Saltbox Farm: Where Farming and Cooking Come Together
Professional chef Ben Elliott experiments with farming in his backyard.
Ben Elliott is not a farmer by trade. But a few years ago, after leaving his job as chef at No.9 Park in Boston, Elliott jumped at the opportunity to restore his family's farm on Westford Road.
Maintaining a 10-acre fruit and vegetable farm is a daily challenge, and even more so for someone with minimal farming experience. But the occasional frustration fades away with one bite into a freshly picked sugar snap pea.
Patch checked in with Elliott last year, when Saltbox was taking its baby steps, supported by a CSA of 20-30 of Elliott's friends and former customers. Since then Elliott has added a chicken coop with two roosters and 24 laying hens to the vegetable garden and honeybee hive on the Saltbox land.
Elliott hopes to build a small farmstand soon, where he'll sell his produce and fresh honey. Until then, he's focused on keeping his catering business thriving, and gives cooking lessons, always using local ingredients and as much as his own produce as possible.
"This is a great place to be a chef," Elliott said. "I can take advantage of all of the local farms we're lucky enough to have in the area."
Elliott lives on the farm with his wife, four-year old son Sam, and the family's golden retriever. The farm was originally built by Elliott's grandparents, who instilled in him a deep love for home-grown food.
"Everything my grandma cooked was out of her 1930's old-school cookbook," Elliott said. "They fought me a love and appreciation for good local food."
Elliott does much of the farm labor himself, though he does have one assistant who helps him out with the constant manicuring that it takes to run any farm, even one on a relatively small scale.
"The weeding never ends," Elliott said with a shrug.
The farm is currently filled with a plethora of leafy greens and beans, and tomatoes will be coming in soon, as well as a variety of squash. Elliott also hopes to have eggs for sale in the fall.
"This is a work in progress, and I don't expect to ever really be a full-time farmer," Elliott said. "But to be able to pick green beans in the morning and cook them that afternoon? There's nothing more inspiring than that."
Saltbox Farm is located at 54 Westford Road. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.