Agricultural History

Meetinghouse Farm has a historic link to West Barnstable’s agricultural past. The site was part of a large land grant given to Deacon William Crocker in 1653.  Local Historian Martin Wirtanen has written, “The Crocker Family were mainstays of the village, successfully farming several hundred acres and generations of the families were involved in the social, political and religious affairs of the village.  “

Records indicate members of the Paine family probably built a residence on the site in the mid to late 1700’s. The land and house ownership included:

Pre-1808-Thomas Black from Matthew Paine
1808 - Calvin Backus from Thomas Black
1846 - Silas F. Jones from Calvin Backus
1846 - Calvin Backus from Silas F. Jones
1865 - Lydia Backus from Calvin Backus
1865 - Betsy Backus from Lydia Backus
1879 - Herman C. Fish from Betsy W. Backus
          Fred Jenkins from Herman and Mary Fish Date unknown
1938 - Fred Conant and Ruth Jenkins Conant from Fred Jenkins

The knoll between the two entrances of the Conant property was the site of the Parsonage of the Rev. Jonathan Russell, 2nd pastor of West Parish (1712-1760).  This would have been the first parsonage associated with the 1717 Meetinghouse.

The Conant Years

Series of photos provided by provided by Ellen Johnson, whose son completed a UMASS internship at Conant’s in 1977.

In 1938, Fred Conant and Ruth Jenkins purchased “the Conant Property”.  During the next 50 years, Fred Conant built a thriving nursery and landscaping business.  Especially in its early years, the business provided landscape plants and services to a growing number of estates in Osterville.  The business employed many local youth who were introduced to horticultural careers at Conant’s.

In later years, as the Cape developed and residential landscaping and gardening became more popular, Conant’s was a favored horticultural destination.  Locals remember fondly Conant’s greenhouses bursting with colorful spring primroses, stately topiaries and promising saplings.  Generations of families planted Conant stock that grew along with their children. Unfortunately, when Fred Conant died in 1991, his nursery closed to the public shortly after.  In 1998, after years of dispute about the future of the property, the site was proposed for residential subdivision.

Growing A Community Farm and Garden

The proposal for development of “the Conant Property” generated strong grassroots interest. For approximately three years, citizens and local officials explored options for the property. In January 2000, the Town of Barnstable purchased the property for public use.  Because of the deteriorated condition of the nursery complex, most of the nursery greenhouses were demolished. However, in response to citizen requests the 3000 sq. ft. Lord and Burnham greenhouse was preserved along with a number of support structures.

After the purchase, citizens began an informal partnership with the Town of Barnstable to rehabilitate the property and reestablish its horticultural use.  Meetinghouse Farm, Inc. was formally established in 2004 as a non-profit volunteer organization.  In 2007, the organization was awarded a 10-year management contract to care for the property and develop a Community Farm and Garden.

Meetinghouse Farm volunteers began their task with an overgrown site, no running water, a deteriorated greenhouse and failing structures. Through grants and private donations, the Farm installed a new pump to support gardening activities and made significant repairs to the Farm greenhouse. Invasive Oriental bittersweet and Japanese knotweed that threatened the Farm’s woodland, were pruned severely.  Since 2007, the Farm has also established an irrigation system, demonstration gardens, rental gardens and a seasonal farm stand.  Significant capital improvements have been made to the Farm’s greenhouse and support structures.  

Meetinghouse Farm Today

Meetinghouse Farm is currently open to the public from dawn to dusk.  

Visitors enjoy walking the Farm’s short loop trail and visiting the Farm’s gardens.  The Farm offers lectures and workshops on horticulture and related topics, rents individual garden plots and greenhouse benches, maintains a seasonal farm stand, encourages use by community and gardening organizations and offers field trip and community service opportunities to local students.  

No Hunting is Allowed in the Meetinghouse Farm Conservation Area
per order of the Barnstable Conservation Commission
Town of Barnstable Code Chapter 701-4

Dogs are permitted on the property provided they are on leash and walkers use pet waste bags.
(See We Love Your Dog)