Tevis and Rachel Robertson-Goldberg, Crabapple Farm, Chesterfield
At Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, Tevis and Rachel Robertson-Goldberg are bringing an old hilltown farm back to life – and to the community. After working for other farmers as apprentices and learning the ropes of farming life, Rachel and Tevis, along with his brother and sister-in-law, Jesse and Desiree, were hooked. Their dream of owning their own farm was supported whole-heartedly by Tevis’ parents, Sally and Bill Stites-Robertson, who also envisioned a rural, family property where they could eventually retire. In 2002, the family’s dreams met with reality in the form of an old, 185-acre dairy farm with overgrown fields and run-down buildings. The farm was at once a challenge and the perfect opportunity.
A decision by the farm’s previous owner, John Miller, made the entire deal possible. He had protected his farm from development by taking advantage of the state’s Agriculture Preservation Restriction (APR) program, which purchased the development rights to the farm. As APR land, the farm could not be used for house lots or other non-agricultural uses, so it was affordable for Tevis’ family.
Five years later, Crabapple Farm is a diversified organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that produces vegetables, beef, lamb, and eggs. Currently 35 acres are actively farmed, mostly in pasture and hayfield. Overall, 70 acres are open, and the rest is forest and wetlands. With a focus on reclaiming fields and renovating buildings, Tevis and Rachel have used the forest only for their own firewood, but hope to more actively manage their woods. Jesse and Desiree now manage Holiday Farm in Dalton.
Crabapple has about 50 shareholders, mostly from Chesterfield and the surrounding towns. In addition to their shares and farmstand, Crabapple sells produce at the Old Creamery in Cummington and this year hopes to sell at the Greenfield Farmers Market and Ground Hog Day Farmers Market.
Tevis and Rachel realize Crabapple Farm reflects a larger nationwide trend of a new generation of farmers who didn’t grow up on farms finding satisfaction in farming life. They are already passing on their knowledge of farming to others, hiring apprentices to work at Crabapple.
As a small-scale organic farm, Crabapple is part of a movement toward a more sustainable way of producing food. Tevis sees the farm as an ecosystem. Aware of balancing input and output, they spread manure from the dairy farm next door, but mostly use their own compost and manure from their own livestock to return nutrients to the soil.
Just as the farm is a biological system, Crabapple is part of the local human community. Tevis and Rachel have a lot in common with neighbors whose families have farmed in the area for generations. They may be the beginning of a new multigenerational farming family, although it’s too soon to know whether Tevis and Rachel’s two-month-old daughter, Anona, will follow in her parents’ farming footsteps. But years from now, the land of Crabapple Farm will be there, protected as farmland for future generations.
By Mary McClintock, from the The Highland Communities Initiative My Place is the Highlands series. Reprinted with permission.