Monday, December 17, 2012

North of Concord Farm

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator
Many of the farmers who supply the Co-op operate on a small scale. Most have no additional employees beyond family members and most needing at least one member of the household earning a full-time wage outside the farm.  Both Lorna and Raymond work full-time off the farm, so getting to all of the tasks that need to be done on a daily basis is difficult.  Typically, during the growing season they get home from work, change their clothes and head outside to start weeding, watering, harvesting, etc. Weekends are not days off.  They are typically 10-12 hour days.

Lorna Carlisle and Raymond Dreary have been bringing the Co-op produce for three years.  Both Lorna and Raymond grew up on family farms growing vegetables and raising animals.   It was a necessary way of life to supplement food for their large families.   North of Concord farm is not certified organic but follows organic practices and principles. 

Some of Lorna’s inspiration for farming came from her upbringing and also from books by Jim Crockett (Crockett’s Victory Garden) and Eliot Coleman.  The latter inspired Lorna and Raymond to try their hands at winter farming and they erected a hoop house last winter. 

Lorna and Raymond are always challenged by the need for small-scale farm equipment.  A lot of farm machinery is designed for larger scale farm operations and does not work well on their property. Luckily both Lorna and Raymond inherited their fathers’ tractors; a Farmall Cub and a Ford. 

Each year, North of Concord Farm adds new products to their offerings and tries to increases their volume on items that sell well.  Recently, they have included cage-free eggs they sell from their farm stand.  Some of their higher volume produce include leeks, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, scallions, and herbs. 

Although they work long and hard at what they do, their only regret is that they did not pursue their passion for farming earlier.


Friday, December 7, 2012

North Family Farm

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator

North Family Farm is named after the North Family of the Canterbury Shakers who settled the land in 1792. In fact, the boundary of North Family farm borders the land currently occupied by Canterbury Shaker Village. Since 1950 the farm has been a family-owned business.  Owners Jill McCullough and Tim Meeh generate renewable energy from wind, sun, biodiesel and sustainably harvested firewood to create their New Hampshire Certified Organic Maple Syrup.  Currently they tap about 50 acres of maple trees each season. That ultimately adds up to about 900 gallons of maple syrup produced annually.

Tim, Jill and Gemini outside the sugarhouse

Maple sugaring time in New Hampshire runs from mid-February to mid-April. Each year, the New Hampshire maple industry produces close to 90,000 gallons of maple syrup.

As the frozen sap in the maple tree thaws, it begins to move and build up pressure within the tree. When the internal pressure reaches a certain point, sap will flow from any fresh wound in the tree. Freezing nights and warm sunny days create the pressure needed for a good sap Harvest.

Beautiful barn
The farm has 20+ miles of plastic tubing
for sap collection

When we walked into the sugarhouse at North Family Farm, we were surprised to see a machine that looked like it belonged at a NASA lab rather than a family farm. The machine is a reverse osmosis filtration system. Reverse osmosis is a filtration process where most of the sugar and minerals are separated from the water in the sap.  Maple sap as it comes from the tree is 98% water and 2% sugar and minerals.  Maple syrup is 76% sugar and minerals.  42 gallons of water must be removed from the sap to make one gallon of syrup.  The water is usually removed by boiling the sap until only the syrup remains. The concentrated sap is then boiled into syrup on their high efficiency firewood gasification evaporator.  Energy consumption is dramatically reduced by this method.

The Co-op carries North Family Farm maple syrup in both grade A and B and can be found in our bulk section and our baking aisle. 

Other crops derived from North Family's land include hay, firewood, and timber.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Middle Branch Farm

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator

The fields at Middle Branch Farm in New Boston have been continuously farmed since the 1700’s.  The farm has served over the decades as a dairy, apple orchard, vegeatble, poultry and meat farm.  The farm was in the possession of the Colburn family from its inception to the point where Roger Noonan bought it in 2000.  Noonan and his family continues in that tradition of a diversified sustainable family farm.  The 100 acres at Middle Branch include woodland, pastures and fertile fields.

