To accommodate their growing farm, Sandra L. and Daniel E. Silva of DaSilva Farms have expanded to a new location: Smithfield Farm, a horse farm on Sandwich Road.
Smithfield Farm is a 27-acre property that includes horse paddocks, an indoor riding ring, and a network of woodland riding trails. There are 62 horses on the property, according to owner Janice A. Foster, as well as a smattering of ducks, chickens, goats and donkeys.
On Monday morning, Ms. Foster and Mr. and Ms. Silva sat under the shade of a wild cherry tree in the middle of a newly cleared field out beyond the horse paddocks. Half the field is already planted with close to 20 different vegetables, including zucchini, squash and snap peas.
Ms. Foster said, “I was almost feeling a little guilty for not putting my 27 acres to full use.”
“And I,” Mr. Silva said, “really needed more space.”
The two made a deal: Mr. Silva farms the land free of charge and in exchange Ms. Foster gets a beautified landscape, which is an extra attraction for her business. “Once riders come out of the woods, they have people and plants to look at,” Ms. Foster said.
“And the kids are so enthusiastic and wave to us,” Ms. Silva said.
Ms. Foster said she already welcomes anyone to stroll her property and enjoy the animals free of charge, and the vision now is to add a community garden. In the near future, Mr. Silva plans to open the field up to individuals who need a small, sunny plot to grow vegetables. Gardeners will not pay rent, but must abide by certain requirements, gardening organically among them, he said. Growers can take all the produce they want for personal consumption, and surplus will be sold at a DaSilva Gardens at Smithfield Farm stand, with a projected 80-20 split with the Silvas, he said.
“We both seem to think similar about the importance of agriculture,” Mr. Silva said. “And the appreciation of family and open land,” Ms. Foster added.
The two’s relationship got off to an inauspicious start two years ago when Mr. Silva borrowed Ms. Foster’s Ford F350 Dually truck to tow a mobile poultry slaughtering unit to his farm on Brick Kiln Road in Teaticket. He blew the transmission. Ms. Foster paid to fix the truck—and then lent it to him a second time.
“She's a great person,” Mr. Silva said. “I mean, who would do that?”
Ms. Foster shrugged. “Things break.”
The three of them left the shade of the cherry tree and walked the rows of vegetables. “To the left here, these are tomatoes and peppers,” Mr. Silva said. He then pointed to a row of pole beans that were planted by seed four days ago and were already two inches high. “The soil is amazing back here,” he said. The area was an outdoor riding ring years ago, but then abandoned long before she bought the farm three years ago, Ms. Foster said. Huge piles of horse manure stand at the edge of the field, which Mr. Silva plans to make into compost and sell.
Mr. Silva then pointed to a few unmarked tomato plants, explaining these were called the “I don’t know” varieties. That means they sprouted out of compost from a seed that passed undigested through an animal. When one of these plants pops up in a pot at a nursery, Mr. Silva said, the gardener usually removes the unknown volunteer. “I don’t, I take it and I stick it in the ground.”
“We don’t discriminate,” Ms. Silva said merrily. In a more earnest tone, she said she envisions the garden as a place “where people can come and be accepted.”
“Watching children struggle with social and emotional issues at school and not finding a place to be accepted and be part of something” is difficult, and the garden could provide a remedy, Ms. Silva said. The couple plans to invite school groups to the farm on field trips. Mr. Silva said he wants to show young people they can actually make a living farming.
Mr. Silva worked as a small business lender for a bank until he was laid off in 2009. The Silvas have two sons, Devin, 12, and Maxwell, 7. Each son has a row of vegetables in his charge; Devin tends the potatoes, Maxwell the carrots.