BY JASON WENTWORTH
As anyone who has been that way would know, a drive through the Russells Mills neighborhood of Dartmouth would not be complete without a stop at Alderbrook Farm. Fresh off another successful Christmas tree season, the year round farm owned by Allen and Nancy Manley still has plenty of their homemade honey, some jams and preserves and fresh, freshly baked breads and pastries, and yummy local dairy products. Other assorted goods, like commemorative Dartmouth ornaments, soaps and books adorn the shelves in the farm store. It’s business as usual but, as is the case for all farmers, preparation is already underway for the upcoming season.
While Carol Fish, the Manleys’ daughter, is helping upstairs, thumbing through seed catalogs, Nancy and I talked about what to expect this year. “Some of the usual…lettuce mix, plenty of herbs, spaghetti and pattypan squash…we’ll do some oddball crops like fennel and okra,” she said. Last year, their fairy tale eggplant blew me away, so I selfishly chimed in on behalf of that. Any spoilers? “We’re going to try avocado again. That’s all my husband though,” she laughed, uttering a phrase familiar since the dawn of time. They’ll continue to bring in most of the produce they sell from local farms, including hydroponic berries from Jim Munger’s Stoney Meadow Farm.
Whether the products that customers come back for year in and year out originate from the farm or down the road, the greatest attribute of a visit to Alderbrook is you feel like you’re coming back home. Everyone is welcoming…including the chickens.
On a summer day, parents can be seen walking with their children through the farm freely to meet Alderbrook’s resident livestock and enjoy the beautifully kept grounds. There’s no pressure for them to buy something, though most do. It’s about educating and exposing people to farming and rebuilding that link to agriculture that many have lost. “We have had so many field trips come from New Bedford, Fairhaven and day care establishments throughout the area, and kids really love seeing how things grow. Most of them are amazed when we pull up a carrot,” Nancy said. She added, “we wanted to make this place a resource to educate, and it’s really become that.” Indeed, Nancy and Allen have been fixtures in promoting local agriculture, notably through their work with the Dartmouth Grange, which has become itself a focal point for events celebrating local agriculture and facilitating the exchange of farmers’ experience and wisdom.
In the Manley family since 1898, Alderbrook Farm continues to be strong under the care of Nancy and Allen, and sure looks to have a bright future. Nancy beamed when mentioning her grandson who is helping on the farm after serving in the Air Force, and several of her other grandchildren who help in the summertime as well. Also, there’s an eight year-old great grandchild who is ready to work too. Something tells me that we’ll all have a place to come home to on Russells Mills Road for a long, long time.