Noonan has been farming organically at Middle Branch Farm for over ten years.  His farming philosophy and methodology was shaped in part by his time at Marlboro College in Vermont, which Roger has described as “full of farmer/back-to-the-land types.”  One of the books he read in college was, Plowman’s Folly by Edward Faulkner.  Noonan credits this book as a major factor to the style of farming he employs today.  The book, written in the mid nineteen- forties, outlined the missuse of soil by conventional plowing and soil management practices.  Noonan believes that building healthy soil is the most essential aspect to successful organic farming.

Roger has a much larger scale to his farm than most of the farmers we visited, with 40 acres in vegetable production alone.  That is an amazing amount of fields to contend with especially considering how much of the work needs to be done by hand!  He may even be the largest certified organic farmer in the state.

Roger (center) and Midle Branch Farm crew
The Co-op has been carrying Middle Branch vegetables since its beginnings.  This past Thanksgiving the Co-op sold over 600 lbs. of Middle Branch winter squash.

Roger has recently become politically active on the national  farm scene.  The Co-op works with him on national farm issues by sending action alerts to our members.  Most recently several action alerts were created and sent to Co-op members urging their support of the 2012 Farm Bill.  He is currently the  Vice-President of the New England Farmers Union where he fights for the rights of New England farmers and fisherman.

For more information about Middle Branch Farm click here 
For more information about the New England Farmer's Union click  here

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Good Earth Farm

Dave in one of his four high tunnels
by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator

Dave Trumble has been a certified organic farmer since 1987.  His four greenhouses sit atop forested hills in Wear NH.  Because of the hilltop location the land is bathed in ample sunlight and receives a constant breeze.  All of Good Earth Farm's seedlings (vegetables, herbs and flowers) are started in the greenhouses in compost based potting soil.

As demand for local and organic food has exploded in recent years, Dave has diversified his business model.  More and more organic farmers are looking to Dave to supply them with their seedlings for the spring growing season, particularly those seedling that are difficult to start.  Dave now supplies at least 10 local organic and some beginning farmers with a diverse mix of seedlings.

Dave has sold to the Co-op for 20 years
According to Dave’s estimates, organic seedlings now account for roughly half of Good Earth Farm’s revenues.  The Co-op carries almost exclusively seedlings from Good Earth in the Spring.  I have used them in my home garden for several years and can attest that they are the best.

"Like a lot of things, the best and hardest parts of something spring from the same root. Farming is both a way of life and a job. Farming is right outside your door and is with you every day throughout the seasons. It is a real blessing to live on a farm and have such good work to do each and every day. The hardest part is treating farming like a job and applying a financial perspective to your work as well." (from Good Earth Farm website)
Yours truly holding an early June tomato

Dave also supplies vegetables to the Local Harvest CSA and to several small natural food stores.  At the Co-op his organic tomatoes are the first to arrive as they have had a big heads-start growing in the greenhouse.

For more information about Good Earth Farm click here
For more information about the Local Harvest CSA click here

Friday, October 19, 2012

Musterfield Farm

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator 

Agriculture is alive and well at Muster Field Farm in North Sutton, as it has been for parts of the last four centuries. The large, flat and open fields, where militias mustered during the 18th and 19th centuries, are used to demonstrate farm operations and equipment during Musterfield Farm Days in August. They also produce a large amount of hay that is used on the farm to winter-over the cows and other animals.
Today's farm produces vegetables, flowers, hay, eggs, and cordwood. Ice blocks are cut from Kezar Lake in the winter and stored until summer in the farm's ice house. Over 200 of the museum's 250 acres are under a conservation easement with the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, and a program of selective cutting and sustainable forest management maintains diverse stands of mixed hardwoods and softwoods.
Steve Paquin, the farm manager, and seasonal helpers are always hard at work. The farm specializes in vegetable production, with the best fields producing a wide range of vegetables (including Steve's speciality, sweet melons of all varieties

Steve and Paula
The farm enjoys robust produce and cut flower sales from their farm stand during the summer months.  It sells to local visitors as well as supplying neighboring restaurants and food markets, like the Kearsarge Cooperative Grocer, just up the road in New London.

The farm also maintains a small but varied population of farm animals which round out the farming operation. Pigs, cows, and chickens are always to be found on the grounds.

View of the Pillsbury Barn