“…All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many …” William Bradford writing in Of Plymouth Plantation, source for “The First Thanksgiving”
In Bradford, just east of south Main Street in Haverhill Massachusetts we found Thanksgiving sustainable turkeys at Chris’s Farm Stand at Silsby Farm. Silsby Farm has been in existence for over 150 years, and farmed by the Silsby family for five generations. The 139 acres of pristine and historic preserved farm land was put up for sale in 2005. Many ideas were explored, including the building of new athletic fields for Haverhill and Bradford and the potential for a cooperative community agricultural site. Agricultural preservation restrictions placed on the farm in 1988 by the Silsby family, in exchange for $1 million from the Department of Agriculture, may have deterred some potential enterprise. The agricultural restriction preclude the property from being developed for housing. The farm never sold.
Chris Stasinos, a third generation Massachusetts family farmer is turning Silsby farm back into a working farm. The Stasinos family leases and manages the farm using sustainable and organic practices. Chris’s Farm Stand, open from July 23rd through November 1st sells a variety of vegetables – sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini, summer/winter squash, eggplant , green beans, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and fresh picked herbs. There are two locations – one in Bradfrod/Haverhill and the second in Peabody Massachusetts.
The Stasinos family farms have been expanding. Hay, which is one of the historic crops of Silsby Farm, has been added to the mix, and the Stasinos family is working with other local farmers to explore beekeeping, growing whole grains, raising sustainable turkeys, chicken eggs, and pork. The October Pumpkin Festival at Silsby Farm now teaches families the importance of knowing how their food is grown and where it comes from.
From the Massachusetts Government website we found a few interesting statistics on the economics of farming:
- Massachusetts is 2nd in New England for direct sales of farm products to consumers. At $42M in direct sales, Massachusetts farmers were responsible for 40 percent of New England’s total.
- Massachusetts ranks 9th nationally in total value of direct sales, following states such as California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington.
- Massachusetts ranks 2nd nationally in value of average direct market sales at $25,356 per farm.
- More than 80% of Massachusetts farms are family owned. Over 95% fit the category of “small farms”, sales below $250,000.
- Massachusetts ranks 1st in the U.S. for farmland value at $12,202 per acre.
- Female farm operators account for 29% of the farm operators in MA, up from 21% in 2002.
- Massachusetts increased number of organic farms from 129 in 2002 to 295 in 2007, and organic sales from $7.8M in sales in 2002 to $17.5M in 2007.
- Agritourism income totaled $5.3M, up from $665,000 in 2002.
Sources: New England Agricultural Statistics 2007 and U.S. Census of Agriculture 2007.
Family farms create local economies including; jobs, commerce and supplies for local restaurants and food suppliers, tourism and direct to consumer sales. As we all sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner this year, and think of the rising cost, both economically and environmentally of our food – consider giving thanks to the local family farm.