Judging from the success of the town’s Peterson Microfarm when other small businesses are fighting for their commercial lives amid the coronavirus pandemic, it looks as if it takes a Hull village to make that success possible.
Sitting on a .38 acre of land in the town’s Hull Village neighborhood, the farm is one of several small-scale agricultural operations that use much less land than the average commercial or family farm.
Offering raw honey, fresh eggs, seasonal produce, bakery, textile goods, and many other homegrown and handmade items, the farm is owned and operated as an online business by Allison and Michael Peterson, who sell to their customers what they eat and use in their own home.
The farm is not open to the public, but all products are available through the petersonmicrofarm.online website, where new customers can sign up for the farm’s weekly email and learn more about the operation and the ordering and pickup process.
Purchases must be made online and paid for in advance before pickup day (Fridays between 3 and 6 p.m. at 6 Cushing St.).
The Petersons grow a variety of organic vegetables, herbs, and fruit in raised garden beds. Products include basil, oregano, thyme, chervil, kale (fresh-picked an hour before customers stop by for their orders), heirloom tomatoes, and salad greens.
“We manage everything in our yard organically, so that means our produce is organic, our chickens are given organic feed, and our bees are maintained using natural methods,” Allison says, adding, “We use as many organic products as possible in the items that we make.”
Allison makes from scratch the organic applesauce, apple chips, and strawberry jam and her popular oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread, quick breads, baked “knots” brushed with garlic butter and herbs from the garden, rolls, cranberry sauce, pepper jelly, and other products, using high-quality ingredients.
Products with a short ingredients list (strawberry jam, applesauce, and lip balm) are made of all organic ingredients; other items include several organic ingredients. A full ingredient list for each product is listed on the farm’s website.
Michael roasts the coffee from 50-pound bags of coffee beans and does all the hardscaping and composting. “He’s a biologist so knows the science behind it all,” Allison notes.
The Petersons’ two Slovenian beehives are home to thousands of bees that produce local honey. Their free-range bantam chickens produce fresh eggs.
Lavender and lemon salt scrub, citrus, herb household cleaner, and lip balm are among the home and body products made at the farm.
The unique textile goods are handmade from top-quality and/or upcycled materials – knitted, fleece-lined ear-flap hats, knit-knot headbands, and custom-made face masks, among others.
The farm’s recently renovated kitchen has a “coming into nature” theme, with a walnut floor, cherry cabinets, granite counter tops, hexagon-shaped ceramic tiles shaped like honeycomb, a large picture window, and skylights to keep an eye out for hawks. “We love being outside working in our garden so much that we wanted to have a good view of the outdoors when we’re inside,” Allison explains.
The idea for the farm took root in the summer of 2019. “I wanted to get outside in the garden, and looking ahead, micro farming was going to be my summer business, trickling into the fall and wintertime,” Allison recalls.
During the winter months, she was expecting her Tiny Squid Creative Services branding, print, and web design business to pick up, but when the coronavirus hit in March of last year “everything closed down, and so did my work. I was really happy to have my second business in the works.”
Allison worked hard during the temporary “lull” to get the farming business off the ground while homeschooling her children, Coral and Calvin, opening an online farm stand last summer that offered fresh produce, home-baked goods, cookies, and other offerings.
The children help take care of the chickens, assist with the weeding, and keep an eye on the chickens, among other chores.
The farm quickly became popular, beyond the Petersons’ wildest dreams, mostly through word of mouth. Once the week’s offerings are shared with customers, most sell out within 24 hours.
“So far, I’ve baked more than 2,000 cookies … and have sold more than 150 jars of strawberry jam,” Allison reports.
In their first year of beekeeping, the Petersons harvested 60 pounds of honey, selling 50 pounds within two hours. The garlic knots sell out in 30 minutes and the eggs within five.
During the holiday season, the gingerbread men were a big hit. Now Allison is making extra batches of jam and cookies to sell later on when she is busy with her gardening. “I have lots of ideas for this year,” she says.Allison enjoys having brief conversations with customers when they pick up their orders, with face masks and social distancing in place. “This provides an opportunity for a little human contact and makes us feel a little bit more normal,” she says.
The Petersons are grateful to their Hull customers “for supporting us in this new venture during this challenging time.”