Farms, those vital sources of sustenance for our communities, struggle to survive as more and more precious land is developed commercially and residentially throughout all of the towns in Southeastern Massachusetts. As difficult a task as it is to run a farm, make it financially successful, and adapt to the ever-changing world, there are a number of farms in the region that have been operational for over 100 years. They have been providing food, raising livestock, and helping feed the community—some even for centuries! This is an unbelievable accomplishment, as most family businesses fail after three generations. These “wicked old” farms have been able to remain true to their agricultural mission while adapting to the changing times, which has contributed to their success.

One Hundred Years and Counting

The farms that have remained in the same family for over 100 years are given the recognition of “Century Farm” by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. This list includes the venerable Alderbook Farm, a Dartmouth farm established in 1898 that earned the Century Farm accolade in 2011.

Alderbrook Farm, Hornstra Farm

Whether granted the official “Century Farm” recognition or not, all of the following are “wicked old” farms, in existence for more than 100 years, and are scattered across the region, from Pakeen Farm in Canton and Hornstra Farms in Norwell, to Noquochoke Orchards in Westport and Oakdale Farms in Rehoboth. Some, such as Hornstra Farms, have adapted by opening a farm store and making their own ice cream, which draws a crowd to their Norwell farm. Colchester Neighborhood Farm in Plympton, under the leadership of Jim Lough, is providing the community with fresh produce at their roadside stand, on a farm that has been in the same family since 1761. Pakeen Farm has added Christmas trees to their operation.

Hornstra Farms is one of the best-known farms in the region. Anske and Agnes Hornstra came to America and in 1915 began a dairy farm in Hingham. The Hornstra milk truck has been a mainstay on the South Shore ever since! The farm is currently under the ownership of the fourth-generation Hornstras, as John and Lauren currently helm the farm. John’s sister Alison explains, “Hornstra Farms was built on a reputation for outstanding farm fresh products and customer service. We still pride ourselves on offering that same quality today, both in the products we deliver and the services we provide.”

To adapt to the changing world, John and Lauren moved the business to Norwell when they bought the Loring Farm in 2009, which was in disuse at the time. Four years later, their new location was fully operational, delivering the highest quality milk to be filled in bottles with the Hornstra name. Additionally, they added the ever-popular farm store and ice cream dairy bar in 2014. Alison continues, “The farm store and ice cream stand have allowed us to significantly broaden our customer base and introduce some new farm-made products, including our custard-like ice cream.”

(As we go to press, we’ve learned that Hornstra Farms has purchased the 61-year-old Peaceful Meadows Dairy Farm in Whitman at auction. WCVB story here.)

Jim Lough is providing the community with fresh produce on a farm that has been in the same family since 1761.

One of the region’s oldest farms, Colchester Neighborhood Farm in Plympton has been in existence since 1751. Currently operated by Jim Lough, it is owned by Mary Ann Barrow, of the same family that has tended this farm for generations. During the 20th century, this was a solely vegetable farm, but in an effort to adapt, the family leased the farm to New England Village, a residential community-based organization dedicated to serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Jim relates, “At the day program here, clients grow their own food, use it in the culinary program, and with any left over, bring it to the Plymouth Area Coalition.” The Coalition provides services for the homeless.

Today part of the farm is used by New England Village, but Jim also grows food to sell to the community. The more things change, the more things stay the same, an old adage that rings true at Colchester Neighborhood Farm. As Jim says, “We’re doing the same as they have always done on the farm, still providing food for the community.” And he proclaims, “It’s still an old-fashioned family farm, selling delicious sweet corn.” Its multifaceted use has kept it both a teaching and a learning farm, with a farmstand where customers can pick up excellent produce in the warmer months. It has been able to adapt, but at the same time, stay the same.

More Farming

Bay End Farm

Baker Farm in Swansea specializes in ice cream. Pakeen Farm in Canton started over 100 years ago but began selling Christmas trees to the public in 1993. Langwater Farm in North Easton offers fresh organic produce and flowers in their farm store. Alderbrook Farm in Dartmouth grows Christmas trees and sells honey and similar products. In operation since 1891, the Bettencourt Dairy Farm is the oldest in Rehoboth, specializing in cheese, meat, and raw milk. At Noquochoke Orchard in Westport, “pick your own” crops include apples and varietals of heirloom vegetables.

Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset has been farmed by the White family in one way or the other since 1845. Now in her 80’s, Jean White still works on the farm. She and her husband Frank took it over in 1998, and it was certified organic in 2000. Frank began the Friends of Holly Hill, who still run it. Early educational endeavors included establishing a garden for a local charter school as well as for the Accord School in Norwell.

More than just a farm, Holly Hill is an educational nonprofit whose executive director Meredith Laban notes, glowingly, “By the end of the year, our educational programming will have served approximately 20,000 children.” The farm is used for field trips, but their educators go into schools to lead programs, too. They also grow a variety of vegetables and organic cut flowers. Holly Hill also operates a farmstand so the public can enjoy their fresh produce, flowers, and herbs.

Old Farms, New Uses

Gilded Tomato Farm, view from inside the teepee.

The Gilded Tomato in Rehoboth sits on a parcel of land that has been farmed since 1845. The owners bought it in 1985 and for the last ten years have grown vegetables to be used in their wood-fired pizzas. As owner Julia Sweet recollects regarding using their own produce “(The Gilded Tomato) is an authentic farm-to-table business, using as many sustainable practices as we can.” Known for its wood-fired pizza ovens at catered events and for its food truck, the Gilded Tomato has pivoted also to host celebrations at their own property recently.

Another wicked old farm is the Soule Homestead in Middleborough. Much more than a traditional farm, the homestead is an educational center whose land is leased out to farmers to grow their own crops. The parcel of land on which the Homestead sits was deeded to George Soule, a Pilgrim who arrived on the Mayflower. The home that sits on the property today was built under the ownership of Augustus Soule in the 1800s. Through the years, the farm eventually changed hands, and in the 1980s it was sold to the town of Middleborough. In 1992, the current education center opened, hosting programs to foster awareness about farming practices and sustainable living.

Holly Hill Farm, Colchester Farm, Soule Homestead

From dairy to produce, these “wicked old” farms have been able to remain steadfast to their agricultural mission while changing to stay viable and relevant in modern times. Here’s to another 100 years!

We’d like to recognize other wicked old farms in our area. If we’ve missed someone, (and we most likely have), please give us a holler on our FB page or comment below, and we will add it to our list. Cheers to being 100 or more years old!

Bay End Farm, Bourne, organic vegetables, herbs, flowers

Harju Cranberry, Middleborough, cranberries

Historic O’Neil Farm, Duxbury, dairy farm

Langwater Farm, Easton, certified organic produce and flowers

Mirrodale Farm, Acushnet, hay and forestry products

Osamequin Farm, Seekonk, non-profit, working, educational farm

Prospect Hill Farm, Plympton, certified organic eggs, heirloom vegetables, blueberries

Savory Farm Cranberries, Plymouth, cranberries

The King Farm, Dartmouth, farmstand (200+ years old!) and is home to Brix Bounty Farm

Whip’s Farm, Plymouth, hay and horses

Zack Lamothe once released an album called “Zack Lamothe and His Trip to the Farm,” so it’s only appropriate that he’s back on the farm, albeit really old ones.

Here are a few more “wicked old farms” brought to our attention by our readers:

McNamara Dairy Farm, Stoughton MA
Sampson Farm Westport, MA