NEW HAMPSHIRE AGRARIAN COMMONS

Active Fundraiser - Normanton Farms
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New Hampshire AC illustration

Local Agrarian Commons Board

Leasehold Farms:

Brookford Farm: Luke Mahoney, Catarina Mahoney

Vernon Family Farm: Jeremiah Vernon, Nicole Vernon

Monadnock Community Farm (Normanton Farms): Steve Normanton 

Community Stakeholders:

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

Ellie Brown

Agrarian Trust:  

Ian McSweeney

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

Contact: newhampshireAC@agrariantrust.org

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.

CONTEXT

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. Over the course of the next three years, these founding farms will each be transferred into the New Hampshire AC. The Commons is coming about with support, donations, investment, and engagement from donors and the local community.

New Hampshire Farm Partners

Brookford Farm

Brookford Farm

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.

Brookford Farm Web Site

Vernon Family Farm

Vernon Family Farm

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.

Vernon Family Farm Web Site

Monadnock Community Farm

Normanton Farms
Monadnock Community Farm

Normanton Farms has been stewarding 63 acres of leased land with a holistic farming system since 2009. Their cattle are the foundation of this system that mimics nature in a way that builds fertility in the soil, treats the animals humanely, and produces healthy food. Farmer Steve Normanton grew up in Vryburg, South Africa, where his father was a minister of a church. Most of the parishioners were farmers. Vryburg’s economy was driven by agriculture, and from the age of seven until Steve finished college, he would spend his vacations working on a family friend’s farm. In addition to cattle, they raised antelope and other African game on 30,000 acres of non contiguous-land. This was the foundation of Steve’s life in farming.


Steve practices regenerative agriculture, with a holistic approach to managing the land. His emphasis has always been on rebuilding the soils to improve production per acre and mitigate the effects of climate change. He rotationally grazes 40 head of beef cattle (grass fed), 50 hogs (free range), and 36,000 pastured broilers a season.

Normanton Farms Web Site

Summary

The stories of these three 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.

FOUNDING FARMS, RANCHES & AGRICULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS



Brookford Farm

Year Established: 2007
Farm Size: 620 acres
Employees: 6
Farm Practices: Organic, Non-GMO, Kosher
Products: Vegetables, fermented vegetables, grass-fed raw milk, cheeses and cultures, meats, and eggs


Website: Brookford Farm, www.brookfordfarm.com

AT AC Brookford Farm Aerial Map

Vernon Family Farm

Year Established: 2014
Farm Size: 33 acres
Employees: 3
Farm Practices: Organic, Non-GMO, Halal
Products: Cattle and mixed vegetable production


Website: Vernon Family Farm, www.vernonfamilyfarm.com/

AT AC Vernon Family Farm Aerial Map

Monadnock Community Farm (Normanton Farms)

Year Established: In transition
Farm Size: 80 acres
Employees: 6
Farm Practices: Organic, soil building practices for past three decades
Products: Potential for animal and vegetable production


Website: Monadnock Community Farm, Normanton Farms

Normanton Farms Prime Soils

Local Agrarian Commons Documents

PARTNERS & ALLIES

Monadnock Community Land Trust

EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES

Crew-AboutUs-Vernon-Family-Farm-Newfields-NH
More opportunities and events coming soon!


A Snapshot of Farming in New Hampshire

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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 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


Farmer Demographics

  • 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

Land Acknowledgement

Abenaki, Wabanaki and Pennacook Tribes
The Agrarian Commons acknowledges that it is located on the ancestral, occupied, and, in many cases, unceded land of Indigenous people including the Abenaki, Wabanaki and Pennacook tribes. In acknowledging this legacy of genocide and theft, we are in turn committed to supporting Indigenous sovereignty.

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.

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.

Resources on New Hampshire Agriculture