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Hancock Shaker Village Farm and Gardens


 Lawrence F. London, Jr. - Dragonfly Market Gardens
 mailto:london@sunSITE.unc.edu - mailto:llondon@bellsouth.net
Title: Hancock Shaker Village Farm and Gardens

Hancock Shaker Village Farm and Gardens

Farming was at the heart of all Shaker communities. The Believers raised livestock, cultivated crops, and tended orchards and gardens. Their farms were bountiful, providing amply for the needs of the community and frequently producing products for sale. The large pools of labor in 19th-century Shaker communities allowed for large-scale production, and the Shakers’ interest in agricultural experimentation and technology made their farms models of efficiency and, often, innovation.

The Hancock Shakers maintained dairy herds well into the twentieth-century. The Round Stone Barn was built to stable more than fifty cows, and additions and new barns were constructed as farming operations and business increased. Today the Village raises a variety of the historic breeds of livestock once found on the Shaker farm--shorthorn cattle, Merino sheep, and Silver-laced Wyandotte and Dominique chickens. The farm staff uses oxen and period equipment and methods to work the farmland and gardens.

The Shakers were well known for their 19th- and early 20th-century medicinal herb and garden seed industries. Shaker communities devoted many acres to herb cultivation and raising vegetables for seed. They processed herbs and prepared tonics, tablets and other medicinal preparations for sale to the “World.” They are credited with originating seed packets, which they peddled to farmers and gardners, earning a reputation for high quality and honesty.

The Village’s specimen herb garden contains ninety of the more than 300 varieties of plants listed by the Shakers in the 1873 Druggists’ Handbook of Pure Botanic Preparations. Hollyhocks, belladonna, asparagus, hops, native ginger, chicory, dandelions, wormseed, black cohosh, basil, poppies, horseradish and pennyroyal are among the plants once grown by the Shakers for the pharmaceutical industry and for home remedies.

Two heirloom vegetable gardens contain plant varieties on Shaker seed lists from the 1830s and 1890s, respectively. Some are quite rare. Documented Shaker cultivation techniques, many from the 1843 Shaker Gardeners’ Manual, are used in Hancock’s garden and are applicable to organic gardening today. Seed saving is practiced by the Village’s gardeners, and the museum participates in the international Seed Savers’ Exchange and other sharing of unusual or endangered varieties of 19th-century vegetables.

*Hancock Shaker Village Home Page
*About Hancock Shaker Village
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© Copyright 1996, Hancock Shaker Village
Junction, Rts 20 and 41, P.O. Box 927, Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01202
Voice (413) 443-0188, Fax (413) 447-9357
(800) 817-1137
"Hancock Shaker Village-Autumn", Leonard Weber, © Copyright 1992.
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