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Holly Hill Farm

July 25, 2012

It seems as though it is time to say a little something about Holly Hill Farm, the farm where my shop is and where I spent many summer days as a youth. My great great great grand parents, Thomas F. Richardson and Olivia Richardson nee Alger (daughter of Cyrus Alger who made his fortune in armaments during the war of 1812) purchased approximately 400 acres of land in Cohasset in 1844. They were the first of my ancestors to live in that town. They were both from old Yankee (New England NOT New York) families, maybe more about that another time. They used to own the town beach, and my grandfather would always point that out to me and the fact that we had the right to harvest kelp from the beach in perpetuity. Over the years the land has been whittled down to about 140 acres, 130 of which is woodlot and about 5 of which are currently under cultivation.
Many generations used the land as a vacation spot to get out of Boston in the summer. My grandfather, Richardson White, was the first to attempt to farm it himself. He picked a tough time and place to do so. Born in 1904, he graduated from Harvard with a duel major in Romance language and Fine Art. He was a sculptor and he specialized in equine sculpture. However as the horse found itself replaced by the auto, fewer people were interested in paying artists to sculpt or paint their prize steed. He had to find another way to make a living. He moved to the farm full time and began farming the family’s land and leasing land from neighbors to sell produce in Boston. In 1932 he married my grandmother, Cornelia White nee Hallowell and he tried to make it as a farmer. Of course, this was during the depression, every year was a struggle. In addition to farming he worked as a blacksmith, machinist (building his own tractors from surplus parts and those he manufactured himself), plowing streets in the winter, selling firewood, and even building lobster pots for the local lobstermen. During the war, he cleared land in Wompatuck State Park for an ammo dump. But following the war, what had been a difficult way to make a living became all but impossible with the advent of refrigerated trains and trucks which wiped out local farming. So, I grew up visiting a farm which was not a working farm. My grandfather would sculpt in the mornings and work in the woods or fields in the afternoons. It totally spoiled me for taking any sort of 9-5 job, and I haven’t ever really done that. When he passed away, the farm was passed down to my Uncle, Frank Hallowell White and he and his wife Jean White nee Miner took it over and turned it into the certified organic farm it is today.
Frank had always been involved in education and the farm now also serves as an educational facility where children and adults can learn about nature, the woods, the environment, and all aspects of organic farming. There is and educational coordinator who visits dozens of schools during the school year to help teachers plan curricula and to set up garden plots for the students to learn firsthand about the joys of dirt.
And now, when I arrive at the farm most weekdays in the summer, the barnyard is crowded with cars dropping off their campers, and when I come down on Saturdays there are cars of people arriving early to buy their fresh organic produce from the farmstand. It is wonderful. In the fall the farmstand is hopping until about Thanksgiving, and during the winter it quiets down a bit, but they still have workshops and demonstrations (sometimes even I have been know to run a demo or two). If you are ever in the neighborhood, stop by. If it’s a Saturday morning, I might even be able to show you around myself. I’d like that.

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