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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Brookford Farm

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator

Luke Mahoney and Brookford Farm have a very unique story.   Luke has been farming since he was fourteen years old when he began picking beets on a conventional vegetable farm.  His first internship after college found him working on a bio-dynamic farm in Pennsylvania.  Bio-dynamic farming encourages holistic development and interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system.  
He stayed on the bio-dynamic train when he moved two years later to farm in Russia where he met his wife, Catarina, from Dresden, Germany, who also worked on the farm.  Although Luke describes their time in Russia as “ad hoc” farming, they stayed on the farm in Russia for four years where they also had had their first son, Oliver.  In October of 2004, Catarina and Luke moved with Oliver to Kattendorfer Hof near Hamburg, Germany. Kattendorfer Hof is a diversified biodynamic farm with a strong concentration on CSA and direct marketing of produce. Catarina took part in the formal biodynamic apprenticeship program with a focus in vegetable production and Luke worked with the cows. This was a formative year for the couple as they took part in farm production on a scale and level of efficiency which they had never previously seen.

In January 2007, the Mahoney family moved with their two sons to Brookford Farm in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. With access to 200 acres of grass it became clear that dairy cows would once  again be in Luke’s future.  Early on, Brookford shipped milk to the cooperative milk processor Organic Valley and sold a small amount of raw milk and cream on the side. The market for their bottled raw milk and other dairy products grew and in the spring of 2010, they could no longer supply Organic Valley. Noticing a local demand for holistic foods Brookford also began producing pastured meats, eggs and vegetables.

With the help of Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm the, New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, and family and friends, the Mahoneys found a permanent home for their farm in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Beginning in early 2012, Brookford Farm moved its entire operation to the new 613-acre site.
When we visited in June, the farm was undergoing myriad changes.  Since the Canterbury land in the past few decades had been used primarily as a sod and ornamental plant nursery farm, all of the manure and soil amendments were shipped in to Canterbury from Rollinsford keeping with the bio-dynamic model.  Much of their staff were also retained in the move. In addition to stores such as the Co-op, Brookford products can also be purchased in diversified CSA shares as well as local farmers markets.