Celebration honors owners of closed Alderbrook Farm Stand

Jan 12, 2020

The Dartmouth Grange Hall was packed with well-wishers from all over the South Coast and the state on Sunday afternoon as the community gave thanks to two of its pillars: Nancy and Allen Manley of Alderbrook Farm.

On December 31, after twenty years, the couple closed the iconic farm stand in the heart of Russells Mills Village so that they can spend more time with family and friends.

More than one hundred friends and community members gathered at the Grange Hall for a celebration to honor the Manleys and their hard work.

Guests chatted over platters of cookies and other snacks, wrote out cards and messages for Nancy and Allen, and flipped through a photo album commemorating the farm stand through the years.

There was also a table with farm-themed crafts for the kids, and music from local band the Flying Kiwis.

A ceremony saw the Manleys presented with citations from the Dartmouth Select Board, the State House of Representatives, and the State Senate in recognition of their “extraordinary contributions to the community,” in the words of Select Board member Stanley Mickelson.

To add to their accolades, Karen Schwalbe, Executive Director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership, also presented them with a lifetime achievement award that will be commemorated with a stone bird bath for the farm.

“I really don’t know what to say,” said Allen Manley to the room. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here amongst all our friends.”

“I had little to do with Alderbrook Farm,” he continued, to general laughter — the farm has been in his family for 126 years. “I was the guy who fixed something when it busted...But the lady who did all the work is behind me.”

Nancy kept her speech characteristically short. “Ditto,” she said, adding of the experience, “It was actually just a joy.”

Their son Sam, the farm’s current owner, noted after the ceremony that his mother worked more than 5,000 hours a year at the stand.

“That’s two and a half full time jobs,” he said. “That’s a lot of work.”

As for the event, he joked, “I knew it was coming I was terrified. But it’s nice. It’s overwhelming, it really is.”

Guests lined up to pay homage and to shake hands with the couple of the hour.

Lloyd MacDonald said that he remembered Nancy from growing up on Barney’s Joy Farm, when her mother used to babysit for MacDonald and his siblings, and would bring Nancy and her sister to play music to the children. 

“I’ll always remember that,” he said with a smile. “I’ve lived here all my life, so they’ve been part of the texture of my whole experience.”

“We love the place, and we love them,” said Regina Lacaillade, adding that she and her husband Raymond used to make the hour-long drive at least once a month from their home in Norton. “We’re gonna miss them a lot.”

Event co-organizer Sasha Lauterbach said that a group of friends came up with the idea over brunch. They’ve been planning it since November. 

“We just wanted to really thank the Manleys,” she said. “And they were so gracious about letting us do it.”

For her, she added, especially as a part-time resident, Alderbrook Farm “was a way of becoming part of the community.”

“People knew your name,” she said with a laugh.

Others shared specific memories of the farm stand.

“When we moved here, my sister came to visit from Virginia, and we went to Alderbrook,” said Joan Menard of Dartmouth. “And when she saw the honor system, she was just stunned. She couldn’t believe it!”

“I appreciated that when I used to get ice cream bars, Nancy would never tell my wife,” joked local Fred Thurber, patting his stomach.

Sam Manley said that the stand will still sell Christmas trees and wreaths, and the farm will continue to produce honey for sale locally. The family also plans to sell flowers, mostly dahlias.

“It’s a transition. It’s not an end, it’s a change,” said Sam Manley, adding that over seven generations, the farm has not always stayed the same. “But yeah, it’s different. It’s bittersweet.”

When asked what the event meant to her, Nancy Manley summed it up in just two words: “The world.”