Feeding and watering animals, evaluating pastures, and moving electrical fences is how Eli Newell ’20 spends his summers on Codman Farms in Lincoln, Mass. Working from dawn to dusk for six days a week, Newell strives to find solutions to feed America’s ever-growing population in a sustainable and economically efficient manner.
According to Newell, he is the only member in his immediate family to have a farming hobby, which can be traced back to his first grade year when he started to look after his own vegetable garden. In fifth grade, he began raising chickens.
After volunteering at a local vegetable production farm and watching a National Geographic series that covered sustainable farming practices, growing produce and feeding animals expanded into a passion as he began to understand the importance of responsible food production.
“There is nothing more exciting than being part of figuring out how to feed so many people and do so responsibly on every level. I had this thing that I loved, which was to work on a farm, and it has such clear importance in terms of economics and nutrition and our food systems, so I still love it. And this is where I am today,” said Newell.
Newell worked on everything related to daily operations and infrastructure projects that help regulate Codman Farm’s health.
For many friends of Newell’s, his love for working on the farm is evident. According to Nathan Wang ’19, Newell loves to work on the farm during his free time.
“I remember that he was coming in my room three times a night because he felt really guilty about not being able to go back [to the farm] and help because he was so swamped with homework. I can tell that he is really passionate about it,” said Wang.
Newell helps Codman Farms to produce between 4000 to 5000 meat chickens and 100 pigs a year. The farm’s 1300 laying chickens usually produce 1000 eggs per day.
According to Newell, the massive amount of vegetable produce, eggs, and meat make their way to the on-site store at Codman Farms and to local restaurants and grocery stores to give back to the community and strengthen local businesses.
Newell said that Codman Farms has made their food and meat production more eco-friendly by using the chickens to help fertilize the fields.
“Through their manure, the birds are depositing roughly 400 pounds of nitrogen per acre, which people pay a lot of money for in the form of anhydrous ammonia. That’s kind of a byproduct of this meat production. We’re producing a lot of this really high quality meat, selling it into a community, and renovating these pastures. And that’s just so exciting. Now it’s in a condition such that we can raise cattle or make hay on that pasture,” said Newell.
Codman Farms is able to sell their sustainably-produced products by linking with other farms in the area through Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.), a system that allows consumers to subscribe to produce, according to Newell.
“There are several other farms in the area that carry our products in their C.S.A.s, there are other farm stores in Massachusetts that carry our eggs… we’re mostly selling directly to consumers,” said Newell.
Codman Farms also sells to customers through an on-site store.
Erik Wang ’21 said, “Eli was my prefect last year as a [Junior] in Pemberton. As I lived in a small dorm with him, I got to know him pretty well. And this year he is my proctor in Stuart House… I know that he works at a farm every summer, and he goes there during breaks to work there as well. And I just know he has had a passion for agriculture for a long time.”
With his mind beyond the simple work regarding plants and animals, Newell sets his focus on making his own impact in the world through sustainable food options for the future.
“I love my team. The people I work with are really smart, innovative farmers. But what I love most, what is most exciting is seeing the direct impact of my work on the pastures we manage and in the farm store,” said Newell.