Farming was at the heart of all Shaker communities, and the Shaker willingness to experiment and innovate made their farms models of efficiency.
In spring, the herb and vegetable gardens come to life, first with strawberry and asparagus, then with thyme, sage and the other distinctive plants grown by the Shakers. In fall, our gardeners collect seeds from these heirloom varieties as part of our ongoing conservation efforts.
Herb gardens testify to the Shaker use of herbs for culinary and medicinal purposes. They used sage, for example, as a flavoring in sausages as well as a medicine for “night sweats, colds and coughs.” In all, the Village’s current herb garden contains a hundred or more of the plants listed in the Shakers’ 1873 “Druggist’s Handbook of Pure Botanical Preparations.”
Heirloom vegetable gardens are planted and tended using techniques from the 1843 Shaker “Gardener’s Manual.” Varieties are based on Shaker seed lists from the 1800s, many of which are rare and difficult to find today. Mangel Wurtzel Beets, Early White Turnip Radish, and Large White Marrowfat Peas illustrate the types grown by the Shakers in the 19th Century for culinary use, for sale to the community, and for animal fodder.
Our friendly gardeners are happy to answer your questions as they work, so don’t be shy. We also offer special garden tours for groups by advance reservation. Click on Shaker Adventures to learn more.
Heritage livestock populate our fields and barnyard with sheep, pigs, cattle, and poultry breeds representative of those kept by the Shakers. Be sure to visit the barns for an up-close look.
Hancock Shaker Village is among eight featured gardens in Gardens of the Berkshires. Click for more information.