By SHAUN KIRBY
SAUNDERSTOWN—Every Saturday morning during the spring and summer, locals flock to Casey Farm to grab their favorite vegetables, and the farm is often bustling with school children gaining insight into how a farm operates. The farmstead, which is operated preservation non-profit Historic New England, has overlooked Narragansett Bay since before the Revolutionary War, however, and upgrading the property is a consistent need.
Enter the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC), which has awarded the farm nearly $40,000 to make repairs to barns on the property.
“The barns are a landmark here on the farm,” said Jane Hennedy, site manager for Historic New England—Southern Rhode Island. “We average about 45,000 visits a year here, and will be able to fix them up and welcome people even better.”
Hennedy said that the barns, which were originally built in the 1850s, will be revamped beginning next fall, although finding an exact time to fit in the repairs is always a challenge.
“We have people on our team who can investigate what needs to be done, and we will hire some talented local contractors to take the outside cladding off and strengthen beams,” she explained. “The gutters and the floors inside need repair.”
“We are a victim of our own success with 45,000 visits per year, so we have to time [construction] well after our busy growing and summer camp season.”
The updates will correspond to construction techniques typically used in the 19th century, added Hennedy.
“[Contractors] will even use some old whitewash like back in the 1850s.”
The farmstead will also soon construct a new ‘high-tunnel’ greenhouse, funded by a 2017 grant from The Champlin Foundation totaling $22,690. The greenhouse will help serve over 140 families who purchase shares in Casey Farms’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
“A ‘high-tunnel’ is a greenhouse that is over planting ground,” Hennedy explained. “It will allow us to extend the growing season. This is an organic farm, and now our growing seasons is from June through October. Now, we will be able to have vegetables available during winter time and early spring.”
Construction will also include a small storage facility for greenhouse equipment and four hydrants and water system extensions for better water service to the greenhouse.
An additional $8,640 has been secured from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to complete the project.
Casey Farm is one of 38 cultural and historic sites throughout Rhode Island to receive funding, $4.6 million in total, from RIHPHC and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA). The money has been supported by Rhode Islanders voting in favor of the Creative and Cultural Economy Bonds referendum in 2014.
“The arts and history help make Rhode Island a destination for visitors and a source of pride for our citizens,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo in a statement. “Maintaining and rebuilding our cultural infrastructure also strengthens Rhode Island’s economy – supporting our arts and cultural institutions and creating jobs in the building trades and beyond.”
“These cultural improvement grants contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of our state.”
For more information about Casey Farm and its programs, visit www.historicnewengland.org.