Topsfield was an agricultural community from its settlement before 1650 to the late 20th century when many large farms were sold for development. Topsfield’s population grew and the town was transformed from a small agricultural community to what it is today, but Topsfield’s agricultural tradition lives on. Agricultural land continues to contribute significantly to Topsfield’s open space and rural character. Two of Topsfield’s prominent institutions, the Essex Agricultural Society that runs the Topsfield Fair and the Essex County Coop that serves both farmers’ needs and the general public as a multi-faceted country store, were founded to serve agricultural purposes. Northeast Harvest, a regional farming resource, is based in Topsfield.
Of particular significance, approximately 9% of Topsfield’s land area is devoted to commercial farming, and there are many “hobby farms” on which agricultural activities are conducted. Valley View Farm, Holiday Tree Farm, Connemara House Farm, Iron Ox Farm, Meredith Farm, Greywood Farm, and Alfalfa Farm are the most prominent farms in Topsfield. These farms are dedicated to a variety of agricultural and horticultural operaions, including cheese, eggs, honey, maple syrup, apple and fruit orchards, organic vegetables, a winery, Christmas trees, dayliliesand a greenhouse offering annuals and perennials. “Hobby farms” have farm stands and grow produce, much of which goes to local food pantries. These small-scale farms also feature honey, mushrooms, eggs, flowers and many other products.
The most significant crop in Topsfield is hay - a pattern mirroring Massachusetts in general. Many of the large properties are Chapter Land or under conservation restriction, but they are hayed once or twice a year. The cultivation and harvesting of good quality hay earn property owners income and are critical for the support of the livestock industry.
Two excellent reports concerning Topsfield's agricultural history are: