Aquila is Latin for eagle, and the farm gets its name from the bronze bird that can be seen perched over a stone monument directly across Bay Road (Route 1A) next to the First Congregational Church of Hamilton.
What you can't see from the road is a 120-acre farm that has been in operation - almost anonymously - since around 1750.
That's about to change, dramatically.
Owner Deirdre Pirie plans to reinvigorate a working farm on her property, and she's betting the growing interest in eating only local, organically grown produce will reap benefits for her. She's also hoping the community-supported agriculture movement will work as well for her as it has for two other local farms, where there are waiting lists for memberships.
"There's an unbelievable market for it," Pirie said.
"There's been a lot of support and enthusiasm from the community," said Suzette Hedley, whom Pirie hired three years ago to help with the farm's transformation.
Participants join community-supported agriculture programs by buying farm shares before the growing season begins. In exchange, they come by once a week and fill a shopping bag with vegetables grown on the farm in season. Surplus produce is sold to nonmembers.
Share prices have not yet been determined, nor has a cap been set on membership.
Pirie and Hedley have dreamed up a couple of twists on the program. Along with vegetable shares, they'll offer flower shares, using the same principle as the vegetable program. Just don't expect to find chrysanthemums or daisies.
"High-end, specialty flowers," Hedley said. "We're not looking to compete with Hamilton Gardens (the nursery just up the road)."
Produce, too, will be more unusual than the standard farmstand fare - things like five varieties of Jerusalem artichokes and a Chinese artichoke, neither of which is related to artichokes. The Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America and a member of the sunflower family, while Chinese artichokes belong to the mint family. Both have a somewhat crunchy texture when eaten raw, and they can both be boiled and substituted for potatoes.
Hedley says the new farm's noncompete philosophy will also apply to other local farmers.
"We can't compete with Marini Farms corn," she said, so they'll buy corn from the Ipswich grower for distribution to their members.
Those specialty flowers will be grown in a new greenhouse scheduled for construction soon. It will give the farm a more visible presence on busy Route 1A than it has probably had in its 250-year history.
There are working examples of a number of periods of that history at the farm.
A barn built in 1755 was recently completely rebuilt, using as much of the original wood as possible. One house on Bay Road built in 1795 was just restored, as was what was originally a mail-order home.
From 1908 to 1940, the house of your dreams could be picked from a Sears, Roebuck catalog. The company shipped everything from the nails to the varnish for more than 100,000 homes, including one at Aquila with a farm-specific oddity not of Sears' design.
"Instead of a bathroom it had a milking room," Hedley said with a chuckle.
One house on Bay Road is beyond repair and will soon be razed and replaced with a duplex that will be designed to complement the other structures on the farm. Like the other buildings, it will serve as housing for employees, of which the farm has 19.
Keeping developers away
Pirie has motivation for making these changes now. She's hoping the agriculture program will become part of a revenue stream that will help keep her farm out of the hands of a developer, who might subdivide it into 40 lots.
The land is under state agriculture and forestry restrictions, and all the wetlands have conservation protections.
"The goal is to preserve its history and keep it as a farm," Hedley said.
Down the road, the plan is to raise chickens, cows and pigs, offering the meat to members. Pirie is talking about planting new fruit trees, as well, and maybe a vineyard.
Pirie's own home was designed by her and built in 2002. It features an attraction very few homes can boast, and even fewer homeowners might desire.
The length of the south side of her farmstead is protected by the tranquility of the Hamilton town cemetery. Pirie has her own private entrance, complete with gilded decorations.