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What is it like to live in North Andover?

Location, Location, Location
Edgewood-Farm-Barn-North-Andover-MA
The barn at the former Edgewood Farm, which is now a retirement community. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

When people ask Michael Smolak of Smolak Farms whether he’s lived in North Andover his whole life, his smart-aleck answer is “not yet.’’

But, yes, he was born and raised on the 300-year-old farm his family has owned for 91 years. His grandparents, Martin and Magdalenna, who emigrated from Poland and Lithuania, paid $5,000 for the farm in 1927, “a hefty sum back then,’’ Smolak said. His grandfather had said he wanted to go into business for himself so he could be the master of his own destiny. His grandmother had said she wanted to buy the farm so she could “keep an eye on him’’ and make sure he was working hard. And work hard he did. They all did, even their children, including Michael’s father, Henry, who took over the farm from his parents.

Smolak describes the farmhouse where he lived with his four siblings, his parents, and his grandparents as “the real life Waltons.’’ There were nine of them living in the house, and they all said good night to one another at the end of the day — in Polish.

Making a living on a farm, especially these days, is no easy task. When it was run by his father and grandfather, the farm had apples, other fruits, field crops, and dairy cows. “But that alone won’t get your bottom line where it needs to be,’’ Smolak said. Now, under Michael’s guardianship, the farm offers a Community Supported Agriculture program (now enrolling); an ice cream stand; a gift shop; and a bakery that sells the farm’s cider doughnuts (famous now, thanks to Governor Charlie Baker’s Super Bowl wager); pick-your-own fruits and Christmas trees; and special events, including weddings, birthday parties, hayrides, educational programs, and a dinner series featuring renowned chefs from Greater Boston.

It wasn’t Smolak’s original plan to run the farm. When he was 18, he headed off to the University of Pennsylvania, “allegedly never to return,’’ he said. But just two semesters in, his father died suddenly. Smolak finished his degree and came back to the farm to “straighten things out.’’ It’s now 35 years later and he’s still straightening, but he’s OK with that. He’s enjoying it, he said, and that’s what matters most — that and being a good member of the North Andover community.

“We have tremendous community support. And there’s a certain responsibility that comes with being a member of a community,’’ Smolak said, suddenly serious, no smart aleck in sight.

Michael-Smolak-North-Andover-MA
Michael Smolak of North Andover.

BY THE NUMBERS

$2.5 million

The amount North Andover Youth & Recreation Services raised in the 1990s to build the Joseph N. Hermann Youth Center, an 18,000-square-foot building that houses more than 40 programs and serves 3,000 North Andover children annually

1612

The year poet Anne Bradstreet was born in England. Bradstreet and her husband and children later moved to Andover parish, which became North Andover. Some historians believe her body is buried at Old North Parish Burying Ground on Academy Road.

194

The number of acres in Weir Hill park, which offers hiking, trail running, biking, and cross-country skiing

92.6

The percentage of students who graduated from North Andover High School in 2017 who planned to attend either a two- or four-year college

North-Andover-MA-Map

PROS & CONS

Pro

Programs for children

There’s plenty to keep children busy, especially middle- and high school-aged ones. Among the programs offered at Joseph N. Hermann Youth Center are “4th & 5th Grade Saturdays,’’ where a three-hour block is carved out just for students in that bracket to climb the rockwall, play foosball and Ping-Pong, and hang out with friends.

Con

Storm damage

With an abundance of mature trees, North Andover doesn’t always fare well in storms. Power was out in much of the town in October after a powerful windstorm knocked down trees and wires, and 90 percent of the town was without power after the early March blizzard. Even Town Manager Andrew Maylor got frustrated, taking to Twitter to vent about communication from National Grid in the days following the storm.

Chris Morris, the Globe’s Travel and Food editor, can be reached at christine.morris@globe.comSubscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp