Aidan and Natasha Feeney’s passion for farming led them back to Nantucket four years ago, and to the creation of Fog Town Farm. Their locally grown produce has gained a large and loyal following among island residents, and this week, the Feeneys learned they will have the opportunity to expand what they’ve built beyond anything they could have imagined.
The Nantucket Land Bank has selected Fog Town Farm to run its agricultural property at 19 Wauwinet Road. Aidan and Natasha Feeney's proposal was chosen from among three that were submitted to the Land Bank for consideration.
“We feel blessed with the timing of it,” Aidan Feeney said. “We’ve been working in agriculture for a long time and then this opportunity pops up now, when we have the experience to make a go of it, we’re just really blessed. It’s such a unique and dynamic property because it has the spring flowing into Polpis Harbor, so we want to create something beautiful, with a net benefit to the environment and something that will complement our current business.”
Known as Eat Fire Spring Farm, the 3.3-acre property was purchased by the Land Bank for $3.2 million in 2020 from Tim Madden and Dr. Diane Pearl. It includes an existing house that the Feeneys plan to make their home with their dog, Ruby. That aspect of the deal with the Land Bank came as a huge relief, as the Feeneys had been struggling to find stable, affordable housing on the island.
“When I moved back in 2019, I knew it was going to be a struggle with housing, but I didn’t know how bad it had gotten,” Aidan Feeney said. “It was a lot more crowded, more competitive, and a lot more expensive. That’s been the biggest challenge. So the housing is definitely a huge benefit, and something we’re really grateful for.”
According to their proposal to the Land Bank, the Feeneys will "run the property as a diversified farm enterprise, focusing on vegetable crops and a mix of perennial crops...We propose using the areas with rolling topography for perennial crops and the two flat areas for vegetable production."
The Feeneys were one of three groups that submitted proposals, including Dylan Wallace and Caroline Borrelli, and Rain Harbison.
In their proposal to the Land Bank, the Feeneys elaborated on some of the hopes and goals for the property, which they will operate for an initial five-year term.
"We are very passionate about farming, farming education and advancing local agriculture on Nantucket," they said. "We want to help facilitate the progression of local food on Nantucket and to help mentor the next generation of Nantucket farmers. We both got involved with agriculture because we have met passionate farmers who generously shared their knowledge and inspired us. We would love to host field trips, farm tours, workshops, presentations, etc. We think that a well managed pick-your-own berry or lavender program could be a successful component of this farm."
Aidan Feeney, 34, who grew up on Nantucket, met Natasha at Sterling College in northern Vermont, where they both received Bachelor's degrees in sustainable agriculture. He worked at a number of farms, including Youngs Farm on Long Island from 2015 to 2018, before returning to the island in 2019 to start Fog Town Farm.
Natasha Feeney has also been involved with farming in a variety of roles, and in addition to her work with Fog Town Farm, she serves as registered nurse at Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
Fog Town Farm currently grows salad crops, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and baby root vegetables on a portion of Sustainable Nantucket's eight-acre Community Farm Institute, located at the Walter F. Ballinger Educational Community Farm at 168 Hummock Pond that is leased out by the Land Bank. Fog Town's plan is to continue operating and growing at both Hummock Pond Road and Wauwinet Road.
In just four years, Fog Town Farm has gained a loyal following among island residents and restaurants, selling produce at the Sustainable Nantucket farmstand on Hummock Pond Road, as well as its downtown market.
“The core of our business now is year-round local families, it’s not a three-month business, we’re selling produce 10 months out of the year,” Feeney said. “We have a few really good wholesale customers, and that was never much of a focus of mine before moving here, selling to restaurants and independent grocers. But since we’ve been back, that’s been a big part of the business and that’s been rewarding. You end up building really nice relationships between small businesses, and it’s great working with island chefs and grocers like Meat & Fish, the Sconset Market, and Pip & Anchor. More and more as I've been here and established a reputation, with the farmstand, it’s becoming more retail.”
After acquiring the Eat Fire Spring property in 2020, the Land Bank has since issued a request for responses to operate the agricultural property. The three proposals were evaluated by a subcommittee of the Land Bank that included commissioner Kristina Jelleme, executive director Jesse Bell, Matt Haffenreffer of Process First, Berry Patch Farm owner Ray Owen, and Jordan McHugh. The committee used an evaluation criteria to review each proposal and determine its adherence to the Land Bank's goal of having the selected farmer play "a stewardship role and be a public representative of the Land Bank in managing this agricultural property. Preference will be given to farming proposals that articulate clear public benefits and respect the existing environmental conditions of the property as well as the aesthetic character of the area."
According to the Land Bank, the 3.3-acre property was "part of the larger, historically significant Sexton Farm which once encompassed over 300 acres in this area. The site includes a natural spring, waterfront views and noteworthy pastoral landscapes."