Agricultural diversity on Block Island
One glance down the long strip of Fred Benson Town Beach and anyone can tell that Block Island is an aesthetic wonder. The island’s lingering haze, beautiful beaches and rolling terrain are natural treasures. The landscape of the island is also adorned with quaint establishments; the very definition of a small New England town. And, given that Block Island is quintessential New England, the town is home to an impressive array of farms and methods of agricultural production.
We recently took a little tour.
Sprague Farm, located on West Side Road, has been part of the Sprague family for many generations. The farm is operated by Joe Sprague, who has been raising cattle on the island for more than 50 years. The farm consists of 86 beef cows, 10 draft horses, 150 chickens, and 50 turkeys purchased as chicks annually in August. When asked about the unique challenges of raising cattle on the island, Sprague said, “Bringing in feed and purchasing hay [from off island] is a huge expense, so I try to grow it all here. It’s an expense no one else [beef farmers elsewhere] has.” To procure his hay, Sprague mows large tracks of land at no cost, providing food for his animals and a cut field for the people who own the land. His beef can be purchased at the Block Island Depot, and is used in meals at the Atlantic Inn and Eli’s.
Sun Farm Oysters
“We work hard and oyster farming isn’t easy, but it’s good for the island. It creates a few jobs, brings in revenue and local commerce,” explained Chris Warfel of Sun Farm Oysters. The nine-year old company occupies just over three acres of water, leased in Harbor Pond, Trim’s Pond, the Great Salt Pond and a few designated ocean areas. Sun Farm Oysters supplies product to Finn’s, the Spring House, The Oar, the Surf, and a few off island restaurants. Their oysters are also available each week at the Farmer’s Market.
Littlefield Bee Farm
Littlefield Bee Farm’s nectar is collected beginning in spring and all through the fall from wild flowers across Block Island and create various honeys such as cinnamon and blackberry blossom. Also available are honeycomb candles, including beeswax votives, tea lights, pillars and tapers.
Made on the island from the island’s resources, Littlefield’s products are an exceptional representation of the island’s unique provisions.
Justin Abrams Animal Farm
Justin Abrams Animal Farm has been an attraction on Block Island since 1973, when Abrams purchased a llama from the Bronx Zoo. His animals occupy approximately 6 acres and he estimates that his farm contains 35 different kinds of animals. Abrams Animal Farm will be the future home of a 40- by 50-foot aviary, which will house water fowl and a variety of other birds that currently reside in an enclosure on the property.
In the vacated pen, we can look forward to seeing primates, most likely tamarinds. The Abrams Farm also contains a large garden in which harvested produce is used to supply local restaurants.
“I’m proud to say that we use no chemicals at all; no insecticides or herbicides. You could eat straight from the garden,” Abrams said. “I just love animals. Tourists enjoy the animals, guests enjoy the animals, and I enjoy watching people enjoy them,” said Abrams when asked about the purpose of the animal farm.
Blazing Star Farm
Blazing Star Farm is located near the Southeast Lighthouse and is run by Suzanne Nolter and Scott Comings. The farm supplies product to Eli’s, the Atlantic Inn and Winfield’s. Their produce and flowers are also available at the Farmer’s Market. They offer edible gift baskets, floral arrangements, fresh eggs, fruits and vegetables. Blazing Star employs organic growing methods so their foods are healthy for the island and for their consumers. The farm also participates in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in which one buys a share of the farm’s harvest and receives a selection of fresh produce.
Block Island’s terrain is not only beautiful, but it supplies its residents and visitors with a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats.