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BARTLETT’S•FARM N

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A look at six generations of change and expansion at Bartlett’s Farm by Mary Lancaster

Once upon a time, about two hundred years ago, the view at Bartlett’s Farm in Cisco was pastoral, a scene of perhaps sixty mostly untilled acres dotted with a small house, a barn and a few sheds. This was William R. Bartlett’s property that he bought after

herd, initiating what would become one of the Island’s largest

moving to Nantucket from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and,

dairy businesses.

like many others of that era, he utilized it as a “sustenance farm.” There were scattered small gardens just

William passed the torch to his son Albert, who ran the farm

ample enough to feed his family, some cows and chickens,

from the mid to late 1800s, and increased the number of cows.

horses and hay. Neighbors bartered with each other to fulfill their needs. It was a simple life devoid of frills.

Albert begat John H. Bartlett, who oversaw the farm from roughly 1890 to 1920.

Today the panorama is vastly different.

His son, John H. Bartlett, Jr., known by

There are several large, high-tech greenhouses,

with

more

than

many as “June,” was the first “educated”

one

Bartlett farmer, graduating in 1920 with

hundred of the over two hundred acres

the first class of a two-year agricultural

under cultivation, housing for farm

program

workers and a very busy, modern kitchen installed in the remaining barn that produces

ready-to-eat

farm until his death in 1974. By the late As did several other dairymen, they had

lineage, the farm has grown in size, as

each

their own milk route, selling to private

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customers and supplying local stores. But

overseeing its operation has left his

hard times came after World War II, when

footprint in the soil of history. Eventually, William enlarged his holdings by acquiring adjacent small family farms

of

1930s, Bartlett’s Dairy was at its height.

now a sixth, predominately patriarchal, success,

University

work with his father, later taking over the

market. From William through what is

and

the

college, June returned to Nantucket to

confections,

entrées and sandwiches sold in its farm

scope

at

Massachusetts at Stockbridge. After

help was difficult to find, and there John H. Bartlett, Jr. (“June”) July 9, 1900 - June 30, 1974

of ten to thirty acres, each no longer

seemed to be too much milk available in winter and too little to meet the summer demand, Phil recalls. In addition, the

being planted, according to Phil Bartlett, William’s great-

advent of pasteurization required costly modernization of

great grandson. William began adding more cows to his

dairy facilities that John Bartlett Sr., decided to retire. June’s

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mother only outlived his father by two months, both passing

“It was beets, carrots, tomatoes, whatever we had,” Phil

in 1947. Phil says the family phased out the cows but kept its

remembers.

milk route, purchasing milk from Martha’s Vineyard. By the early 1950s, the route became unprofitable and was sold to William Grieder.

The next year, when Phil left the Island to learn about vegetable crops at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, his younger brother Henry and June’s brother Victor worked

At this point, June decided to try his hand at sheep farming.

the truck sales. June took the reins in the late 1950s. June’s

Phil remembers his father bringing a small flock from the

other son John helped picking in the fields and aided June in

mainland loose on the ferry boat, then driving them through

planting potatoes. Phil went on to serve three years in the

the streets of town out to the farm. The venture was not to last,

Marines, then returned to Cornell where he met his wife,

however. The sheep developed dreaded hoof and mouth

Dorothy, who earned a Master’s degree in Education. Phil

disease and had to be destroyed.

graduated in 1961with a Bachelor of Science degree and the couple moved permanently to Nantucket.

Incrementally, June’s son Phil assumed more responsibility on the farm. At the age of 12, he proposed raising his own

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Sales of produce and flowers didn’t begin at the farm until

tomatoes in his grandmother’s and mother’s yards. Phil had

the early 1970s, following construction of the first three

been studying his father’s craft and believed he could

greenhouses and a small retail building, says Dorothy,

improve on what the farm offered its customers. During this

adding that town traffic and parking was becoming hectic

period, June already had been growing potatoes and turnips

and they also wanted a place to sell their plants, growing

that he fed to the sheep and sold to locals to tide them

materials and plant pots. But people loved to shop at the

through the winter. In 1953, Phil began selling vegetables off

Main Street wagon, perhaps as much to spend time with

a truck in town, and the family’s goods were also purchased

June as to take home a bag of delicious, fresh vegetables.

by the A&P and Snow’s Market when both stores were on

With his sweet face, gentle demeanor and friendly attitude

Main Street.

toward everyone he spoke with, June captured many a


b a r t l e t t ’s f a r m

“It took us from spring growing to spring, summer and fall growing, and that developed the plant business,” she

melon was ripe and which were the perfect tomatoes for your

explains. “In spring we had plants, in summer we had the

needs. And June held court with his buddies — Tom Devine

vegetable business and cut flowers, and in fall we had

and Charlie Norton, among throngs of others, who ambled

plants.”

