A Middlesex farmer who was providing an array of healthy food to her
neighbors recently passed away. Commentator Elaine Harrington remembers
Darlene Martin, and her place in the community.
the foot of our hill on Center Road in Middlesex, Darlene’s black horse,
Banner, stands patiently out in the barnyard. Soft snowflakes fall on
his back as he waits near the barn with its unusual stick-built silo. He
looks across the road at the farmhouse, seeming to wonder when Darlene
will be out for a visit. But she isn’t coming. Life for Banner – and for
the chickens, beef cattle, barn cats, and humans on the Persons Farm –
has paused for a bit as the old year ends.
Martin, age 62, passed away at home in mid-December and, on a recent
Saturday, dozens of family and friends came through a snowstorm for the
open house hosted by her husband Steve. She will be missed.
work in construction and the ski industry, Darlene had spent 12 years
restoring pastures and bringing beef and poultry to the farm that her
parents came to in 1955. She loved to hay, driving the tractor in
perfect contoured loops around the hay field on hot summer days. She
rode her horses often, and drove an ATV to high meadows to repair fences
or to check on animals in pasture.
Knee problems came, but
replacements gave the white-haired woman new energy for the daily tasks
of farming. Her wide smile greeted passers-by – much like the smiles of
Maynard, her dad, and Robert, her uncle – when they’d run the place as a
Darlene and Steve created a diverse agricultural
business, in a labor of love – providing neighbors with grass-fed beef,
rich eggs, and the best maple syrup.
Her Uncle Robert had hayed
well into his 90s – so the 240-acre farm had a model of aging in place.
Last summer, Darlene said an old chair that sat in our field with a view
of Mt. Hunger was "Robert’s chair" – for the half-century of haying
that he’d done here.
Then last spring she was diagnosed with a
rare form of cancer. But it didn’t change her attitude toward life and
work. For her birthday – a perfect May afternoon – she organized a
festive pig roast in the apple orchard. A few days later, she soared in
low loops over the farm and fields in a red bi-plane. Steve said they
were working on her "to do" list.
On July 31st Darlene drove the
tractor to cut and ted hay, and she cared for her animals into late
fall. One day in October, while feeding the horses, she told me, "Today
is a good day."
In December she had settled into her house for
the final days, with help from family and friends. Still showing a smile
and a blue-eyed flash of humor, she was preparing to finish her life on
the farm that she loved.
Steve takes care of Banner now, and
Robert’s chair is just a bump under the snowy drifts in our field – but
Darlene’s memory and her contribution to our neighborhood will weather