NEW HAMPSHIRE AGRARIAN COMMONS
Local Agrarian Commons Board
Brookford Farm: Luke Mahoney, Catarina Mahoney
Vernon Family Farm: Jeremiah Vernon, Nicole Vernon
Monadnock Community Farm: Next generation TBD
Jeremy Lougee, Conservation Project Manager at Southeast Land Trust of NH
Jamie Bemis, Three Sisters Ecofarm and Bright Power Inc.
Deb Abrahams-Dematte, Anthroposophical Society of America & Monadnock Community Land Trust
Amy Manzelli, Attorney, BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC
With additional support from: NH Community Loan Fund, bookkeeping services, shared equipment, sales and marketing, NH Future Farmers Fund, Antioch Graduate Intern
The New Hampshire Agrarian Commons is organized and shall be operated exclusively for the purpose of holding title to property, collecting income therefrom, and turning the entire amount, less expenses to the AGRARIAN LAND TRUST within the meaning of Section 501(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”). Agrarian Land Trust, the parent corporation of New Hampshire Agrarian Commons, is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(a) and described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Code.
The New Hampshire Agrarian Commons is working with local farmers to preserve the agrarian landscape while making organic agriculture a viable profession for the next generation of young, diverse farmers. Through holding, preserving, and giving farmers equitable access and secure tenure to whole farms through 99-year leases, we can collectively help ensure equitable tenure and support for next generation farmers focused on regenerative diversified food production and sustaining community-centered farms. The three founding farms of the region’s Commons are Brookford Farm, Monadnock Community Farm, and Vernon Family Farm. The Commons is coming about with support, donations, investment, and engagement from donors and the local community.
New Hampshire Farm Partners
At 620 acres, Brookford Farm is the largest organic and biodynamic farm in New Hampshire, where just 3 percent of farms are certified organic. It’s also one of the largest organic farms north of Boston. Located 15 minutes north of Concord, the farm is situated along the banks of the Merrimack River in Canterbury and is protected under a conservation easement. Farmers Luke and Caterina Mahoney own and operate the Brookford Farm business. They also own soil shares. Gary Hirschberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm, along with several consultants, including our Director at Agrarian Trust, and a few representatives from a local community loan fund serve on an advisory board for the farm to provide support, guidance, and assistance in running and growing the farming operation.
Brookford Farm is highly diversified, with 35+ acres in certified organic vegetable production and livestock including pastured cattle, hogs, and chickens. Their farming practices are focused on soil health and sustaining a nutrient-rich grass and pasture-based livestock operation, requiring meticulous management practices. Their cows are 100 percent grass-fed. The farm’s hogs and chickens are supplemented with non-GMO grain. They distribute their products to a 250+ member, year-round CSA, restaurants, retail stores, and farmers markets. The farm store on site is open 7-days a week. Milk from the dairy herd is bottled raw or turned into a wide variety of dairy products in the farm’s creamery. The farm’s focus on soil health and running a diversified operation has resulted in approximately $2.5 million in annual sales. However, their success has come with struggle.
Earlier in their farming journey, Luke and Caterina lacked land security. The loss of a previous lease arrangement in Rollinsford pushed them to look for new land to farm. They already had a large-scale farm at the time, but they had to pick up and move. In 2012, the farmers undertook restoration of a former sod farm, where the soil was rolled up and trucked away every year. Harmful chemicals had been dumped into the ground and leached into the water. When they came onto the land as an organic, diversified food production farm, it was a struggle to have the soil health they needed to operate a grass-based agricultural business. To address the impact of a monoculture sod farm on soil health and transform the land into a diversified organic farm, they had to take on debt. They were first-generation farmers with years of farming experience but did not have major financial resources to draw on. They had their animals, some equipment, and a customer base, but everything else had to be acquired with debt.
Vernon Family Farm is located on 33 conserved acres in Newfields, NH along the Piscassic River. The farm sells a variety of chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables at its farm store, at farmers’ markets, and to local restaurants and grocers. The farm is operated by husband-and-wife team, Jeremiah and Nicole Vernon. Jeremiah earned a degree in Biology and soon discovered his passion for farming, falling in love twice: with agriculture and with his future spouse and farm partner, Nicole, while working on Nezinscott Farm. A 10th generation New Hampshire native, Jeremiah is passionate about his family’s seacoast farm and raising their children to value the land.
The Vernon's farm also hosts a variety of events and community activities. They have recurring events on Fridays and special events with live music. Their Wicked Chicken Rotisserie Nights offer chicken with a twist with custom rubs made from spice blends sourced locally from Stock and Spice of Portsmouth, NH. They host many other fun food events, including Taco Tuesday, Fire and Ice at the Farm, and much more.
The stories of these two farms represent many of the challenging realities for next generation farmers across the country. Increasingly fewer farmers are connected to a generational history of agriculture that can equip them with the tools and resources they need to be successful. More farmers are coming into agriculture for the first time, and while they may have some resources or knowledge, the debt they have to take on is many times almost impossible to service while running a viable farm business that considers soil, ecosystem, and community health.
SNAPSHOT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE AGRICULTURE
New Hampshire is home to approximately 425,400 acres of farmland, with the majority of the state’s prime agricultural soils located in the southern region. From 2012 to 2017, more than 42,539 acres of land in New Hampshire had been converted from farms to other uses.
As of 2018, a reported 12,350 acres of the state’s farmland had been protected through a state-level purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) program, accounting for roughly 3 percent of the state’s total farmland.
