First as a Story
Once upon a time, there was a couple named Clare and David Fortier. They lived in the house at the corner of Hulst and Bay Roads, and in 1976 bought the land where our Farm Shop now stands. With the help of their son Tom, they built a barn, plowed the first fields, and started Fortier Farms, Inc. In 1982, Clare and David hired experienced farmers to help them realize their dream of creating a biodynamic farm. Ian and Nicki Robb came from England and developed 4 acres of biodynamic gardens. They sold produce to Bread & Circus in Hadley when it first opened. They changed the name of the farm to “Brookfield,” and bought the farm’s very first Irish Dexter cow. Brookfield Farm became the 3rd Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in the US in 1986. Fifty-five shares were sold that year, and apprentices were taken on for the first time. In 1987, Clare and David created the Biodynamic Farmland Conservation Trust, Inc. (BFCT), a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that would own the farm and protect the land from development in the future. All of the assets of the farm were donated to the Trust in 1988. A board of directors was established and have since been responsible for safeguarding the mission of the Trust. In 1989, the Town of Amherst bought the development rights to the Trust’s land, and forevermore, our land can only be used for agricultural purposes.
Brookfield Farm’s membership was up to 140 shares with 10 acres of vegetable land in production when Clare and David passed away in 1993. Ian and Nicki moved on to other endeavors and, in 1995, Dan Kaplan was hired by the board of the BFCT to be the manager of Brookfield Farm. Here he’s stayed--happily ever after. By 2003, the farm was providing food for 520 shareholders and their families. More than thirty acres of land--the original fields plus land rented from neighbors as well--were now being used to grow these vegetables. Our happy herd of Angus/Dexters now stands at 10, and the farm is safely owned and protected by way of the BFCT. Clare and David’s dream (what a great dream!) lives on and is constantly evolving through the hard work and support of many people. People such as yourselves.
NeXT as Photos from the archives
... and Lastly As a Timeline.....
Brookfield Farm is under water! Glacial Lake Hitchcock covers 200 miles of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. The Holyoke Range pokes out above the surface, and so does Mount Pollux. (Today the Lawrence Swamp that you see when walking out the Brookfield trail is one of the last undrained remnants of this giant pre-historic lake.
Pre-1976: The land now used by Brookfield Farm is owned by the Shaw family and is mainly used for growing hay and firewood.
1976 – 1979: Claire and David Fortier purchase the last three building lots in a 90-acre tract of agriculutral and forest land. (The purchase was made possible by the owners' sale of land on the Holyoke Range which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts bought to persue its plan to create the Holyoke Range State Park.) The owners merge the three lots which become the 64-acre tract now in the Trust's ownership. With the help of their son, they build a small pole barn, plow the first fields, and set up Fortier Farm, Inc, a for-profit corporation to help with the goal of developing a farm.
1980 – 1986: Ian and Nicki Robb are hired to develop farm. Small organic gardens started. One cow purchased, and equipment priorities drawn up. 4 acre market garden eventually developed to sell produce to local wholesalers. Farm name changed to Brookfield Farm.
1986: Brookfield Farm becomes third community supported farm in the US. Apprentices taken for first time. 55 member households join in supporting the farm.
1987: Creation of Biodynamic Farmland Conservation Trust, Inc to take on responsibility of running farm and clarifying and expanding the mission to include education of farmers.
1989: Town of Amherst buys the development rights to the land of the Trust, setting it aside for agricultural use only.
1987 – 1991: Farm grows from 55 households to 100. Members pay their share of the running costs and in return may take as much produce as they need (if available). Approximately 7 acres of vegetable production. Apprenticesship program develops taking on 2 -3 trainees each year.
1992 – 1994: Farm maintains support from approximately 140 households. 10 acres of vegetable production. Farm experiences a financial crisis (increased local competition). Apprentices not taken. Original founders pass away. Ian Robb leaves the farm. Dan Kaplan hired as assistant manager.
1995 – 1999: Nicki Robb leaves the farm. Dan Kaplan hired as farm manager. CSA Share structure is changed. Membership grows to 425 households. Infrastructure, finances, and membership base is improved. 16 acres of vegetable production. Apprenticeship program is rekindled and CRAFT program is initiated.
2000 – 2002: Membership grows to 520 households. 24 acres of vegetable production expanded onto Gray’s Farm & Bramble Hill Farm. Assistant Manager’s position (full time/year round) created. Irrigation system & compost pad installed. Equipment upgraded. CSA distribution developed and streamlined. More local farm products offered for sale at CSA distribution.
2003 – 2004: Barn Raising Campaign launched in June 2003. Complete renovation and construction of farm center (incl root cellar, office, greenhouse, and workshop).
2005 - 2010: Winter Share inagurated (200 shares). Regular Season Membership steady at 525 shares and 29 acres of production. Equipment continues to be upgraded. Production moves to Small One’s Farm (instead of Bramble Hill Farm). 24 Hulst Rd purchased as “apprentice house.” 3 unheated fieldhouses constructed. Waiting list for CSA shares hits peak in 2010 (634). Harvest crew established.
2011 - present: Infrastructure & Equipment upgraded. Share sales & acreage used remains steady. Waiting list declines to 0 (by 2014). Website overhauled (2016). Permanent assistant manager position created (2016).