It's just Dargoonian Farm now.

"At one point there were over 200 farms (in Andover) and it's down to one," said Michael Saccone, the Blanchard Road property's current owner. 

The farm is one of the last vestiges of Andover's rural past. 

Saccone bought the Andover property in March 2018 from Tom and Dena Dargoonian, descendants of the original owners.

For three years now, Saccone and his daughter Christina Saccone, have run the struggling farm as the town around them continues to change.

The farm was founded in 1929 by the Dargoonian family in West Andover. They were among the many Armenian refugees who settled in Andover to start farming after fleeing the Armenian Genocide, according to town records.

The Asoian, Loosigian, Sarkisian and Colombosian families also owned and managed farms in Andover that have since been sold and developed, according to town records.

The Dargoonian Farm stayed in the family for three generations before Saccone bought it.

Since the purchase, he and his daughter have attempted to partner with local schools to have the farm become an agricultural teaching center. They've looked into growing other crops — even marijuana — but cannot find a financially feasible solution to turn the farm profitable, they said.

Michael was able to purchase the farm because he'd been successful as the founder and owner of MDR Construction, based in Tewksbury. Over the past few years, he's used personal money to keep the farm afloat while running the construction company.

"How do we keep it a farm and not donate $150,000 (of our own money a year) to keep it a farm because that's not sustainable for anyone," Michael said. "And we haven't found a solution yet."

He said they would love to turn it into an educational and community center where people can learn about how their food gets to the table. Currently, that seems unlikely, he said.

Christina went to college for biochemistry and worked in a lab before becoming a farmer. She's used her knowledge to learn about the soil and farming and is taking a look at the business. 

She realized that poinsettias were not profitable, so they stopped growing them. Then they realized the vegetable soil wasn't yielding good results, so they are not growing them this summer either, she said.

Now the farm is down to two growing seasons: spring when they mostly sell hanging baskets with a variety of flowers, and fall, when they sell mums, Christina said. They may discontinue the mums, too.

The hard work and little profit show "it's a lifestyle choice, not a business, and that's why these farms are evaporating," she said. 

Similarly, on the other side of town, Jen and Tom Boshar are winding down the alpaca business that they ran out of their home on Holt Road. At one time, they had a herd of up to 15 alpacas. They bred, showed and sold alpacas and items made from alpaca fur. They are the last people who bred and sold animals in town.

"We are really fortunate here with roughly three acres of land," Tom said. "It's sad to see the old farmsteads break up."

He and Jen had lived in town since they were children about 60 years ago and recall the farmlands that have since been developed. Jen had horses growing up, which started her love of animals and eventually lead to them owning alpacas.

Their own neighbors have enjoyed seeing the alpacas roaming in the pasture and named a few over the years, Jen said. One man even made a point to tell them he stopped on his way home from work every day to see them because "It was peaceful for him," Tom said.

There are fewer and fewer opportunities to see any kind of livestock in town now, Jen said. 

"You don't see it in this town anymore. Who has animals?" She asked.

With the introduction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 1960s, Andover began rapidly developing as a suburb of Boston, explained Paul Materazzo, the director of planning for Andover.

The town rezoned to allow for industrial development at that time, which gave farmers lucrative opportunities to sell their land.

"It was not just I-93 but also I-495 that gave Andover great access to the highways," Materazzo said.

The defense contractor Raytheon Technologies and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer are two examples of the large industrial businesses that have grown their campuses on either side of I-93. This past year one of the most important aspects of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was developed in one of the company's newest buildings.

The next phase of Andover's development is geared toward the downtown, he said.

In the past few years there have been about 65,000 square feet of redevelopment in the downtown, he said. The town is currently soliciting applications from developers to redevelop the 3.4-acre Old Town Yard in the historic mill district near the train station into a "family-friendly mixed-use" area, he said.

About 100 acres of land are included in that mixed-use zoning in the historic mill district, Materazzo said. There's been some development like Oak and Iron Brewing Company, but many landowners are waiting to see what the town yard project yields, he said.

"Being at the heart of the downtown, the town yard was a great place to start redevelopment," Materazzo said.


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