Philip Kenney
74 Virginia Road

Age: 75

Interviewed December 1, 1979

Concord Oral History Program
Interviewed by Renee Garrelick.

We came to Concord from Arlington in November, 1925. The farm was formerly owned by the Blanchards. The house was built by the Blanchards five years before we moved there, and the farm included a barn and several poultry sheds.

At the time we moved here, on Virginia Road from the Lincoln line was first the Carlson farm, next was the Davis farm, then the Algeos, the Breens, the Carl Anderson family, Caleb Wheeler, and the Kenneys. We had this end of Virginia Road to Old Bedford Road. We had about 15 acres of planted land.

Some of the other farmers on Old Bedford Road were the McHughs starting at Lexington Road, then the Burkes, the Magurns, Peter Dalton, and then Frank Peterson at the corner of Virginia Road, and the last at Bedford Street was Arthur Magurn.

In the very early days, of course, farming was done by horse-drawn implements. We didn't get our first tractor until 1928. We had (one of) the first truck(s) in 1918 to go to market.

After two years we got rid of the asparagus and raised lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach. Some of the plantings you could get two crops from. Most farmers, large and small, used cold frames to help grow crops because you didn't have fruits and vegetables shipped from California back then. Many of the crops, such as lettuce, beets, and carrots, had to be worked by hand.

We eventually grew to using about 2500 cold frames. Believe it or not, we would grow dandelions with some of those frames. We would sow the dandelion seed in early August, and we would harvest our first crop around March depending on the weather. Then we would plant radishes and carrots. This was all under glass. Also, we were the first to introduce butternut squash in the Boston area.

There was the Boston Market Garden Association, which was the oldest market association and consisted of all the vegetable farmers around suburban Boston within a radius of 15 miles. That organization is now called the New England Vegetable Growers Association. I was on the executive board of the Boston Market Garden Association for over twenty years. I was also a member of the Middlesex County Farm Bureau and also served on the executive board there.

We started with about 15 acres of land but when Frank Peterson sold out on Old Bedford Road, we bought his land and greenhouse. We used the greenhouse to grow celery, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage. We also leased land to farm at many different locations usually on a year-to-year lease. At one time we leased land from Mrs. Wheeler near where Stop & Shop is now, also land on Sudbury Road, the Hugh Cargill farm on Walden Street, and about 25 acres of land on Monument Street. We leased for three years with option to buy about 40 acres on Hawthorne Lane. After three years, we bought the land. We also bought about 20 acres across the road from our house that belonged to Mr. & Mrs. Magurn. We bought five different parcels of land as the years went on, so that we actually owned about 100 acres, and we leased about another 100 acres.

Over the years, we had many different nationalities of people working on the farm. During World War II, we had German prisoners of war from Fort Devens working in the fields. Every morning we would pick them up at 6:15 and have them down in Concord in the fields at 7:00. We had the prisoners for two years and they used to beg me to stay here overnight. Of all the nationalities I've had working on the farm those prisoners were the best. I was so friendly with them that I was invited by two of them to come to Germany after the war, but I was too busy to go which I'm sorry for now.

We also got into the pig business. After buying some land that belonged to Mrs. Magurn that was adjacent to our land and acquiring some old dog kennels, we adapted them to pig pens and started raising pigs. At one time we had about 500 pigs. But it turned out a disaster. One night in about 1951, we had a terrible fire in the building housing the pigs burning down the building including the pigs.

Text mounted 12th December 2012. RCWH.