2010-08-12 / News

Conanicut Grange Report

By Bob Sutton
In a recent historical column in the Newport Daily News, Leonard Panaggio writes that on the morning of April 2, 1909, the “Ferry boat Beavertail made a special trip from Jamestown to Newport carrying several loads of loose hay.”

In 1909, horses were the main source of power and hay fueled the horses. From the first European settlement on Aquidneck Island, the excellent soils and topography of Conanicut Island were a necessary agricultural resource for the more densely settled Newport.

Initially, domestic farm animals were ferried from Newport to Conanicut Island to graze on island grasses and as Jamestown became more settled, farmers from the new community of Jamestown ferried all manner of agricultural products to Newport.

Up until the 1890s, Jamestown was primarily a small community of self-sufficient resident farmers creating food and employment for themselves and shipping agricultural surplus to Newport. Although the Jamestown/Newport ferryboat agricultural “trade route” exists only as a distant memory, Conanicut Island livestock hay continues to be a saleable commodity in Jamestown. Dutra Farm, Windmist Farm and Hodgkiss Farm all sell hay in both round and square bales.

Maybe you don’t own a horse or a milk cow, but you want to buy local food. This is a great time for fresh vegetables. Hodgkiss Farm on North Main Road, Stearns Farm at East Ferry and the Jamestown Community Farm on Eldred Avenue all have fresh local vegetables, straight from the garden.

Maybe you have a neighbor who plants a huge garden and gives you all the zucchini, tomatoes and beans you could ever eat, but what you really need is some good local meat for the barbecue.

No problem.

Windmist Farm on Weeden Lane and Watson Farm on North Main Road offer grass-fed beef, lamb and pork in a variety of cuts, including sausage and hot dogs. Fresh hens’ eggs are also available at several locations.

All of the farms have different hours of operation, so check that out in advance because this time of year, there is something for everybody. Some of the Jamestown farms also sell at the Casey Farm farmers’ market on Saturday mornings on Route 1A in North Kingstown.

This time of year, there are a great variety of local food choices and it is a good time to commit to a more sustainable way of living and eating. All of the farms are within easy biking distance, so grab some saddlebags for your high-speed racing bicycle, ride to the farms and buy your food.

Fresh food, fresh island air and good exercise – what’s better than that?

A couple of months ago, the Friends of the Jamestown Library and the Conanicut Grange sponsored a showing of the documentary film, Food Inc. If you have not seen this film, you may want to check it out. It documents in great detail the national and international food industry, factory farming system and how the average consumer has lost control of what he or she eats and feeds the children. It is available from Amazon, other video outlets and is sometimes shown on PBS. It is definitely worthy of your consideration.

Jamestown farms are a fortunate part of Jamestown life. The farms provide fresh food and open space, but most importantly, they provide a home for Jamestown farmers. To a person, Jamestown farmers are dedicated to helping all of us eat healthier and live in a sustainable community that protects our natural environment and supports a quality of life that is respectful of people, farm animals and the Conanicut Island soil.

Outstanding in the field

Beans, corn, winter squash, summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers, kale, tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, peppers, beets and slightly stoopedover farmers and their children out picking in the field, but more importantly, there for you at the local farm stands.

What’s available in Jamestown

Dutra Farm, hay, 662-5686

Hodgkiss Farm, early summer vegetables at the stand, 423-0641

Watson Farm, grass-fed Red Devon beef, lamb, Conanicut Island and Rhody Warm wool blankets, North Main Road, Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m.

Windmist Farm, grass-fed beef products, eggs, Weeden Lane, Friday, 3 to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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