Triumph and tragedy with tomatoes

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 21

When the winter’s relentless snow crushed Peter MacArthur’s greenhouse, the one his sons helped him build and where he grew his prized tomatoes, MacArthur said he felt like a part of him was gone.

That’s why victory was extra sweet for MacArthur on Thursday when he took the prize for best tomato in the state. After all that was lost at MacArthur Farm, MacArthur said nabbing the title for best tomato in the state was a fruitful reward for his hard work.

“For us, it was emotional,” MacArthur said as his wife, Helen, manned the counter at their Concord Road produce stand. Next to the stand, MacArthur’s former greenhouse stands broken and bent after the weight of snow this winter ruined it. “My boys built that greenhouse. When it came down, it was like a part of me died. We were shocked (to win) yesterday.”


Peter MacArthur slices into one of his prize-winning tomatoes on a rainy day at the farm.

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When it comes to shopping, it’s a buyer’s market

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 16

When it comes to grocery shopping, many customers are creatures of both convenience and habit, but the emergence of big new stores show even loyal shoppers are subject to stray for a new experience.

Wegmans Food Market is set to open a two-story store in the Natick Mall in 2017, the second in MetroWest. The New York-based grocery chain will be entering a market already flooded with competition, but spokeswoman Jeanne Colleluori said the company isn’t worried about attracting customers.

As mom and pop stores like Hopkinton’s recently closed Colella’s are on their way out, big stores like Wegmans and Whole Foods Market are finding ways to attract customers from a large region by making themselves a destination. Shoppers don’t always want groceries to be a big to-do, however, keeping stores like Stop & Shop popular as the convenient neighborhood market.

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Good news for Buddy Dog

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 20.

SUDBURY – Buddy Dog Humane Society might have found a new home, one that might be welcomed by all involved.

At a Thursday night selectmen’s meeting, Buddy Dog trustee Steve Burtt said the animal shelter is reconsidering its planned move to Wayside Inn Road to property adjacent to its current Boston Post Road digs.

In February, the humane society agreed to suspend plans to build a new facility on Wayside Inn Road after neighbors worried the development would ruin the road’s historic quality. Now, Burtt said a new option opened up that wasn’t available when the society first scouted locations for a new building.

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Bee deaths concerning, mysterious

This story was published in the MetroWest Daily News on May 30

Depending on who you ask, the honey bees are in various states of decline. Some say the bees are doing all right, but others say they’re dying quickly. Some local beekeepers saw total loss this winter, others made it through all right and their hives are looking strong. One thing everyone agrees on is honey bee health is somewhat of a mystery.

"Abeilles 01" by 0x010C - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Abeilles 01” by 0x010C – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

On May 19, President Barack Obama announced the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a plan to study bee health and restore 7 million acres of pollinator habitat by planting wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants on federal land at an $82 million price tag. Though local beekeepers are dubious about the plan’s specifics, they hope the new federal focus on bees will help demystify the pollinators. Continue reading

Gastric bypass is a way of life

Published in the MetroWest Daily News on Jan. 3, 2015

Kimberly Choquette sometimes forgets she doesn’t weigh 400 pounds anymore. She catches herself shopping in the plus-size department, leaving the sales lady to redirect her to smaller sizes. When she had gastric bypass surgery five years ago, Choquette said she never imagined she’d weigh less than 200 pounds, but now she does and she said she will forever.

Choquette, 47, of Franklin, is one of what MetroWest Medical Center said is an increasing number of weight-loss surgery patients, according to MetroWest Medical Center. CEO Barbara Doyle said the medical center, with campuses in Framingham and Natick, will expand its bariatric surgery department this year to meet the steady demand from patients who have tried diet, exercise and countless New Year’s resolutions to no avail. Continue reading

Struggling in Suburbia: A quiet poverty in the MetroWest

Published in the MetroWest Daily News on March 7, 2015

FRAMINGHAM – Marilyn sits at her kitchen table inside her unassuming home in a Framingham neighborhood. The bags stuffed with coupons on the counter, and the ringing phone hooked on the brightly colored wall give away nothing. Photos hanging on her living room walls show smiling children at various ages. Everything looks normal.

But Marilyn sits at the table crying, because, to her, life is anything but normal. She is poor, but it hasn’t always been that way.

After her husband died a few years ago, Marilyn said her life changed dramatically. Money stopped flowing and bills became harder and harder to pay. Between raising two young children and taking care of aging relatives, Marilyn doesn’t have a job that pays, and her Social Security checks don’t cut it. Marilyn agreed to tell her story, as long as her real name and address were not published.

Like many in MetroWest, Marilyn is quietly poor. Her home is in good condition and her car isn’t beat up. Her clothes are clean and shoes are serviceable. While poverty in a city like Boston or Worcester is visible – people sleeping on the streets, food pantries clearly labeled – in the suburbs, area charity leaders say it is less pronounced, and often kept purposely quiet. Continue reading