It Takes a Village to Raise a Barn

Four days. A Titanic-size crane. Hundreds of pristine hemlock beams. More than 60 spirited, but largely unskilled volunteers. And countless gallons of cold lemonade. That's what it took to raise an old-fashioned post-and-beam barn at the Codman Community Farms in Lincoln, Mass., last month.

"It's a labor of love for everyone here," says volunteer Heidi Nichols as she brushes crusted mud off her elbow. "People have come to help because the farm is something that the community holds very dear. It bonds the community together."

To the people in Lincoln, Codman Farms is a local treasure. In an upscale community west of Boston more noted for its chief executive officers than its chickens, the farm's fresh eggs and strawberries provide locals with their own touchstone to rural New England of yesteryear.

"There is no community center in Lincoln, so Codman Farms has assumed that role," Mrs. Nichols says. "The farm is a social center, but it's also a community project that's always in the works. Something always needs to be done."

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the farm's board decided to expand. The new barn will house piglets, sheep, and milking cows.

There are two full-time farmers, but sometimes Lincoln residents who donate their time help with the chores. Most pitch in on the weekends, but some like Nichols roll up their sleeves to work three or four days a week.

"People in the community inherently want to help," says Doug Swain, the farm's paid bookkeeper. "They come to check the place out and before you know it, they start asking for things to do: taking the trash out, fixing a broken gate, shearing sheep."

"The expansion and success of the farm is a tribute to how much the people of Lincoln value their agrarian roots," says Nichols. "It's easy to pick up eggs from a grocery store. But it's just not the same as pulling up to Codman and buying them fresh. Sometimes you get them still warm."

Codman Farms was formed in 1973 as a nonprofit corporation that enlists townspeople to continue Lincoln's 300-year-old agricultural traditions, which at the time was vanishing quickly.

So what exactly is it about Codman Farms that makes families give up their Saturday-morning cartoons to plow fields and milk cows?

"We live in a world that's very fast paced," says David O'Neil, the architect who designed the new barn and lives in Lincoln. "I bring my family to Codman because it's a relaxed and simple place. Things move slowly here. You learn the value of getting your hands dirty, about the farmer's close relationship with the environment."

Many Lincoln residents take their children to Codman Farms to learn the value of hard work.

"Children are naturally attracted to animals, so it's not hard getting them out here," Mr. O'Neil says. "They don't even mind it when they're put to work. In the process, they're learning so much about how to conserve the environment and how a farm is really run."

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