Old Cottage Farm in Hanson is hidden away behind wooden, gray fence panels with lush, flowering vines. Commuters on the busy Route 14 through town have perhaps driven past the property un-noticed.
Ruth Sylvester and her husband Dean have raised four children and have been at the homestead for nearly 52 years. They have developed the land into a fruitful farmland with goats across the street on their second piece of property- a total of eight acres.
Undeterred by a hard day’s work Sylvester says she allows herself to sleep in but not past six o’clock, a luxury compared to 3:30 a.m. in years past.
“Life is not a free trip; what you put in you get out of it,” said Ruth.
The couple in their mid 70’s finds the energy to keep up with the daily tasks of a farm which takes…
“All day long”, they both replied with a laugh.
“You have to keep moving”, she said.
Accompanied by the playful Casey a four-year-old English Springer Spaniel, the Sylvesters wandered their enclosed gardens as four hundred chickens at the far end of the property socialized outside their coop.
“You take a seed that is tiny… you cannot see it and it produces this, “ said Ruth proudly gesturing her crops with open arms.
A sweet smell of peaches ripening in the trees lingered in the air with more than 870 plants: 20 varieties of tomatoes, dozens of varieties of squash, lettuce and cucumbers to name a few. She said there are days when she calls it work depending on the weather and heat but she is devoted to the land and has no foreseeable motivation to discontinue doing what she loves.
Specializing in honey production Dean keeps 30 bee hives strategically placed along the wood line of their property. They will produce upwards of 800 pounds by the season’s end.
Although she is modest and humbled by the flattering remarks it’s Ruth, according to Dean, who begins the entire garden every season starting with seedlings in a greenhouse, planting every last one.
Dean is the resident mechanic on property and there is no shortage of jobs to complete. Although the couple spends plenty of time ‘together’, working side by side with their spouse has a different meaning. They each plan their daily to-do list simultaneously achieving the same goals needed for the farm, however, quite independently. They both agreed. There is plenty of space for that.
For years they have placed a wooden, French style produce cart in their front yard and using the ‘honor system‘ as payment in their metal box, locals frequent the farm stand to purchase their produce. Farm fresh eggs along with their jars of honey are also for sale on their indoor screened porch.
Ruth just retired less than a year ago from her full time job at age 76 from Traveler’s insurance as an account manager. She attributes her green thumb to her childhood. Her dad was Canadian and got killed in the war. Her mother brought her to see her grandparents in Six Mile Brook near Pictou County, Nova Scotia for two months a year. The 400 acre farm had no telephone, no electricity and no running water, she said.
After all is done for the day with the water well on their property and a stretched hose they are fortunate, thankful, and sometimes tired.
The farm stand is located at 744 West Washington Street in Hanson.