Seven generations of Bartletts have been farming the same land on Nantucket Island since William Bartlett incorporated in 1843. This island family business is well-known for their dedication to our community and their passion for responsible farming, as well as for their delicious tomatoes and corn. Bartlett’s Garden Center is filled with everything needed for a home garden, from tools and soil to seeds and plants. The Market at Bartlett’s Farm sells a variety of prepared foods including fresh baked goods, salads, and grab-and-go meals made in their kitchen, packaged foods, cheese, beer and wine, dairy and deli products, and household essentials alongside their freshly harvested produce and flowers.
From the end of June through August, Bartlett’s offers guided tours of this warm and welcoming part of Nantucket history. There are four different fun and educational tours to choose from: Farm & Field Hayride Tours on Wednesdays now through August 30, Half-Hour Hayrides designed for families with young kids on weekends in July and August, Flower Picking Hayride Tours mid-July through August, and PYO Veggie Hayride Tours during harvest season, when participants can experience farming first-hand as they pick melons, tomatoes, corn, and more.
On Wednesday, I hitched a ride on the first Farm & Field Hayride Tour of the 2023 season, led by Head Grower David Bartlett. Ten of us climbed into the haywagon and Dave cheerfully laid out the rules—”rule number one is have fun; rule number two is stay seated”—then he started the tractor and we were off to visit three of the farm “paddocks” with stops at fields and greenhouses.
During the next 90 minutes, we learned fascinating farm facts, along with some basic tips that could possibly be used at home, including:
• the farm’s electricity comes from six acres of solar arrays on site, and
a dozen sheep grazing under the panels keep the grass down.
• their field-grown onions, carrots, and beets were all started from seed
in Bartlett’s greenhouses, and then transplanted by hand into the field.
• the beautiful lilies the Bartletts sell in their Greenhouse and at their
downtown Farm Truck are all grown in greenhouses after they lost an
entire season of them to marauding deer.
• Bartlett’s farmers pick 250,000 pounds of hot house tomatoes a year and
triple that from their fields.
• They control weeds by using the Stale Seed Bed technique and plastic mulch
In addition to their conversion to all organic, they work to stay up-to-date with new technology and sustainable techniques. Bartlett’s Farm is part of a study to use lasers to keep birds off the crops. This year at the farm they’ve added 300 laying hens. And Bartlett’s Farm is now 100% organic—one field to go before they are 100% certified organic, which they expect to happen in 2025.
Today, ten members of the Bartlett family across three generations work the farm, from the youngest cousins learning the business to 86-year-old Phil Bartlett who, according to Dave, they “can’t keep out of the field.”
“We can grow pretty much anything in the sandy loam… it’s like farming on the beach…but we’ve been cultivating here for two centuries,” Dave Bartlett explained as he pointed out their different crops in various stages of growth, sharing his expertise and stories about life on the farm. His narration was wide ranging and interesting, with a touch of humor. He patiently answered every question, and seemed to delight in amusing the youngest of the tour participants.
Bartlett’s Farm tours are an entertaining and educational peek behind the scenes at island food production and a family that has a passion for farming and for Nantucket. Tour tickets are available at bartlettsfarm.com/farm-tours.