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10 Baldwin Street, North Stratford, NH 03590
Wintergreens Farm and Aquaponics, North Stratford, NH
Kitty Kerner and Clayton Macdonald settled in their farmhouse and began expanding their permaculture practices in 2012 after traveling around Germany for many years. The original home was built in the 1840s and was Clay’s parents’ place until they passed away a few years ago. Unfortunately, a chimney fire on the East side of the house in April of 2014 burned the majority of the building. Kitty and Clay then designed and built their current home nearby which is overall more sustainable and energy efficient. The entire farm is about 150 acres and is mostly woodland, but the plan is to expand their garden beds and hopefully own chickens, ducks, and goats in the future. Wintergreens Farm and Aquaponics do not spray any kind of pesticide or herbicide on their crops. Although sometimes pests are a problem, they maintain their produce through diligent bug picking.
Through a USDA grant aimed at extending growing seasons for crops, Wintergreens now has a large greenhouse. Thanks to the greenhouse capacity, Kitty and Clay are currently growing peppers, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, arugula, and bok choy in early spring. The seedling house is a smaller greenhouse that will eventually be full but is now casing onions, ground cherries, cape gooseberries, lettuce, chard, celery, and additional peppers and bok choy. Wintergreens is a member of the North Country Farmers Co-op, which is a cooperative of farmers that grow and collectively sell to restaurants in the area. Kitty also sells her fruits and vegetables at the North Country Marketplace in Colebrook, NH, and at the Root Seller Lancaster, NH.
Clay explained that their mulch is composed of brush chips, mixed hardwood and softwood, and grass which encourages fungi to grow. They allow their lawn to grow high on purpose to specifically create mulch for the crops. The fungi has a symbiotic relationship with the plants that grow in it. The point of the mulch is to feed the roots of the plants with lots of nutrients. The two have also carried out a type of permaculture from Germany known as Hugelkulter, or Hoogle culture, which employs no-dig raised beds that are built to hold moisture, build fertility, and produce a great space for growing fruit. Kitty explained that they make large piles of old debris starting with a solid wood layer, and consecutively put smaller branches and compost within it. The wood decomposes and sinks over time so more debris is continuously added on as it releases nutrients, while simultaneously retaining the moisture plants need to grow. Kitty and Clay grow potatoes, strawberries, and other products in these beds. There are multiple beds located around the farm; in fact, one of them is over 40 years old and still rejuvenates!
In addition to its raised beds, Wintergreens has a set of plant beds dedicated to growing hardy kiwis. This fruit is a hairless, smaller version of a kiwi that has a reddish tinge and is about the size of a grape. There is no need to peel them, and they are full of vitamins and antioxidants. The potential for wine, jellies or jams, and possibly dehydrating them is huge. Kitty and Clay are currently running about 100 trials of test plants through interbreeding to see which genetic combinations are most successful, but it takes four years for the plants to start bearing fruit. The two already have a buyer for the entire crop of hardy kiwis. A local vineyard wants to breed the kiwis because they come out of hibernation later and work well in the New England climate. “It’s exciting to know that there is already a market asking for them!” Clay exclaimed.
Wintergreens Farm and Aquaponics is currently looking for volunteers to help with tasks around the farm. This includes spreading mulch, watering crops, maintaining pest control, pruning berry bushes and trees, and so on. For more details, see the contact information below.
Wintergreens Farm and Aquaponics
10 Baldwin Street
North Stratford, NH 03590
Profile authored by: Paige Wilson, Student Fellow, The Center for Business and Community Partnerships, Plymouth State University.
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