This farm was founded in 1816, by Edward Smith. The large brick house just to the east is called ‘Smithfield’; it was built in 1822, and was the family homestead. The two buildings flanking each side are called “dependencies”, and were built in the 1840s; one was used as a summer kitchen, and the other a school house. The sizable brick barn to the far east is believed to be the largest solid-brick barn in the United States.
The building where you now stand was once a slave quarters. It was home to many families at once, with the large, central brick fireplace providing heat. At the time of the Civil War there were more than 60 slaves working on the farm, freed in 1863 by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Over the years, Smithfield has reinvented itself agriculturally many times. It evolved from wheat fields to horse breeding, to grazing sheep and cattle, to fruit orchards and fields of grain. As with any farm, there have been hard times; in the 1840s, the property was saved from creditors by a single harvest of wheat! But for more than two centuries the land has remained in the same family, and has earned its entire living solely through agriculture.
In 1988, Ruth Smith Pritchard, the sixth-generation granddaughter of Edward, inherited Smithfield from her farmer parents Robert and Mary. By this time, the buildings here had fallen into major disrepair, having not been inhabited since the 1950s. In 1989, Ruth began to restore the buildings during her weekends, devoting 10 years to this endeavor, with the help of her family, and stone mason Edward Palzewski. In 1999, ‘Smithfield’ was opened as a bed & breakfast by her daughter Betsy, and is now enjoyed by thousands of visitors nationwide.
Meanwhile, after a devastating corn crop in the mid 90s, the farm was reinvented yet again, returning to its historic roots as a pasture-based livestock farm. Reimagined as ‘Smith Meadows’, the farm began attending farmers’ markets, and eventually opened this farm store, including featuring Nancy Polo’s fresh pasta. Smith Meadows is now one of the oldest “grass farms” in the country, and its story was chronicled in the book Gaining Ground, which became a New York Times bestseller.
Today, we strive to honor the people and memories of the past, while celebrating the hopeful promise of sustainable agriculture. When you shop here, your dollars support open land, honest food, and our local economy! Together, we can continue to make a real difference.