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Welcome to spring 2016 farm newsletter

Posted 5/3/2016 2:57am by Kerry Gawalt.

Spring 2016 newsletter

                    Welcome to a new growing season at Cedar Mountain Farm! As you are most likely aware, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. What this means is our small farm depends on you! As members of our CSA, your participation in our program of weekly shares of farm products allows us to operate a farm in which we aim to steward the land, the soil, the cows and horses, the forest and the wildlife in a way that demonstrates respect for natural laws. We aim to steward the soil and the land so as to build on and safeguard its vitality----for us and for future generations. We firmly believe that small ecologically-based farms such as ours are an essential component for averting environmental degradation and creating a healthier and more prosperous society.            

              Our farm is small but it is diverse. We raise 4 acres of vegetables and use Fjord work horses to till the market garden. We also milk 25 register Jersey Cows who graze our farm’s hillsides---and we raise heifers and AI bulls for sale and steers for beef animals. We are also partners in the Cobb Hill Cheese Company which utilizes half the from our herd. Our farm is home to several other land-based enterprises producing a variety of products, including: frozen yogurt, maple syrup, fresh eggs, honey, grass-fed lamb, and shittake mushrooms. All of these products and more are available at our Cobb Hill Farm Stand here in Hartland.              

            This coming October it will be twenty years since Kerry and I loaded up our truck and a rental van hauling a horse trailer and made the trek from Idaho to New Hampshire to start up a new farm business in the Upper Valley. We traveled with two Fjord work horses, two dogs, and two cats. The van was filled with our growing collection of agricultural implements and tools. Our destination was the home and farm of Donella (Dana) Meadows, a famed author and environmentalist who had enlisted us to become the farmers in the new community she was planning to build across the river in Vermont. Dana’s home was to be our base camp for the next three years, after which we made the move to the property in Hartland where the Cobb Hill co-housing community was built and where we have been farming ever since. This is our 16th season farming at Cobb Hill Co-Housing. Some folks wonder why our farm business has a different name from the co-housing community. After all, Kerry and I are members of the community, receive some logistical support from the community, and utilize community-owned land and buildings. The reason our farm business has a different name traces back to those early days when we made the move back east. We first incorporated our farm business name while we were living in Idaho. The ranch where we were working and growing produce was located at the base of Cedar Mountain so it was a natural choice to use that as our business name. We really liked this name---as both mountains and cedar trees are often considered sacred by native peoples, who use red cedar in purification rituals. When we moved to New Hampshire we kept the Cedar Mountain name for our new farm business. We could have changed it then to Foundation Farm, as this was the name of Dana’s place where she homesteaded and raised sheep and hay, but as the plan was to move over to the new farm in Vermont, it didn’t deem sensible for us to adopt the New Hampshire farm name. But the new community that we would build in Vermont didn’t have a name yet, so we stuck with Cedar Mountain. And even after we moved over to Vermont the community still hadn’t settled on a name so we continued to operate as Cedar Mountain Farm. Eventually our fledgling community chose to call itself Cobb Hill, which is the traditional place name of the high hill that dominates our property. By that time, the farm business was already an established farm in the Upper Valley so we opted to remain Cedar Mountain Farm.             Our sister company is Cobb Hill Cheese, which was founded in 2000. Cobb Hill Cheese (and Cobb Hill Frozen Yogurt) exclusively use the milk from our Cedar Mountain Farm herd of registered Jersey Cows. Kerry and I are now also partners in the Cobb Hill Cheese Company.  Processing milk on site is our best strategy for surviving as a micro-dairy in an unfavorable economic climate that is driving more and more small farms out of business in the Northeast every year. It also gives us the opportunity to produce a high quality artisanal cheese that carries the particularities of our special little corner of the earth.            

             This season the Cedar Mountain Farm crew consists of four full time farmers, three part-timers, and a host of friends who volunteer or otherwise support the work of the farm in countless ways. Kerry and I are joined this year by full-time farm crew members Sarah Pinkham and Patrick Whitcomb. Sarah is just coming off a three year stint as a farm worker and resident at the Camphill Village in Kimberton, PA. Camphills are communities belonging to an international movement that pairs farming and residential community life. The core work of Camphill involves integrating adults with developmental disabilities into the life and work of the community and the farm. While at Camphill, Sarah learned to milk and care for the dairy herd and to help manage an 8 acre CSA market garden. Patrick Whitcomb was raised in the Upper Valley and is a recent graduate of Hartford High School. He is a talented welder and loves to tinker with engines and equipment. In addition to Patrick and Sarah, our farmer friend Jada Haas---a member of the Cedar Mountain farm crew for the 2014 and 2015 seasons---will be doing some part-time garden work and marketing for us. Jada has started her own small farm---called Long Bridge Farm in Windsor, VT. We also have two local high school students, Carrie Usher and Emily Surrell, working part-time this summer. Carrie has been helping out on her parents homestead since she was a toddler. Emily is also a member of the Hartland 4-H Cattle Club---based at Cedar Mountain Farm. In Newsletters to follow we will present you with more detailed information on the “how” and “why” of our farm management practices. We will also send along some recipe suggestions and updates on what is happening on the farm, the community, and the land. Wishing you and your family a healthy happy spring---and thanks again for joining us for this brand new growing season!

For the farm crew, Stephen Leslie