Those well-versed in the goings-on of Little Compton may have noticed a new barn crop up over the last year along the part of Long Highway that stems off Peckham Road. In front of an orchard of apple …
Those well-versed in the goings-on of Little Compton may have noticed a new barn crop up over the last year along the part of Long Highway that stems off Peckham Road. In front of an orchard of apple trees and flanked by some serious floral foliage, the post and beam building boasts natural board and batten siding, a corrugated metal roof and two mammoth red barn doors that slide open wide. Beyond the doors, the interior sings the same tune — everything looks craftily novel, with homage paid, of course, to the good ol’ homestyle farmhouse. But it takes more than a drive-by to tell that the barn isn’t really new at all.
“Every stick has a story,” said Patrick Bowen, who pointed to the sturdy doorway, a favorite of his wife Claire. “That was an old work barge that washed ashore on the Sakonnet River. It was longer than a 20-footer.”
Next, he pointed to the window. “I took these out of a house in Cambridge in 2001. Then, the ceiling support beams. “These I bought off a Craigslist ad in Fall River.”
Almost every inch of the barn — nick or nail — was taken from other buildings and repurposed. “It’s about as green as it gets,” said Bowen.
The barn is the new-ish nucleus of “Small World Farm,” an organic apple farm whose title the barn proudly proves.
“When we bought this farm, we knew that our world just got a whole lot smaller,” he said. He and Claire purchased the farm almost two years ago and with the help of various grants from the DEM and Natural Resources Conservation Service, finally opened to the public just last week. Before that, their goods were sold out of a roadside cart.
“Growing up here, there were always places that you could go to and run into people that you haven’t seen in awhile. The gas station, restaurants, bars,” Bowen said. “But now, there’s nothing. This farm is a very small place, and a small example, but we’d like to become a part of what the community is.”
On two acres, Small World Farm grows seven varieties of apples across 700 trees, supplemented by all sorts of other farmed goods. In front of the orchard lay assorted rows of vibrant flowers and a handful of chicken coops. Nearby, hotboxes boast big red tomatoes and a few stacks of honied beehives just about ready to harvest.
The birth of Small World Farm pushes the total number of organic apple orchards in the state up to two. Newly organic, yes. But new in general? Not even close. The orchard has occupied the land at 229 Long Highway for decades, and was previously owned by Old Stone Orchard’s Warren and his late wife Joanne Wetzel.
“When our kids were little, I used to come over here and help pick apples for Warren, and I got to kind of know the trees,” Claire recalled. “But that was all I really knew about growing apples.”
“Except she knew that there were a lot of apples,” added Patrick, who explained with a sweeping gesture that the trees produce a bounty of “biblical proportions.” So when the land became available, the couple were admittedly hesitant at first considering the amount of labor needed to keep it up.
“At first we thought we can’t possibly do that. But the more we talked about it, we realized we didn’t want to look out our window [and see anything but that orchard],” he explained. “But moreover, it’s a local food source that would have likely been taken out or minimized. We look at it like this: This beautiful garden was planted by somebody else, and it yields an amazing amount of delicious, beautiful food. It’s the candy of Mother Nature. So we feel very fortunate to be the stewards of it.”
With the addition of the barn, which was completed earlier this summer, and its first week successfully under their belt, it’s easy to wonder what is next for Small World. But the Bowens don’t have expansion or fortune in mind. Instead, they plan to keep things small.
“We have a farm that is sort of in the middle of nowhere,” acknowledged Patrick. “We are interested in being a place with local goods for local people ... we want other people who don’t [want to bring their produce all the way to markets in Providence or Bristol] to have a place to bring their stuff in to sell.”
Plus, Claire pointed out, there is a lot of stuff that Small World Farm can’t grow due to the size of their operation. By stocking their market with goods from other farms, like organic produce from Skinny Dip Farm and locally raised beef from Treaty Rock Farm, they’re diversifying their inventory and supporting local farmers at the same time.
Small World Farm donates many of those multitudinous bushels to the Little Compton Food Bank. With their waste —mostly the apples that fall off the tree and rot — local pig farms reap the benefits.
“I think [our daughter] Elizabeth always says it best,” said Patrick in between bites of a Honeycrisp. “We want to grow a community, organically ... I think that’s important to create in this town.”
Small World Farm is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be open until around Thanksgiving for its market and apple picking. To promote carbon reduction, a discount is given to those who ditch their cars and instead walk or ride their bike.