The New Farmers -Fall 2013
by: Christy Basset Baker
photography by: Jim Powers
Nestled behind some trees off Polpis Road lies a little niche agricultural operation three Nantucket friends dreamed up one January night in 2010. DYLAN WALLACE, CALEB CRESSMAN and NICOLE DUPONT are recreating and practicing traditional farming skills that have been lost for generations.
Combining their resources and passions, the three have formed Faraway Farm. Each proprietor brings their own set of skills to the partnership: Wallace a passion for bees, herbs and plants; duPont a history of conservation and farming sheep; and Cressman land and experience raising pigs. While all three have full-time jobs and families, they spend whatever extra hours of daylight they have left teaching themselves how to run a small farm and business. The farm itself covers only a couple of acres, but the small dream of Wallace, Cressman and duPont has turned into a reality that’s far from fully grown.
“Caleb had pigs, Nicole had sheep, and I had chickens and bees. We decided, wouldn’t it be nice to have them all together and expand on what we were doing,” Wallace said.
A Nantucket native, Wallace grew up in the kitchen of Oràn Mór, an island restaurant where his father Peter was once co-owner and chef. This experience coupled with his Nantucket Native landscaping company helped Wallace develop a passion for herbs and vegetables.
“I grew up in a restaurant and I appreciate where food comes from and the community it’s built around. I cut fresh herbs to show people at the farmers market. It’s a way to make connections with chefs who are walking through, it’s a nice meeting ground,” Wallace said. Aside from the Earth’s fruits, Wallace also has a special passion for bees.
“I love the bees. You don’t feed them, you don’t water them and they produce,” he said. “We have two hives at the Chanticleer restaurant. We’re trying to build our own knowledge and spread awareness about what we do.”
While the trio has the talent and aspiration to cultivate a working farm, their biggest hurdle so far has been finding land. The platform for Faraway Farm came through island native Cressman, who purchased an eight-acre family property off Polpis Road.
Cressman is a musician by day, playing in local bands including Four Easy Payments and Coq Au Vin. His family’s history has long been intertwined with farming, as his mother and stepfather now own High Meadows Farm in upstate New York.
“In Polpis where I grew up we always had cows, pigs, chickens. When I finished college I decided to get animals again. Dylan and I started hanging out. I’ve always wanted to get a dairy and Nicole had dairy sheep and was looking for a place to keep them. Those two wanted to expand it. Since I bought the property I’ve planted more trees and we hope to rebuild the barn some day,” Cressman said.
The animals at Faraway Farm live on only three of the eight acres of land, as much of the Polpis property is wetland. To provide more grazing pastures for the animals, the farm participates in Sustainable Nantucket’s Community Agricultural Initiative land-use program. The sheep and chickens are periodically moved to different properties where they are corralled by removable electric fences and utilized to maintain the properties.
“We’re using the animals for what they’re best meant to do. The sheep are lawn-mowers, the chickens are like little aerators and the pigs are like Rototillers and tractors,” Wallace said. “They’re moved every day to new grass so they’re always able to scratch the land, eat bugs and move rocks. That’s what they naturally would do.”
The sheep are kept at Faraway Farm while milking, then moved to a Land Bank field where there’s more grass and space. The chickens and pigs are moved around to help clear local inhibitors and turn the land into more farmable space. “Everyone has a job on the farm,” said duPont, who considers herself an employer of the animals. “I feed the chickens because they give us eggs, the sheep are the same way. Everyone has to do their part. It’s a reality of the farm.”
A manager at Cisco Brewery, duPont spent time working with livestock and managing ranches in Montana. In 2004 she brought her six milking sheep to island.
“I’m a sheep addict, they’re my favorite. They are the ultimate all-purpose animal. They’re fiber-producing, they give you milk and meat, they are way more efficient than anyone else,” she said.
duPont also brings her knowledge of land conservation to the partnership through years of working with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.
“I had been working for the Conservation Foundation for years running their sheep program, so I had that angle and I owned the dairy sheep. We wanted to raise meat and eggs, and produce milk, and we wanted it to be local and fresh, to know where it came from. Then we realized that it could be a business.”
The farm sells its products at on-island fairs and festivals, to restaurants and markets. Its asparagus, eggs, herbs and honey can be found on the menus at both American Seasons and Ventuno restaurants. American Seasons purchases pigs for the restaurant’s annual Hogtoberfest. The farm’s beehives are located and utilized at the Chanticleer restaurant in Sconset and honey and herbs can be found at Wallace’s wife Claudia’s chocolate, tea and spice shop Ambrosia on Centre Street or her booth at Sustainable Nantucket’s weekly Farmers & Artisans Market. Due to FDA restrictions, the sheep’s milk is used for personal use only for the time being. With a growing small-farm dairy movement crossing the country, however, all three partners hope to someday add the production and sale of raw, natural milk to their business.
“My vision is what we’ve wanted since day one, for this to be a dairy. We want to go back to the farm model with a dairy focus,” duPont said.
Through talent, dedication and strong roots on Nantucket, Wallace, Cressman and duPont have thus far turned a quiet winter idea into a blossoming reality. The trio may spend their waking hours at their day jobs, but their forte and devotion lie in a little slice of farmland off Polpis Road.
“It all sounded impossible but we decided we’re doing this. It only works when there are people who actually care and are willing to put in the sweat to make it happen. We love it, we’re passionate and we care. We believe in it and if we keep chugging along this will become something much bigger,” duPont said. ///
Christy Bassett Baker is a year-round resident. In the summer you’ll find her down at the Nantucket Boat Basin in a managerial role. She is a regular contributor to Nantucket Today.