The Crane siblings, Dicken, Tim and Carrie, own the 1,300 acres of land known as Holiday Farm Inc. Through this entity, they rent out an onsite farmhouse for travelers who hike their many trails or are visiting town. Dicken and his wife, Ruth, operate a separate business entity called Holiday Brook Farm LLC, established in 2013 which includes the sugarhouse, farmstore, barns, animals, three full time employees and a bookkeeper.
The farm was started by Crane’s great-grandfather. Around 1903 “he bought three small farms and nearby woodlots and put them together,” said Dicken. He named the ensuing 3,000 acres Flintstone Farm, which included two barns that are still utilized. There are now two more barns, a new sugarhouse built in 2014 and a new farmstore.
In his great-grandfather’s day, the farm was a dairy with approximately 30 head. When he died unexpectedly, his wife sold the herd to their herdsman along with two-thirds of the existing agricultural land. The herdsman and his son maintained it until they sold the herd during the dairy buyouts in the 1970s. He then sold the land back to Crane’s father.
“My grandfather had a portion of agricultural land that was retained and was doing beef when I was a kid. Later, that herd was sold,” said Crane. There had been no animals at the farm from 1970 until 2005 when Crane started raising a dozen Belted Galloways. He started selling beef at the farm in 2007 and built the farmstore in 2010.
He has since been breeding his herd with a Black Angus bull. There are 47 calves, 47 cows and 30 two-year-olds.
Crane and his wife raise a mix of Jacob and Clun Forest sheep to sell as lamb and they breed two sows — a cross of Berkshire, Gloucester Old Spots and Duroc — for litters to sell as pork. Besides local honey, wool, yarn and ice cream, this season they started offering chicken purchased from a New Marlboro farmer to create a one-stop-shop.
He sells meat as CSAs and to area restaurants, consistently to Otto’s in Park Square, Pittsfield and Dream Away Lodge in Becket.
Holiday Brook Farm has a 3,200-tap sugar bush for maple syrup. Goshen, MA based Appalachian Naturals buys it to make their Maple Balsamic Dressing and Maple Mustard which are both sold in the farmstore. “We started making maple syrup when I was a kid back in the ’60s — not commercially but for family and friends. We built the (old) sugarhouse in 1991 and started selling maple syrup in 1992,” said Dicken.
They also sell hay and cordwood with 100 cords cut and split a season and about 20 loads of log length. “Almost all of the cut and split comes off our own land. The log length comes from local loggers,” said Crane.
One thousand acres is a carefully managed woodlot. “I occasionally hire someone to do the logging because I don’t have time to do it all. The goal is to manage the woodlot for a variety of forest benefits: clean water, the wildlife, the economic value of the forest, recreation. All these are important goals of the forest management,” said Crane.
They placed 1,000 woodlot acres under Conservation Restrictions by donating them to Pittsfield based Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC). BNRC assisted in conserving 220 of the farm’s agricultural acres under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction under Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). BNRC will hold their 50th Community Celebration Day on Saturday, Sept. 9 at the farm at 10 a.m.
For three years Holiday Brook Farm has leased three acres to Kate Pike who grows organic vegetables for her business, White Goose Gardens. They also lease two acres to David Burdick for his business, Daffodils and More. They lease a further 50 acres of land to neighbors for grazing and hay.
A 100 panel 25 KW solar array on a barn roof supplies power. “To the extent possible, we try to find solutions to our agricultural endeavor that are sustainable by not depleting the soil, not adding more CO2 to the atmosphere than we have to — actually taking CO2 out of the air and putting it into the soil. Another word I like is resilience. Building resiliency at the farm by encouraging microbes in the soil, utilizing the manure and compost.”
He likes managing the soil best. “We spread compost onto it, spread manure, we graze it and occasionally we reseed the hayfields. [We like] managing the soil to improve the yield of both grass and vegetable crops, utilizing the material and recycling the nutrients on the farm. We are not a certified organic farm, but [we] follow organic practices. We don’t use herbicides or commercial fertilizers; we use manure and cover crops.” Wasting nothing, he sells compost that neighbors and customers call “Black Gold”.
Dicken’s son, George, was busy tedding hay in mid-August. Will George continue on the farm? “It’s hard to say when he’s only 13. He likes driving tractors and loaders and he’s good at it.”
Due to the preserved beauty of the farm “we get a lot of requests to do weddings. We do a couple a year but not a lot,” said Ruth, as preparations take too much time away from farm activities.