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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Spring 2001 > Preserving a Working Farm

Preserving a Working Farm


Top: Polly Hutchison prunes a stand of late blooming tithonia in the half-acre cutting garden. Below: Shareholder Perry Moylan and child with a basket of harvest bounty.

Casey farm is open June 1 through October 15, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from 1 to 5 pm. Guided tours include one room of the c.1750 house, several outbuildings, and the family graveyard. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the cutting garden and walk down to the bay. For information on CSAs in your area, visit

In 1992, SPNEA transformed the operation of its Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, into a working family farm managed according to an alternative marketing system known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Through this system, a concept that originated in Europe, farmers sell shares in the upcoming season's produce to participating neighbors. Participants share the farmer's risk, but even if one or two crops do not fare well, the overall produce per share is plentiful.

Casey Farm's CSA is a major success. In 2001, the program's eighth season, the farm has over two hundred shareholders and feeds more than a thousand people. The fields, out of production for many years, now bear heavy crops of more than sixty kinds of vegetables and fruit. A typical share in June might consist of strawberries, salad and cooking greens, broccoli, carrots, scallions, and beets; in September, of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and onions. Each household also contributes volunteer hours-an important educational component that helps cement the connection between members and the land that grows their food. Friendships are formed as members pick flowers or hoe crops side by side, and programs and events throughout the season transform the farm into a community center.

Over the past fifty years, changes in the production, processing, shipment, and sale of farm produce have severed the average American's connection to the land. Few people today are aware of where their food comes from or how it is grown. Casey Farm's CSA reestablishes this link while ensuring preservation of a small-scale agricultural landscape, a fixture of the New England scene for three centuries.
-Polly Hutchison
Casey Farm Manager

Preserving a Working Farm