Hodgkiss Farm in Jamestown, RI GAP certified
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Hodgkiss Farm offers local and seasonal vegetables, herbs and plants.
Jamestown, RI - Driving through Jamestown’s Windmill Hill Historic District on North Road, you may notice the handmade signs telling you that you’ve entered a slow food district. They belong to Hodgkiss Farm, and are an indication that the farm stand is open and you should stop by and pick up some ripe tomatoes or sweet corn.
The small, cash-only stand is able to offer an amazing variety of fresh, locally grown herbs and vegetables for the scale of the farm, and that’s because the owners, Harry and Gail Chase, also own and operate Chase Farms, a wholesale operation in nearby Portsmouth. Chase Farms has the largest greenhouses in the state of Rhode Island and is a major supplier to local restaurants through Farm Fresh’s Market Mobile program. Since they have more irrigation water available and greater field acreage, their certified organic herbs and vegetables supplement the produce grown at Hodgkiss Farm.
For the Chases, the farm stand at Hodgkiss Farm represents a natural outgrowth of their successful wholesale operation, which currently does not sell directly to retail customers. “We find that more and more, people are looking for local, seasonal vegetables,” Harry Chase explains, and extending the hours of Hodgkiss Farm’s six-day a week farm stand has allowed them to meet that need. In recent years, they have also increased the amount of acreage devoted to organic growing methods at Chase Farm, and only sell certified organic herbs and vegetables at Hodgkiss Farm. Chase Farms also specializes in greenhouse crops and Rhody Native plants, and visitors to Hodgkiss Farm can purchase some of their seedlings and herb plants as well as cut flowers at the stand.
Hodgkiss Farm has a long and fascinating history and dates back to before the Revolutionary War. In 1679, it was owned by Peleg Sanford, a wealthy Newport merchant and colonial governor who also owned neighboring Watson Farm. For much of its history, Hodgkiss Farm was known as Watson South Farm to Jamestown residents, until a former owner, the late Elizabeth Hodgkiss Beaumont, renamed it after her parents. Mrs. Beaumont, a founding member of the Conanicut Land Trust, was instrumental in preserving Hodgkiss Farm and other island properties, and ensured that the farm was permanently protected from development.
Along with its neighbors Windmist Farm, a producer of all-natural pastured beef, pork, lamb, and goat; Watson Farm, a working farm also used for educational tours and programs by Historic New England; and Dutra Farm, a Rhody Fresh Cooperative dairy, Hodgkiss Farm is part of more than 1000 acres of open green space in the center of Conanicut Island. These four farms often work together cooperatively—for example, expanded hay production at Hodgkiss Farm goes to feed the Belted Galloway beef cattle at Windmist Farm as well as their own “pet” animals. This unspoiled part of Jamestown is the perfect destination for a weekend trip, as visitors can enjoy the beautiful views of Narragansett Bay on a walking tour of Watson Farm, purchase all-natural meat from Windmist Farm for dinner, and then pick out fresh-picked veggies to go with it across the street at Hodgkiss Farm.
Currently, the largest challenge that the Chases face is having an adequate labor supply to keep up with the farm’s demands. Much of the work they do requires workers to be skilled with heavy machinery, and few young people growing up in Rhode Island today have the necessary expertise. Gail and Harry both grew up in farming families and many of their family members are involved with the operation of the two farms, but the shortage of willing workers with similar backgrounds in the area makes finding and training new employees a difficult process. Despite these challenges, however, Hodgkiss Farm seems destined to continue to thrive, due to the popularity of its farm stand, its status as permanently protected farmland, and of course the energy and enthusiasm of the Chase family.