Peabody Has City-Run Farm Employees Belong To Retirement System

SEPTEMBER 2000 - Have
you ever heard of a city in Massachusetts that owns its own farm? Well,
we hadn't either until Jim O'Brien, with the title of Farm Manager, ran
for a seat on the Peabody Retirement Board as a member of the Peabody
Retirement System.

It seems that a fellow named John Thorndike was granted a parcel of
land by the English monarch back in the 1600's. The land was known as
Hog Hill. Throughout the years the land was sold to a series of private
owners the last of whom was Austin Smith.

In
1976 Smith sold the land, which is now known as Brooksby Farm, to the
City of Peabody for $1.2 million. It is 232 acres in size, with over
110 acres of hardwood and evergreen forest. There are over 3.7 miles of
scenic trails which wind throughout farm and woodland allowing visitors
a unique natural vista amidst the North Shore. A newly constructed barn
is home to a variety of farm animals including sheep, goats, ducks,
chickens, pigs, and even a llama.

Brooksby
Farm has its own line item budget within Peabody's municipal budget and
consistently, after all operating expenses are deducted, shows a profit
to the city. Customers are able to pick their own strawberries,
raspberries, blueberries, apples, and Christmas trees. The farm
produces 25,000 bushels of apples, of which there are 36 different
varieties. The farm also produces 80,000 pepper plants for Shaw's
Supermarkets and Shop & Save.

The
Farm is operated by three full-time employees who are members of the
Peabody Retirement System. There are also thirty part-time employees
consisting of some Peabody High School students and some migrant
workers from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Mexico who work six to ten
months of the year. Some of the migrants are housed in a bunkhouse
facility on the farm.

Three
ponds provide for irrigation, wildlife habitat, and recreation areas.
Picnic areas are conveniently located near the main barn. Brooksby Farm
is the site of the city's Annual Harvest Festival held in October. It
provides the residents of Peabody with valued conservation,
agriculture, recreation, and educational opportunities.

Manager
Jim O'Brien is a Peabody native who started working summers while a
student at the University of Maine at Orono from which he graduated in
1979 as a State Forestry major. He was hired full-time in 1980, and
shortly thereafter he married his wife Liz (Elizabeth) and together
they have two children, Kate and Pat.

The
farm is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. all year
long, except for April and May. They operate a full farm stand store.
Brooksby Farm's peak period is September and October and for the first
time they will be selling pasteurized cider. Sixth and seventh grade
students from the Peabody School System conduct an ecological study of
the three ponds on the property annually. Hayrides are provided on
weekends and student field trips are conducted all year long.

Quite a farm smack in the middle of a suburban city like Peabody.

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