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450 Fitchburg Rd (Corner of Route 31 & Route 124), Mason, NH 03048
Barrett Hill Farm, Mason, NH
Located high on a hill in Mason, New Hampshire Barrett Hill Farm has seen its share of lightning. In fact, it was lightning that destroyed the original farmhouse and barns, forcing the farm to be moved to Ashburnham, Massachusetts. Ralph Barrett fully rebuilt the farm in the 1960’s on a beautiful spot from which you can see Boston. Lightning rods now, of course, crown the farmhouse and each of the barns. No sense tempting fate. Today, although Ralph and wife Sandy are still a big part of the farm life and continue to live on the land, their son, Matt LeClair and his wife Beth have farmed Barrett Hill since Matt’s graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 1990.
Named a “New Hampshire Farm of Distinction” in 2010, it’s clear that the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Markets and Food agrees that the LeClairs are fine stewards of this 1792 Kings Grant parcel. They are considered progressive farmers because of their willingness to employ the newest farming methods on 450 acres of fruits, vegetables, and grain crops. Not to mention the meat animals: naturally fed cattle, lambs and pigs. “We continue to lease some conservation land,” Beth reports. “but we hope to change that in the future.” The family is committed to preserving land for agricultural use.
Matt and Beth are true partners in their farm endeavors. Changes and tweaks have been made over the years. They are committed to growing their own corn to feed cattle so they keep the herd to thirty animals selling all the beef in their newest farm stand and feeding them their own grain mixture without added hormones. “The animals love our natural, special farm-grown and hand mixed feed. The meat shows it with a creamy and beautifully marbled texture.” From the portable “high tunnels” which allow tomatoes to stay dry and virtually free from blight and add four months to the growing season to a new green house in the works for the future, Matt’s fearless frontline approach and Beth’s fabulous new marketing (the “Jamming and Canning” home parties) are the forces behind the beautiful Barrett Hill Farm.
And check out signs like Roses are Red; Violets are Blue; Strawberries are Here; Come Pick a Few! signs painted by Sandy that line RTE 31 reminiscent of Burma Shave signs of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Barrett Hill Farm’s pick your own strawberry business is booming and the LeClairs cleared another 10 acres for the 2011 season making a whopping 30 acres in total. People have come from as far away as Michigan to pick their fields. We found a gentleman arriving from Gardner, Massachusetts among the many pickers on July 4th weekend.
Beth seems made for the role of tour guide and knows all about the farm. She met Matt while working on the farm when she was 16 and knew he was the one. They flirted while she worked the traveling farm stand. “I fell in love,” Beth says with a smile, “but we married after I finished nursing school at age 20.” She points out the small Cape Cod house in a corner of the farm where they live with the next generation of LeClair farmers: their three boys who are often found in the fields playing or helping.
Completed at the beginning of 2011 season, the Barrett Hill farmstand represents the best of old Yankee technologies. Each board was hand hewn by Matt and the family from trees felled on the farm and constructed in the post and beam fashion. The granite posts were found on the farm and chipped with stone nippers where necessary to form the pillars and posts of the stand. In season, the farm stand shelves are alive with color and products largely grown or produced on the farm. Those that are not, are purchased only from local community businesses. The stand is a feast for the eyes both architecturally and with product. And their old traveling stand still makes the rounds to local farmers’ markets.
Decades after the farm was destroyed by lightning, Beth beams, as she surveys the post and beam construction of the new farmstand, “Nothing will be sold here but Barrett Hill Farm vegetables (except for 2 weeks of Massachusetts corn at the beginning of the season), fruits, and the meat from our own lambs, cattle, and pigs”.
Barrett Hill Farm
Matt & Beth LeClair
149 Barrett Hill Road
Mason, NH 03048
Barrett Hill Farm Stand, 10:30-7 pm, Mid June-September
Rte 13 and Rte 124
Retail: (direct to customer sales)
Farmers Markets: Bedford, Milford, Peterborough, Nashua, Manchester
Pick your own strawberries (check website for information)
Wholesale: (bulk sales to markets, restaurants, & stores)
Restaurants (* certified by NH Farm to Restaurant Connection (www.nhfarmtorestaurant.com)
*Cotton Restaurant, