We were driving up a long winding road approaching a crest when we noticed a modest sign nailed to a splintered post. It read CERTIFIED ORGANIC FARM with a picture of a red structure painted on the top. We pulled onto a rocky unpaved road making sure to mind the giant pothole towards the left side. Up ahead the looming red structure with a white sign lined in green said: Tomato Barn. The doors were wide open and revealed an old table and chairs with a collection of pots on the top, leftover vegetables strewn about, and garden supplies. To the left of the Barn was a set of stairs that seemed to lead down to a corral of benches holding up backpacks. We headed over to a wooden fence with a honey brown horse grazing behind it. He is curious upon our arrival but goes back to swishing flies away with his tail within seconds. At first glance the farm was small and quiet, lazy and seemingly unfinished. We head over to another barn and step inside to see rows of fresh produce available for sale: potatoes and beans in a variety of sizes and colors, large onions, and fresh flowers. There was no one behind the stand; just a large wooden box with a sign hanging off a scale that read: Honor System. And my love affair with our local, organic farm took shape.
Pulling onto the road for the second time I feel a small twinge of guilt for driving there in a massive SUV. The guilt comes from sensing everything is used and reused on this farm, including the water in the large buckets used for hand washing. We are here for farm camp and I’m greeted with big friendly smiles and non judgmental looks by the staff that all most likely biked here. I park our car and hop out with my daughter, say our hellos, then kiss her goodbye. She is timid but brave and waves her little hand at the car while I back away. I secretly wished I could be 5 again. I repeat this process every day of the week and on Saturday she asks me if we could go back to show me around “her farm.” “Absolutely” I say, amused and delighted by her new found confidence. When we pull in this time…I’m floored by what I witness.
We start in the Tomato Barn, where she grabs a map and casually points to where she “cooked” her own food for lunch with her camp counselors. She walks me past the fence that keeps the golden horse back and I make a side comment that he’s not there. “Oh no, Nugget will be back” she says matterfactly – “he’s just getting fed.” She pulls me down by the goat pen and asks me to reach up to tear down a branch of leaves from the tree above us. “Why?” I ask as my eyes graze the sky. “Because that’s what Libby likes to eat!” she responds happily. I proceed and before I know it she’s taken the branch from my hand and is inside the pen, feeding a very content goat named Liberty. We move on towards a small hidden path after glancing back to see Nugget being guided towards his pen, and she announces to me that we are going to find the “dead garden.” * I inquire why it’s dead and she tells me that it’s because something had cut off the water supply. Soon we are walking ankle deep in a water bog and as I’m questioning the water supply comment she remembers the hiking path to the tee pee she created so we change course. She shows me the beekeeper area and the blackberry patch on the way back and says to be mindful of the ant hills because “nature stays alive.” Our day goes on like this and at every turn she reveals something insightful and new. Her confidence and comfort level in this place astound me. The farm is not small or quiet, lazy or unfinished, I’m just feeling all of those things for having prejudged it in that way. On Thursday we go to the local Farmer’s Market and head over to the booth with the familiar looking sign. She walks in with a sense of ownership and as I listen to her explain the different varieties of beans to her little brother…I realize it’s perfectly warranted.
Find your local farm. Support your local farmer’s market. Let’s teach our children that they have the power in their own little hands to cultivate, improve, and maybe even save the land we live on.
*The “dead garden” is what used to be a vibrant salt marsh but the saltwater supply was indeed cut off by the town/homeowners, so there isn’t any marine or tidal life like there used to be.
Holly Hill Farm is located at 236 Jerusalem Road in Cohasset, MA.