the one thing you wish everyone would just get right? “I tell every kid who’s ever worked for me: Work hard and think a little bit. You’ll have 80 percent of the pack beaten.”

The “Let’s Talk About Food” festival, which features discussions, cooking demonstrations, dozens of exhibitor booths, an authors’ tent/bookstore, and a food-truck food court, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow along the Charles River in Cambridge, behind the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Wilson will be on the Main Stage from noon to 12:30.


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