Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 17 • Aug. 26-Sept.1, 2010
now in our 40th season

A Greener Shade of Green

by Chris O'Day

Bartlett FarmIt is rare that a tract of land stays in a family for 200 years. People sell, families move, and land finds its way into the hands of new owners.  It is even rarer to find a family business that has remained in the family for two centuries.  Businesses are often bought out or one generation ends up not being able or willing to continue.  However, on Nantucket both feats have been reached.  Bartlett’s Farms has managed to stay in the Bartlett family on their own land for nearly 200 years, an accomplishment that is even more impressive when remember the business is farming and the location is here on Nantucket Island.

In a place where many business fold after a season or two, Bartlett’s Farm has managed to become a staple of the island.  One reason for the longevity is their ability to evolve.  Many businesses become memories because they hold onto the past when the world has moved on.  Bartlett’s has a long history of successfully changing with the times, and that now means going organic.

Bartlett’s Farm, originally a dairy farm, made its first evolution when in the 1950’s John H. Bartlett, Jr. decided to switch over to sheep.  From sheep, the main focus switched to tomatoes and then 70 Black Angus Cattle were brought into the picture.  Later, in the 1980s, the farm changed its focus to what it is today:  the island’s top producer of various fresh vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers.  The next step is not changing their product mix, but changing how they are produced.

The shift at Bartlett’s, and it seems in the world, is to become sustainable and economically responsible to embrace the green and limit the strain put on Mother Nature.  Part of the Bartlett Farm mission statement reads, “We strive to use the safest, most responsible methods to grow the most appealing plants and vegetables with environmental conscience measures.”

One way that the farm puts their mission statement into practice is by using integrated pest management.  Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is using the latest most comprehensive information known about pest life cycles combined with pest control methods to manage pest damage by using the most economical means, with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

CEO of Bartlett’s Ocean View John Bartlett said, “When managing pests we always try to pick the best possible method that will be right for the environment. We first try to deal with pests organically.  Then if we must use a control we use one with chemicals that are certified 100% organic.”

Besides pest control management, Bartlett’s has made green strides by recently becoming certified organic in several of their greenhouses.  In these greenhouses everything is grown 100% green without the use of chemicals or pesticides.  The plants grow from the sun, water, nutrients, and that’s it.

The recent strides by Bartlett’s Farm to go organic are impressive, but they have long had history of trying to do things naturally.  John Bartlett said, “We have always tried to protect the soil and be eco-friendly by doing such things as covering crops and using legumes to naturally fix nitrogen levels in the soil.”

New to the Farm this year is a coop of about 100 organically raised chickens.  As a result Bartlett’s Farm now offers organic eggs.  What’s better than having a fresh omelet on a Nantucket morning?  A fresh local organic omelet made from eggs that were cultivated with love and environmental responsibility. 

Four other animals, oxen, now also make Bartlett their home.  Their names are Ben, Jerry, Dunk, and Donut.  With the oxen John Bartlett said they hope to make a closed loop of production on Nantucket where everything can be produced on island.  The oxen will produce manure to nurture the soil and will also be used to cultivate and till the crops.  If the cleverness of these oxen’s’ names are any indication of how these oxen will work out, Bartlett’s can bank on becoming a closed loop in no time.
Bartlett’s has been able to evolve and stay a family partly because of a family tradition.  John Bartlett said, “I have two brothers and a older sister that work with me at the farm and everyone has kids.  We always encourage them to go out into the world and discover new things so that they can comeback if they want and put their own spin on the farm.”

What many consumers do not realize is transportation of products causes a large part of the pollution pie.  When you buy local you cut transportation pollution out of the picture and are just left with fresh produce: juicy tomatoes and mouth-watering cucumbers.  As John Bartlett said, “We always try to compete on quality and freshness.  Our products are picked fresh every day and we are very proud of what we put out.”

The future of Bartlett’s Farm looks fresh and green.  As they move forward with their going green agenda it will mean more positive produce for the island.  Bartlett’s Farm has changed over the years always in a beneficial way for both the farm and the Nantucket community.  With the next generation of Bartlett farmers already tilling the fields Bartlett’s Farm might just be here for another 200 years.
Bartlett’s Farm is open daily from 8 am to 7 p.m.  Tours are available.


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