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heart. He had a special knack for conversation, even if he’d never seen you before. He also knew just how to tell if a

to the truck to share stories and simply pass the mornings in a tradition long gone. After June’s death, a commemorative

The next phase of expansion was an unintended windfall. In

monument was placed on the sidewalk on Main Street next

1994, Bartlett’s published a cookbook in response to

to the parking spot the truck has held for decades. It reads,

customer’s questions about how to prepare the vegetables

“He loved the dawn, he loved the soil, he loved mankind,

they bought. Recipes from the cookbook were written on a

and all Nantucket loved ‘June.’”

chalkboard displayed in the greenhouse to promote book sales, but then people started asking if they could buy the

Dorothy and Phil slowly expanded the fields and tried raising

dish itself. Dorothy says that was the birth of the farm’s

beef cattle. While their herd of Black Angus eventually

kitchen and farm market concept.

reached more than seventy, the couple decided they preferred to use the land for crops instead of grazing, ending

“Going from plants and vegetables to the market was just a

the cattle business at the onset of the 1980s. And, as the

further extension,” says Dorothy. “It was like everybody else

vegetable and flower inventory increased, the Bartletts

on Nantucket wondering how you can extend your season.”

recognized a need to improve harvesting and expand the entire facility.

And so, in 1996, the old dairy barn that became a produce sales barn became a sleek, bright kitchen. The Bartlett’s hired

Much to his farm hands’ joy and relief, Phil introduced the

a chef and the market took off in popularity faster than

mechanized potato picker, ending the back-straining

anyone anticipated.

procedure of bending to gather each tilled spud by hand. Remodeling began in 1985 with the addition of large, modern glass greenhouses. “At that point, our children were graduating from high school and were interested in farming,” notes Dorothy. Gaining vast amounts of information during travels and interaction with other members of Bedding Plants International, Dorothy and Phil found they could stretch their sales beyond summer by using the technologically advanced greenhouses to start planting earlier and “finish off” imported plants. It allowed them for

“Once we started producing things from the kitchen, there was a natural progression of what goes with these dishes, and we brought in auxiliary items like sauces, pastas, oils,” Dorothy explains. “It made life easier for people. It’s a whole process of being creative and changing.” Changing times for Phil and Dorothy means recognizing that their turn to pass the torch is approaching. Calling themselves already partially retired and taking more

the first time to have year-round workers at the farm.

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John M. Allen

“advisory” roles, they appreciate and are proud of the

2004 and was negated when $6 million was raised through

responsibilities their four children are assuming in the farm’s

donations to purchase more than 100 acres on the farm

operation. The firstborn, Cynthia Bartlett Bopp, holds a

parcel.

degree in accounting from the Rochester Institute of Technology and is their bookkeeper. John, the oldest son,

“We wanted to find a way to pay the taxes so when Phil and

followed in Phil’s footsteps and earned a degree in vegetable

I die, the children don’t have to sell the property to pay

crop production at Cornell. He heads the vegetable growing

them,” Dorothy says of the arrangement. “The idea was to

business and is now officially the CEO. David studied

sell the development rights and use that money to pay the

agriculture and is a co-grower with John, specializing in

federal tax, to ultimately save the property.”

tomatoes. David’s twin brother Daniel graduated from Northeastern University with a criminal justice degree, and fills a vital role maintaining the farm’s mechanical equipment. John’s wife Rebecca, another Cornellian, works in human

generations before them. Not only is the farm their legacy, it is an important and treasured part of the fabric of Island life.

Phil and Dorothy are also grandparents of what may be the

changes have occurred since William’s day. Reflecting on the

seventh generation of Bartlett farmers. When they began

life of a farmer, Phil says though it is far from glamorous or

planning their estate, they sought a means of passing on the

easy, the rewards are rich and deeply satisfying to the soul.

farm to their heirs without causing them financial burden. In Bartletts agreed to sell the property’s development rights to preserve its open space. The Land Council’s option to buy a permanent conservation restriction lasted through January

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will keep the farm going and continue a tradition of

resources and is the CFO.

an arrangement with the Nantucket Land Council, the

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Naturally the Bartletts hope their children and grandchildren

Looking at the farm’s long history, there is no doubt many

“It was a very ordinary time, there was a lot of activity. It was good to be around the animals and work outdoors,” he says of his youth and how he feels now. “I enjoyed watching things grow and still do.”


b a r t l e t t ’s f a r m nantucket

Carolina Yanez

The Bartlett Farm Windmill We are proud and excited to be producing electricity locally with a renewable source of energy that is abundant and will not pollute our environment. The turbine sits on a 30 meter tower (98’5”) The top of the blade at its highest point of rotation is 145’6” The turbine is modeled to produce approximately 500,000 kilowatts of power annually. We have received grants from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative totaling about 60% of the projects total cost. The turbine will provide all the electrical needs of the farm stand and approximately 80% of the farm’s overall electrical usage. Quint Waters

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Once upon a time, about two hundred years ago, the view at Bartlett’s Farm in Cisco was pastoral, a scene of perhaps sixty mostly untilled a...

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