We are a diversified vegetable, herb, fruit, and cut flower farm.
“We” – the vegetable growers - are Bill Braun and Dee Levanti. We came to farm at Ivory Silo in Westport after various experiences that prepared us for the challenge. Bill started farming at Ivory Silo Farm in 2014 with a vision of creating a sustainable farm system using low input, ecological methods to produce delicious, high quality produce. He came to this property after farming and co-managing at Eva’s Garden for several years. He brought with him the knowledge of farming specialty crops and herbs for restaurant sales and his personal passion for seed saving, regional variety development, and seed sovereignty, all of which remain at the forefront of his mission to grow. In 2015, Dee joined Bill at Ivory Silo and embarked on the endeavor of building a life around the small farm business. Her previous farming experiences were all on organic vegetable farms and included managing Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, as well as two larger organic farms in Rhode Island. She heads up our Plant Sale and brings her knowledge of commercial crop production to Ivory Silo.
We farm with a constant eye to biodiversity, understanding that the food web extends well beyond the plant and person. We practice minimal tillage as much as possible. We focus our inputs as close to home as possible: from crab shell to seaweed, wood chips to locally-roasted coffee chaff to farm-grown straw mulch. We adhere to organic principles as historically recognized: no synthetic chemicals of any kind, feeding the soil to grow healthy plants, paying attention to beneficial insects as well as pests, and closing loops wherever possible. Our litmus test is to farm in a way that future generations can emulate - not only to grow nutritious food, but to regenerate the land while doing so. We grow only open-pollinated varieties, from which seed can be saved from season to season; the use of which is not limited or controlled by an individual or institution, via patent or trademark protection. We founded a non-profit organization, Freed Seed Federation, for our seed saving and varietal breeding endeavors.
Ivory Silo Farm is located on the historic Howe Family Farm (formerly Smith Farm) in south Westport. The farm itself dates back to 1740, having historically been primarily a dairy operation. Since putting the land under Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR, a statewide preservation program), the Howe family has worked hard to renew the agricultural status of the fields and ensure the property remains a working farm in perpetuity. In addition, the Howe family invested in equipment and infrastructure which is included in our farm lease, in a partnership that has allowed our operation to flourish. Our agreement with the family allows us access to prime agricultural soils without having to purchase the land, and allows the family the ability to maintain APR status without having to farm all the land themselves. Bill and Dee have been able to leverage state and federal grant programs to continue to build out the infrastructure on the property, adding a well, solar panels, high tunnels, and a propagation greenhouse. Members of the Howe family are actively engaged in agriculture in various ways, haying fields that are not part of our vegetable operation, tinkering with equipment, and developing a small orchard on the property. We all act as collaborators on the property, contributing something unique based on our interests and skill sets. As land access becomes an increasing challenge for new generations of farmers – particularly in coastal New England – we hope this unique partnership may serve as a template for other landowners to explore land agreements with the farmers of tomorrow in a mutually beneficial relationship.