When Mike Sabatini purchased Rowley’s Bradstreet Farm in 2012, he may not have envisioned it as the backdrop for farm-to-table dinners. The Bradstreet family originally owned 120 acres, 113 of which have been ceded to conservation. Sabatini officially opened the seven-acre farm in 2018 with his wife, Michelle Faulkner, as an event venue, with a 120-person capacity for a seated dinner and a 160-person capacity for cocktail-style receptions with an additional tent.
This year, Faulkner and Sabatini have expanded the purview of their enterprise to offer guests a different kind of bespoke experience on their property. “A lot of friends and people in the area have been asking us, ‘When do we get to come and have dinner on the property?’” Sabatini says. “And so, over time, we’ve been working on this idea.”
The idea of a series of farm-to-table dinners—with tickets sold in advance and food sourced from local purveyors—is a collaboration between the Barn at Bradstreet Farm and The Farmers Dinner, a series run by chef/owner Keith Sarasin. Since he launched The Farmers Dinner in 2012, Sarasin has hosted more than 103 farm-to-table events in the area, raising more than $125,000 for local farms. “October in New England is a culinary adventure,” Sarasin says.
Sarasin’s rotating, multicourse menus, spearheaded with a team of talented chefs, showcase the arc of the seasons. The dinners at Bradstreet Farm, which began in August, run on select Sundays through October 29. “In New England during October, we’re spoiled with an abundance of delightful ingredients,” he says. “Apples, pumpkins, squashes like honey nut, and root vegetables take center stage.”
Also on the menu, Sarasin says: hearty greens, savory mushrooms, and “local gems” that he feels express some of the richness of autumn. The dinners, particularly in fall, he says, offer an opportunity to “capture the essence of the season and our region’s bounty.” Sarasin’s popularity has followed him from venue to venue: His events almost always sell out.
Bradstreet Farm has recently started producing its own wine in a joint venture with Rowley’s Mill River Winery. Grapes are grown at the farm, and the wine is vinified and sold at the winery down the road. The wine from the project is featured at the dinners. The farm grows Marquette, a red grape that prefers the area’s sandy soils. Herbs, corn, and cherry tomatoes for the dinner also are grown at the farm. “We start our radius right here in town,” Sabatini says of the dinners—and he means right on the farm’s own property.
The dinners also use other local farms and other local purveyors. Sabatini lists off farmers by name: Jeff and Cory Head of Chickadee Hill Farm, Rowley; Kristen Herrick of Herrick Farm, also in Rowley; Mike Marini of Marini Farm, Ipswich; and Karen and Glenn Cook of Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury. A cash bar (drinks are included at a slightly higher VIP admission price) features beers from Rowley’s Anonymous Brewing and wines from Mill River Winery. For a sweet finale, ice creams are offered at the end of the meal from producers like Richardson’s and Shaw Farm Dairy.
“The style is a little bit more fun. At typical weddings, the chef is in the background, and the servers will serve the food, but in this case, it’s entertaining,” Sabatini says. “So, the chefs are out in front, entertaining and collaborating with the guests.” The chefs, Sabatini says, have a hand in serving the guests and are available to answer any questions guests may have about the provenance or preparation of the food.
Guests are also free to immerse themselves in the history of the farm itself, the second oldest continually operating farm in the United States. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bradstreet Farm dates back to 1635. The highest tier of VIP tickets—the platinum tier—allows guests to receive a private tour of the property and farm on a golf cart and entitles them to a private wine tasting from the first batch of Marquette wines produced at Bradstreet.
VIP Gold ticket holders receive a cheese and charcuterie board along with their wine tasting and dinner. And all guests are free to enjoy live music and the dinner’s festive atmosphere; the three-hour Sunday affair, offered from 4 to 7 p.m., is, Sabatini says, “a good, wholesome event.”
Although this is the inaugural year for the Bradstreet Farm collaboration with The Farmers Dinners, Faulkner and Sabatini are already planning for the future. “We’ll definitely continue with this in 2024,” Faulkner says. Prices for the events begin at $120 per person; tickets are available