New Hampshire Agriculture & History
New Hampshire has approximately 425,400 acres of farmland and 4,100 farms. Much of the state’s prime farming soil is located in southern New Hampshire, where the majority of the population lives and where the greatest threat of development pressure looms. The state has a long and varied history of agricultural production, beginning more than 3,000 years ago with the indigenous Abenaki and Pennacook who cultivated corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. As a consequence of European colonization, today indigenous people in New Hampshire number in the low thousands. From the 1600s onward, farmers of European descent typically established small subsistence farms alongside commercial sheep and dairy operations as well as orchards. By the 1930s, approximately half of the state was held as farm or pasture land. By 1990, acreage in agriculture had dropped by 85 percent from where it was in 1900 (from 3,250,000 to 480,000 acres). During the same period, as thousands of farms were abandoned, forested land increased from 22 percent to 87 percent. Today, just between 5 to 8 percent of the state’s land is used for agricultural purposes.
Yet even as agriculture has declined overall in the state (and continues to decline nationally), New Hampshire has seen significant regrowth of farming in recent years. The number of farms increased by 24 percent from 2002-2007 and again by 5 percent from 2007-2012. In a trend that stands out from the rest of the nation, the state’s share of farms has declined only slightly since then. Steady population growth in New Hampshire combined with increased demand for local, organic produce represents a unique opportunity to revitalize the state’s agricultural sector and connect a new generation to the land. New Hampshire is home to about 60 farmers’ markets, or roughly one farmers’ market for every 22,600 people. By 2007, the state ranked first in the nation for direct sales between farms and consumers. One in four farms derived the majority of their profits from direct sales. Today, 29 percent of the state’s farms sell directly to consumers. Despite significant marketing opportunities and continued interest in locally produced foods, 71 percent of the state’s farms earn less than $10,000 a year.
Land Acknowledgement & Commitment
The Agrarian Commons acknowledges that it is located on the ancestral, occupied, and, in many cases, unceded land of Indigenous people. In acknowledging this legacy of genocide and theft, we are in turn committed to supporting Indigenous sovereignty.
Food Insecurity & Hunger
According to a 2017 study, 1 in 9 New Hampshire residents are food insecure. Approximately 12 percent of children are living in food insecure environments. Nearly 6 percent of seniors are food insecure in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Farmland Facts
Amount of Farmland: 430,000 acres (7 percent of total land area)
Acres Farmed Organically: 7,858 acres
Total Number of Farms: 4,100
Number of Farm Operators/Producers: 7,198
- Average Age: 58
- Beginning farmers: 2,207
- Farmers of color: 140
- White farmers: 7,072
- American Indian or Alaska Native farmers: 13
- Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin farmers: 68
- Black farmers: 38
- Asian farmers: 14
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander farmers: 0
- Female farmers: 3,277
- Male farmers: 3,921
Farmland Loss: 42,539 acres (2012-2017)
Average Farm Real Estate Value: $4,980/acre
Farm Income: 71 percent of New Hampshire farms earn less than $10,000 a year (2017, NASS)
Top Agricultural Products by Sales: Nursery and greenhouse products, flowers, sod, cow’s milk, vegetables, melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, other crops and hay, fruits, tree nuts, berries
Resources on New Hampshire Agriculture
- 2018 State Agriculture Overview - New Hampshire
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS - New Hampshire
- Land Values 2019 Summary, USDA
- American Farmland Trust, Farmland Info Center, New Hampshire
- National Young Farmers Coalition Chapters
Farm and Food Reports on New Hampshire
- Great Falls Region (NH, VT) Local Farm & Food Economy, Crossroads Resource Center, Kenneth Meter (Highlights of a data compilation for Great Falls Food Hub). Crossroads Resource Center.
State of New Hampshire Reports
FOUNDING FARMS, RANCHES & AGRICULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS
Year Established: 2007
Farm Size: 620 acres
Farm Practices: Organic, Non-GMO, Kosher
Products: Vegetables, fermented vegetables, grass-fed raw milk, cheeses and cultures, meats, and eggs
Website: Brookford Farm, https://www.brookfordfarm.com/
Vernon Family Farm
Year Established: 2014
Farm Size: 33 acres
Farm Practices: Organic, Non-GMO, Halal
Products: Cattle and mixed vegetable production
Website: Vernon Family Farm, https://www.vernonfamilyfarm.com/
Monadnock Community Farm
Year Established: In transition
Farm Size: 80 acres
Farm Practices: Organic, soil building practices for past three decades
Products: Potential for animal and vegetable production
Website: Coming Soon
Local Agrarian Commons Documents
- Articles of Incorporation
- Lease Template
PARTNERS & ALLIES
New Hampshire Community Loan Fund
Gary and Meg Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm
NH Charitable Foundation
Monadnock Community Land Trust
EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES
- Around Concord: For the Love of Cheese
- Growing Magazine: Selling the Farm
- Concord Monitor: Food System, What Sustains Us
- New Hampshire Magazine: Modern Family Farming at NH’s Brookford Farm
- Boston Globe: Canterbury First Generation Farmers Diversify
- Brookford Almanac: Documentary Film
Vernon Family Farm
- Seacoast Online: Vernon Family Farming Hosting Dinner and Sheep Show
- Seacoast Online: Food, Field, and Folk to Debut at Vernon Family Farm
- Seacoast Kids Calendar: Vernon Family Farm Begins Fire & Ice Event Series
- Heritage Radio Network Podcast: Jeremiah Vernon
- UNH Sustainability Institute: Neighborhood Farms