Visit Sanborn Mills Farm!
September 6, 2022
Bruce, another visitor, and I lunch at Sanborn Mills Farm where the restored buildings, well-trained animals, and inviting gardens are the stars. Head chef Kelly Fahey is in the background.
It's hard to know what’s most enchanting about Sanborn Mills Farm in Loudon. Is it the lovely garden beside the restored 1800s barn? Is it the working gristmill? Or the water-powered sawmill? Perhaps the sum of all the parts is the magic of Sanborn Mills Farm. That is the magic of serenity and joy.
The farm was founded in the 1770s by John Sanborn, who fought in the Revolution. John's son Edmund built the sawmill and gristmill, where farmers brought bundles of wheat or oats to be ground. While waiting for the miller to finish, the farmer could have his ox or horse shod at the blacksmith shop next to the gristmill. The shop also sold hinges, ax heads, or anything metal. Across the road, the sawmill cut logs used to frame barns and build houses.
Miles Smith, the founder of my farm, would have hitched his oxen to a wagon loaded with corn and driven them ten miles to Sanborn Mills. While there, he could buy door hinges or other items hammered out on the forge. With transportation so difficult, the early settlers must have been glad to patronize a place with multiple goods and services – kind of an 1800s mini-mall for residents of Loudon and Pittsfield.
After Albin, Edmund’s great-grandson, died in 1972, much of the farm machinery was sold and the buildings sagged until Colin and Paula Cabot bought the place in 1997. The Cabots have restored the buildings and returned the property to its former glory, and today the farm is in the best shape it's ever been.
Raised beds of flowers, herbs, and vegetables surround a gurgling fountain that welcomed husband Bruce and me to a pop-up lunch in August. Antique cobblestones salvaged from the "Big Dig" on Boston's Milk Street were used to make stone paths through the garden. Sitting at the picnic table overlooking the garden, I forgot about the unfinished chores on my farm. I sipped some Sanborn Mills blueberry lemonade sweetened with local honey, and the zen of the garden swept away busy thoughts.
Then came lunch in the dining room tucked under the original barn. We sat at tables that had originated as trees growing on the farm. They were felled and trimmed. The resulting logs were put into the mill pond for easy handling, then pulled into the sawmill with a chain and cut into lumber to make the dining room tables.
Lunch was delicious. Head chef Kelly Fahey sourced the crisp salad and savory pork main dish from the farm and nearby farms.
The farm's website explains, "Sanborn Mills Farm is a working farm with a mission to sustain and teach traditional farming and craft skills while stewarding its agricultural landscape for social, environmental, and economic benefits."
Attached to the barn is a new wing of comfortable, dormitory-style rooms ready to house participants in the many workshops held on the farm. Workshops include traditional crafts like blacksmithing, teaching about fiber arts, and working with draft animals.
Register for one of the farm's workshops or sign up for a pop-up lunch. Individual tours can be arranged by calling 603-435-7314. Check out their website for a schedule of offerings: www.sanbornmills.org. Call it nostalgia or a keen appreciation of the old ways, but it all made me want to scrap our tractor and depend on brute force here at Miles Smith Farm. Bruce got me out of there just in time!