The oldest continuously-operating farm in the United States, Appleton Farms was established in 1636 by Samuel Appleton. Nearly 400 years (and many generations of Appletons) later, the farm stands as both an Ipswich landmark and a wonderful CSA providing shares to more than 800 families and donating more than 10,000 pounds of food annually to local food pantries. But, as we learned on our field trip last week, Appleton Farms is so much more than the 200 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers grown and produced.
Perhaps the not-so-hidden gem of Appleton Farms is the Old House. The oldest part of the house dates back to the late-18th century (there were some later additions in the mid-19th century) but, unfortunately, the house had fallen into disrepair when the farm was gifted to the Trustees of the Reservation. The house has undergone many renovations and, using many of the Appleton family’s photographs (on view in the exhibition Of Farm & Family: Generations of Appleton Family Portraits), was restored to resemble how it looked when the Appleton family lived there. Perhaps most exciting is the latest renovation. In October 2009, the Trustees set out on a “green” renovation and update which included a biomass boiler, 2 solar panels on the roof, and much, much more. Typically, we associate “going green” with stark, “modern” design. The Old House renovation has defied this notion by “going green” but retaining the look and character of the original homestead. Today, the house is LEED Gold-Certified.
The Old House is not the only “green” thing at Appleton Farms. The farm utilizes organic farming methods, grass-based livestock production, renewable energy production, composting, and so much more.
Appleton Farms also offers 5+ miles of trails known as the Appleton Farms Grass Rides. From fun summer hikes to winter snowshoeing, the Grass Rides are a wonderful way to explore the natural beauty of Ipswich and Hamilton. This network of trails consists of forest, wetlands, and open fields. Horses are welcome on designated trails as is mountain biking. Dogs are also welcome (but a Green Dogs permit is required to walk dogs).
There’s so much more we could write about Appleton Farms (from cheese-making to visits with the friendly cows), but experiencing something is so much better than reading about it (in our opinion). Now through April 30th, their Visitor Center is open on weekends from 11am-3pm. The Center is handicapped-accessible and is a great starting point o learning more about the farm through their classroom, research library, and family museum. While you’re there, do not miss out on a trip to the Farm Store (open Monday-Friday, 11am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm) to pick up some of Appleton Farms’ milk, cheese, and beef as well as other locally-produced foodstuffs, art, and crafts.
We regret to say that our time at Appleton Farms was not nearly long enough – it would take at least a weekend to fully explore and enjoy all that the farm has to offer. Even that weekend would not be enough as each season brings with it new crops, events, scenery, and activities. Whatever time of year you plan to visit (and we highly recommend that you do!) be sure to check out their event calendar for great activities for all ages.
Farmstead & Old House Tour – October 19, 11am-12:30pm
Mini Moos – October 25, 10-11am
Pasture to Plate: Cheese Making Tour – October 26, 2:30-4:30pm
Be sure not to miss their Appleton Cooks program! They offer everything from cooking classes and workshops, to harvest-to-table dinners in the field, Friday night farm dinners, and other (incredibly delicious) events throughout the year!
(Did we mention that Appleton Farms is one of the best spots in the area for fall foliage? A mid-October visit will reveal a terrific landscape of yellows, reds, and oranges).