Bunten Farm & Pantry Farmstore, Orford, NH
Please see update on Bunten Farm from Valley News article by Nora Doyle-Burr: Old Orford Farm Begins New Era
In 1956, Forrest Bunten learned of a farm for sale while reading the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture’s “Weekly Market Bulletin.” Without missing a beat, he drove immediately from Concord to Orford, met a realtor, looked around the outside of the farmhouse, and decided it was big enough for the family of five children and one more to come. Then he walked the fields and that was it. “I’ll buy it,” he said, moved his wife Evelyn and children, and began raising Holsteins. Milk was a volatile market for raising a family so growing pumpkins in the Fall became what he called his “cash crop” and he became known as the “Pumpkin Man at the Pumpkin Plaza.”
For 47 years he enjoyed seeing customers come back to pick out pumpkins, gourds, squash and decorative corn. After Forrest died in 2005, his daughter Chris Bunten Balch and her husband Bruce bought the 193 acre parcel of farmland , managed woodland, and deer wintering yard from the family estate. The land is protected by the Conservation Stewardship program of New Hampshire and is a “Farm of Distinction” as named by New Hampshire’s Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food. – and the Balch’s continued with the “Pumpkin Plaza” tradition.
Raising the ruby red colored Devon cattle became their first new venture after taking over the farm. Bruce had always been interested in the breed because of its history and versatility. Known for high butterfat milk (as in Devonshire cream) and lean beef, the Red Devon, Bruce believes were the only dairy cows in the country between 1623 and 1723 and Devon oxen were the draft animals of choice on the Oregon Trial. But because the cows are not large milk producers, they fell out of favor with dairy farmers. Today, with over 50 milking cows, the couple owns one of the largest Devon herds in New England and what they believe is the only milking Red Devon dairy in the United States.
The Balchs have found many flavorful uses for their rich milk. Two of them are Bruce’s ice cream and Chris’s cheese. Chris makes mozzarella, Gouda, raw milk aged cheddar and blue cheese which she stores in her stone cellar cave. The blue cheese, called “Justa Farmer Blue,” is named after her father who would respond to travelers along Route 10 what he was doing in the field “just a farma.” They sell to local customers and restaurants as well as to Ariana’s, the restaurant now located on the farm. The couple are a natural for the food business. Bruce, a graduate of Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America, and Chris met while both worked a number of years ago at the Lyme Inn in Lyme, NH. He was the chef and she was a waitress. It was a heady education for Chris as Bruce taught her all facets of the business–from dishwasher to chef. By reworking their 1835 barn to house a professional kitchen and a 24 seat “country-style” restaurant, Chris took advantage of what Bruce had taught her and opened the Farmhouse Kitchen Restaurant featuring food “prepared the old –fashioned way” and using their own vegetables, milk, and meat. But Chris soon realized that running a restaurant and a farm and making cheese and bread was too much for one person to do well. So in the fall of 2011, after befriending Chef Martin Murphy, she handed over the reigns of the restaurant to Martin and with a few structural changes and a new menu, today Orford New Hampshire has Martin’s Ariana’s Restaurant and Chris’s Pantry Farm Store where she can sell her breads, butter and cheeses. Martin says he feels fortunate to have access to the farm’s high quality products and Chris and Bruce feel blessed to be working beside a chef with a great following and extensive restaurant experience.
Christine and Bruce Balch
The Bunten Farm and Pantry Farm Store
1322 NH Rte 10 Orford, NH 03777-4136
Pantry Farmstore hours are those of Ariana’s Restaurant (see below) or by chance
Bunten Farm Sales outlets:
Retail: Pantry Farm Store at the farm
Wholesale: Ariana’s Restaurant
See 2011 Profile
Photos: Leslie Tuttle (www.leslietuttle.com)©2010
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