Steve Hall is 36 and has been farming most of those years.
This being Dracut, it’s not a unique upbringing. But Hall’s farm story followed a different trajectory than most.
His farm, which he calls Nallie Pastures (named after his dog), has not been in his family for generations, like, say, Shaw Farm or Brox Farm. He hasn’t yet purchased his own farmland, as is the case with Farmer Dave’s.
Steve works about 25 acres of land he rents at the corner of Broadway Road and Salem Road, adjacent to Brox Farm.
And his specialty is not dairy or fruits and vegetables.
His Nallie Pastures is a poultry farm. And because it’s November, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, Nallie Pastures is Dracut Ecomomic Development’s November 2023 Business of the Month. Yes, he sells Thanksgiving turkeys, and, yes, he does have a few left, but you had better call him soon at 978-996-9675 to talk turkey. Nallie Pastures does not have a farm stand.
Steve has always liked farming, but it isn’t in his blood. Growing up in Dracut, though, it wasn’t too hard to find a farming job, and he worked for a few before deciding to start his own poultry farm in 2018.
His parents, Jim and Ruth -- both retired and still living in the family home on Jones Avenue -- help him with the farm. He appreciates the irony that in most cases, Dracut farms have been passed down through generations, but not Nallie Pastures.
“I kind of did it the opposite way,” he said, adding that instead of learning how to farm from his parents, they’re learning from him.
Though new to the game, Steve’s goal is the same as that of generations of Dracut farmers before him – and in fact is what has made Dracut the town it is today.
“I’m out to preserve farmland by farming,” he said.
Steve caught the farming bug at an early age, working the land at several local farms, including Dunlap Farm on Marsh Hill Road. After graduating from Dracut High School in 2006, he continued working on farms.
“One day I listened to a podcast about pasturing,” Steve says, referring to a practice also known as rotational grazing, which simply allows ground already grazed to rest while the animals are rotated around the pasture.
“You move the animals to a different spot every day, basically replicating what the animals do in nature, giving them fresh ground every day,” Steve said.
He said if he had other animals, they, too, would be incorporated into the system.
“The whole idea is to have multiple enterprises with different animals acting in symbiosis,” he said. “Cows come through and eat the grass down to chicken height, then the chickens graze on that patch. It’s a more efficient use of land.”
Nallie Pastures has raised about 2,400 meat birds this year, as well as 300 laying hens,
Because he doesn’t have a farm stand where folks can come and purchase his products, he sells at farmers’ markets. His home base is Mill No. 5 in downtown Lowell, but he also sells regularly at markets in Lawrence, Andover, North Andover and Haverhill when they’re in season
Nallie Pastures represents the next generation of farming in Dracut.
Steve is well aware of farming’s rich history in Dracut. He wants to see the industry continue to be one of the engines driving the town’s economy.
“There are farms that have been here a while, Shaw Farm, Farmer Dave’s,” he said. “But there are also opportunities for new farmers. That’s Dracut’s whole history.”
Steve serves on Dracut’s Agricultural Commission, and Nallie Pastures is a member of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, where Steve sits on the Board of Directors of the local Middlesex County bureau.
Warren Shaw, owner of Shaw Farm, is president of the state Farm Bureau and always loves to see young farmers getting involved in advocacy for farmers.
“Steve is one of the good young people in agriculture that has a vision for the future,” Warren said. “I encouraged him to join the board. He’s really developing leadership qualities.”
This year, Steve raised 150 Thanksgiving turkeys, and those numbers are dwindling fast.
If you’re interested in purchasing Nallie Pastures products for the next few months, with most farmers’ markets closing for winter, the only place you’ll be able to catch him Steve is at Mill No. 5 on Jackson Street in Lowell, where he sets up inside on the fourth floor on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
After raising his poultry, he has to transport them to a plant in Rhode Island for processing, before packing them up for sale. He has also started to sell pork from a farm in New Lebanon, N.Y., on the border of western Massachusetts.
Steve said he’ll continue to provide poultry as long as he has land to farm and as long as people are looking for fresh meat.
“Lots of customers want to buy high-quality products,” he said. “People come together over food. American culture has been engineered to believe food should be all about price. You hear ‘more for your dollar’ -- yeah, but more of what? I’m here for people who want quality. You’re going to pay more, but you get to see where your food comes from.
“I wanted to offer something better, something you could see for yourself. Transparency is something that’s lacking in the industrial meat sector. You have to wear a hazmat suit to see their chickens. I’m, like, come in and see for yourself.”
He’s happy to talk to preschools about poultry farming, and how the food gets from his farm to your table. You never know, he might be talking to Dracut’s next young farmer.
“There’s not a lot of young people starting to farm,” he said. “And yet there’s never been a better time. There has never been a better legislative climate. It’s like we’re finally realizing the need to preserve farming and farmland.”
Call Steve and Nallie Pastures at 978-996-9675.
- Steve Hall talks to a customer at one of the farmers’ markets where he sells his poultry. (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)
- Steve Hall tends to one of his chicken coops. (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)
- It’s turkey time! All Steve to reserve a turkey. But do it quick! (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)
- Steve Hall will have processed close to 2,500 chickens and turkeys by the end of 2023. (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)
- Chicks dig Steve Hall. (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)
- Steve sells fresh eggs at farmers’ markets. (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)
- Nallie, Steve’s Australian shepherd, watches over the chicken coops at the farm that bears her name. (COURTESY NALLIE PASTURES)