Founded by Irish immigrants, Wilson Farm has been in operation at its present location since 1884. James Alexander Wilson, W.M. Wilson, and brother-in-law George Reynolds came to Lexington from Enniskillen, Ireland. Here they were able to buy 16 acres of land and rent some of the surrounding fields for farming. James A. Wilson was the salesman, and the other partners worked the farm, growing vegetable crops and plants. Included among them were: cabbage, white turnip, celery, carrots, and beets.
In the late 1800’s farmers from Lexington and nearby towns had to take their produce to Boston to sell at Quincy Market. In the evening many small farmers would bring their product to James A. Wilson, who would combine the partial loads in order to fill the market wagons. These market wagons were pulled by teams of road horses, as the work horses were retired for the day. On the return trip from market, the wagon would stop at the Boston area hotels and pick up garbage to be used to feed the pigs. If the driver fell asleep (as this sometimes happened), the horses knew the roads and could find their own way home. During the winter months, trips to the market were less frequent, thus vegetables were stored in pits. These pits were covered with salt marsh hay and boards - maintaining the temperature at 34-36°F until all the vegetables were sold at market. Slow winter days were spent in the barn repairing equipment.
As James Alexander Wilson’s sons joined the family business, the other two partners lost interest. W.M. Wilson and his family went into a successful textile dyeing business. George Reynolds sold his interest to James to pursue other ventures, leaving James and his family as owners and operators. About 1920, James Alexander turned his farm over to his two sons, Walter and Stanley. They operated the business in much the same way James had, until the early 1950’s. At that time their sons, Donald and Alan, took over the farm and opened a retail farm stand.
Today the farm has expanded from 16 acres to 33 acres in Lexington; and to an additional 500 acres in Litchfield, New Hampshire.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a proactive approach to growing. It’s a farming method that helps to control insects, pests and diseases on crops by combining several complementary strategies. These include sanitation, soil enrichment, variety selection, pest detection, and biological controls. Chemical pesticides may be used, but only as a last resort, and only if absolutely necessary.
IPM allows us to produce high-quality plants and crops and reduce chemical pesticide use. The University of Massachusetts Extension Service has calculated that IPM programs have reduced pesticide use by up to 85% on participating farms. See below for more information on the various elements of IPM.
Sanitation: We start clean to grow clean. By keeping our growing areas free of weeds, we can dramatically reduce the influx of pests and disease.
Soil Enrichment: We protect our soil by planting cover crops, which provide erosion control and build soil structure. We also use compost, which is essential to providing nutrients to the land.
Variety Selection: We grow only the best and strongest plants at Wilson Farm. We select varieties based on a number of factors such as vigor, yield potential, and of course, eating quality! Stronger, more robust crops will withstand stresses better than weaker varieties, and require fewer pesticide applications.
Pest Detection: By watching our crops closely, we have a better chance of successfully combating any issues that arise. We also take care to learn the life cycles of pests in order to more easily control them. The University of Massachusetts provides a lot help to us in this area, by constantly monitoring and reporting on pest movements throughout the state.
Biological Controls: We use “good bugs” against “bad bugs” to help control unwanted pests in our fields. An important part of this process is understanding and protecting beneficial insects.
Non-Chemical Controls: There are many ways to deter and confuse pests without the use of harsh chemical pesticides. Row covers, plastic mulches, and trap plants all enable us to discourage pests and control weeds.
Pesticides: We only use pesticides as a last resort, when absolutely necessary. Early detection and study of pest life cycles allows us to select pesticides that are less harmful to the environment. These are more effective and better for everyone, from the farmers in the fields to the consumers.
If you’d like to know more about our growing practices, and get an inside peek behind the scenes at Wilson Farm, sign up for one of our farm tours! Led by Jim Wilson, these free adult walking tours are held on select Thursday evenings from June through August. Check our Events page for all the details!
The Wilson family has practiced sound environmental conservation methods since 1884. To us, being “green” is not just a trend or catchphrase – it’s the way we’ve always done things.
For generations, we’ve used a unique system of composting in our fields. All of our organic waste, including overripe fruit, vegetable trimmings, orange peels and more are composted and used as fertilizer. This allows us to enrich our soil and increase yields in a safe and natural manner. Simply put, this is something no other food store can do.
Unlike other stores who now offer paper bags as an option, Wilson Farm has always bagged groceries in paper (never plastic). We do offer plastic bags, but only upon request. In 2008, we introduced new plastic bags that are oxo-biodegradable. This means that they will biodegrade and break down into organic matter after disposal.
All of our berries are packaged primarily in biodegradable pulp packaging. We’re continuously looking for environmentally friendly trays and packaging, such as corn-based plastic containers.
Our environmental awareness extends to all aspects of our day-to-day business:
You can be confident in the knowledge that Wilson Farm will continue to seek environmentally friendly ways of farming and doing business, just as we have for the last 130 years.
Don and Alan Wilson, aided by their wives, Betty and Lynne, built our first farm stand in 1952. It was little more than a shed, but to the Wilsons, it seemed like a palace. The stand was replaced with a larger, all-weather building in 1965, and a decade later it was modified again to include heat and electric cash registers. That seemed downright plush in 1965!
Two decades later, Alan’s son, Scott, traveled throughout New England and New York to get a look at nearly every barn in existence. After looking at thousands, he knew what he wanted: an authentic 18th century structure with an open, airy interior and all the charm and warmth that can only come from a real barn. His goal was to erect a timeless building that would stand out, but also fit snugly into the surrounding landscape.
Scott worked with his friend Tommy Silva of Silva Brothers Construction. Together they hired expert timber framers Benson Woodworking of Alstead, New Hampshire, and chose architects Bechtel, Frank and Ericson of Lexington, MA. Soon a barn was shaping up, and it would become one that everyone loved.
The 8,500 square foot barn was build using recycled lumber. Only four joints in the entire structure contain metal; everything else is pegged together. The timber came from a US Army arsenal in Minnesota; the Royal Typewriter factory in Hartford, CT, and from buildings as far away as Idaho, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 1996 – after closing a mere two hours early to make the move! – the barn was introduced to the community in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by town Selectmen, the entire Wilson family, and lots of friends.
A 37,000 square foot greenhouse was added to the property in 2000, and has become a favorite touring site for local and national growing associations – not to mention a great venue for public and private events in the “off season”.
In 2012, a new addition was built onto the existing barn to house the farm’s growing cut flower department and make room for more of the farm’s fresh, locally grown produce.