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Gil ’80 and Sandie Barden ’91

The Fruit of the Earth

Gil Barden’s grandparents, John and Hazel, founded Barden Family Orchards in North Scituate in 1931. Despite John’s brilliant freshman year at URI (he won an award for his essay on “Chemistry in Agriculture”) the family was unable to fund his education. John couldn’t graduate and always had a full time job in addition to running the farm.

Gil helped his grandparents on the farm from the age of 12 but didn’t get the farming bug himself until his early twenties.

After graduating, Gil (forestry and wildlife management) and Sandie (wildlife biology) both held jobs at DEM until seven years ago when they tried selling their now famous peaches at a farmers’ market in Central Falls.

Sold out before lunchtime, they realized that selling directly to the public could generate sufficient income to make the farm their livelihood. They eventually quit their jobs and are now growing the business together—a symbiosis of skills that works well for them, “She’s the idea person and I’m the doer,” says Gil.

Gil is passionate about their farm and growing new crops: “I love everything about growing food: it defines me.” They have recently diversified their crops, adding berries and vegetables and building a farm store (and a new home after their farmhouse burned down). And they enjoy a loyal customer base at Rhode Island’s many farmers’ markets.

Gil and Sandie share a strong interest in developing sustainable farm practices to produce their crops in the safest and most environmentally conscious way. At the moment, all their fruit is grown with the lowest spray possible, and they are currently preparing soil for new organic orchards in response to customer requests.

The Bardens plant with care and take a long-term view of our food future. “I love it when people tell me they love our produce. I’m done for the day then,“ Gil says.

For more information about the Bardens’ produce and seasonal harvesting times, please go to bardenfamilyorchard.com/

—Bevan Linsley

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