About the Farm
Martha’s Vineyard’s oldest continuously working family farm, the Allen Farm in Chilmark consists of 100 acres of rolling pastures and meadows bounded by historic stonewalls, upper Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Jonathan Allen originally purchased the farm in 1762, and ten years later his oldest son, Tristram, built the timber-framed farmhouse, which still sits just off of South Road in Chilmark. We restored the house in 1998, incorporating grey water and Clivus Multrum composting systems into the ancient fabric of the historic structure. The farmhouse and all its attendant outbuildings are very representative of the heritage of traditional New England farmsteads.
In 1975 Clarissa Allen, then in her early twenties, inherited the farm and together with her husband Mitchell Posin, they began the difficult and challenging task of bringing to fruition their vision for a viable and sustainable working farm.
Following our strongly held beliefs in farming organically, and with a willingness to try innovative agricultural methods, we’ve contributed substantially to revitalizing the Vineyard’s rich agricultural history. We are very pleased to see farming becoming “respectable” once again, and that young islanders are currently signing on to the living local, growing local concepts. And now, our son Nathaniel joins us as an integral part of the farm.
Over the years we’ve built two large post and beam barns to house all the activities of a busy working farm: including machinery maintenance, a place for looms for weaving, space for sheep shearing and a spot for compost tea brewing. An ancient corncrib and a stone peat house, no longer used for their original purposes, are currently gardening sheds. The farm’s horses and its two miniature donkeys live in a beautiful slate-roofed barn framed in white oak timber from our woodlands. Throughout the winter, with only the benefit of the sun, we grow a variety of lettuces and hearty leafy greens in a nearby hoop greenhouse. In the spring and early summer, an assortment of heirloom tomatoes get an early start in the greenhouse. Under the ridge at the back of the farm we have recently added a larger 30 x 48 hoop greenhouse – this one offers cozy winter protection for the sheep and is used for early Spring lambing.
From the reclaiming of overgrown pastures to the rebuilding of tumbledown stonewalls, we’ve researched and implemented many new ways of doing things including using grass based rotational grazing and New Zealand fencing techniques. We make our compost tea guided by the principles and preparations of biodynamic agriculture to feed the microbial life of the soil. All these farming practices weave together to create delicious meats and vegetables, and superior chickens and eggs. Our farm’s beautiful wool is spun and woven into throws and blankets, and also knitted into hats and sweaters. This cyclical process encourages a truly thriving and sustainable environment for all to enjoy.
In the dooryard, there is an elderly elm, planted in the mid 19th century from a slip brought home from Cambridge as a gift to the homestead. For 12 generations our family has lived and worked this land. Along with the farmhouse, the outbuildings and the rugged stonewalls, this tree has weathered many hurricanes and nor’easters and through it all we’re still here too. In a world full of hurry and transience it is fulfilling to experience our family’s long deep commitment to its land and sense of place.