By Jillian Rivers.
Quitting your job, selling most of your belongings, hitting the road in a school bus, and building a small farm—these are not easy feats for anybody. Cindy and Troy Dickens of Tilth & Timber farm in Middleboro, MA, have proven that such obstacles can be overcome, through their dedication and tireless efforts to educate locals about “knowing where it’s growing.” At the Plymouth and Kingston farmers’ markets, the couple encourage an open dialogue with their customers about their sustainable practices.
Cindy and Troy both held traditional jobs, as an educator and a worker in the environmental field, respectively. The pair grew up in Massachusetts surrounded by agriculture and felt homesteading came naturally to them. They made the choice to leave their comfortable 9–5 lifestyle for the uncharted territory of agricultural entrepreneurship, with a unique twist. After selling their house and belongings, Cindy and Troy decided to purchase and restore an old school bus as a home for their new enterprise.
The bus, named the “White Whale Skoolie,” is fitted with Renogy solar panels and an antique wood stove, as well as housing their few remaining belongings. After restoring the school bus and joining the tiny house movement, Cindy and Troy took White Whale Skoolie cross-country to California State Route 1 and up the Pacific Coast to Washington State—a dream trip for modern hippies.
After their five-month journey covering 25 states, 18 national parks, and five bus breakdowns, they landed back in New England. The couple quickly found that their passion for homesteading opened up an opportunity to lease land at Black Brook Ranch in Middleboro. Here, Cindy and Troy could park their new home and start a small farm within their “bus-yard.” Well aware of the entrepreneurial risks, they chose to move forward with stewarding their rented land.
The farm is run with biodynamic practices, which are based on lunar cycles, companion planting, and devotion to soil health. These practices, with their inherent challenges, are integral to Tilth & Timber’s products, Cindy explains. A plethora of organic compost and added minerals used in their biodynamic practice. The goal is to “restore and maintain ecological harmony,” creating a natural environment for crops to grow without pesticides or unnatural disturbances.
A trip to Tilth & Timber allowed me to witness the farm in action. I saw and sampled some of the most vivid and bright vegetables I’ve ever seen. As Cindy guided us through their farm beds, she gave us samples of radishes and sorrel straight from the ground. The radishes, so vibrant and pink, have strong peppery notes while the sorrel’s tart acidity is like biting into a juicy lemon slice. Noticeably, various herbs and vegetables are grown between the rows as companion plantings—a method used to increase soil nutrients and crop productivity. Companion planting also helps with pest control.
Local chefs and restaurants such as The Tasty and caterers Brothers Cache in Plymouth are catching on and using this carefully-raised produce in creative dishes. Chef de Cuisine of The Tasty, Mike Wisdom, experiments with Tilth & Timber’s lesser-known produce like radish pods, similar to a peppery green bean. He adds them to entrees such as a cornmeal-crusted hake with sorrel pesto and radish pod salad. Cindy and Troy enjoy seeing chefs and customers create meals with produce that has been harvested that morning and put on a plate by sundown—how “farm to table” should be done.
Cindy and Troy’s farm is built around practicing sustainable living and stewarding the land for future generations. Without pesticides, sprays, or chemicals they work with Mother Nature to improve soil and build nutrients. Troy also carves spoons out of greenwood from their farm, while Cindy makes natural salves and hand balm. They sell these at farmers’ markets, along with their produce and 100% wool yarn sourced from the sheep at Black Brook Ranch. Tilth & Timber also run a CSA, offering some of the highest-quality local vegetables and herbs in our region. The proof is in the produce.
Tilth & Timber
290 Miller Street
Middleboro, MA 02346
Jillian Rivers, currently a cook at Mirbeau Inn & Spa, has a passion and curiosity for everything food and nature. She has worked professionally in kitchens for the past decade and has a crush on Tilth & Timber radishes.