SAUNDERSTOWN, R.I. — Ever driven by Casey Farm, along Scenic 1A in Saunderstown, and wondered about the history of the land, how long it’s been a farm, or what happens there now? If yes, Saturday is a choice day to explore your curiosities and meander through the property’s 300 acres, which spread from the Narrow River to Narragansett Bay.
On Saturday, the farm will celebrate Opening Day, and visitors will be able to take free tours on the hour, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine. These will depart from the weekly farmers market area and explore the farmhouse, which houses a museum gallery; the grounds, including a cemetery; and animals living on the property, from recently hatched chicks to rabbits and pigs. Visitors may also meet the farm’s official greeter, Snapdragon, a 16-year-old feline.
“All of our tours are tailored to the audience — we want to show people what they want to see,” said Jane Hennedy, site manager for Historic New England’s Southern Rhode Island properties.
Historic New England is the oldest and largest regional heritage organization in the nation, and its mission is to “save and share New England’s past to engage and inform present and future generations.”
Casey Farm was founded in 1702, and the farmhouse built in 1750. In the mid-19th century, the Casey family leased the property to tenant farmers, while keeping two rooms in the house for their own occasional summer use. In 1955, its 300 acres became a Historic New England property.
Inside the farmhouse, the Casey family’s “second best parlor” is now a museum gallery room. It houses several portraits, including prominent pictures of Abigail Coggeshall Casey and her husband Silas Casey, dating to about 1780. The property was passed through Abigail Casey, and eight generations of her family are connected to the land.
Silas Casey was a merchant from East Greenwich, and Yankee Clipper ships are illustrated in the background of his portrait, a similar view to what the couple would have seen from their home as they looked out onto Narragansett Bay.
A combination of historic items and gifts are displayed in cases around the room. One case holds the soles of a pair of shoes found inside the walls of the house, which are believed to have belonged to a tenant farmer who lived on the property. In the same case sits a pair of moccasins, much newer and belonging to the Tomaquag Museum, a partner of the exhibit.
“We wanted to bring in the stories of people who worked the land,” said Hennedy, explaining that this also includes those living on the land prior to the farm’s establishment. “Of course, people were working the land thousands of years before the Caseys showed up,” she said.
Historic New England has been collaborating with the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, and on June 8, that museum’s executive director, Loren Spears, will lead free a program at the farm: “Eastern Woodland Culture through Games.” This event will take place from 1-2 p.m., rain or shine. Free tours of the exhibit will be offered during farmers market hours.
Behind the farmhouse is a barn housing dozens of recently hatched chicks, including Rhode Island Reds and Dominique Chicks, all two-to-four weeks old. Just outside this barn, in their own play area with a custom-made shelter, live Luna and Lola, five-month old New Zealand Lops, sisters from the same litter of albino rabbits.
“We have no excuse for having rabbits except that they’re cute,” Hennedy said.
Not too far from Luna and Lola live Spade and Farley, two heritage breed Berkshire pigs from Blackbird Farm in Smithfield, five-month old brothers from the same litter.
“They are kind of like puppy dogs in that way that they play and are interactive,” Hennedy said, with a smile.
The farm has six year-round staff members, and 30 part-time seasonal staff, and after June 1 is open through Oct. 15. Since 2000, it has hosted the Coastal Growers Market every Saturday, from mid-May to mid-October, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Casey Farm also offers a Community Supported Agriculture Program, commonly called a CSA, and still has full-share spots available for this summer season. These cost $700, or $625 with a commitment to contribute eight hours of service to the farm alongside its field crew. CSA pick-ups are Tuesdays or Fridays, and begin June 11. Included in the weekly offerings are vegetables and eggs from the farm, and meat from a partner farm, all Rhode Island certified organic.
In conjunction with Opening Day on Saturday, other Historic New England properties will also be open for free events and tours (35 opens houses are being held across five states), including Watson Farm at 455 North Road in Jamestown, where the annual Kite Flying Day will take place, and two seventeenth-century houses in Lincoln: Arnold House, 487 Great Road, open from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., and Clemence-Irons House, 38 George Waterman Road, open from noon to 4 p.m.
For more information about Casey Farm, located at 2325 Boston Neck Road, North Kingstown, and its regular touring schedule or other upcoming events, visit historicnewengland.org/property/casey-farm/.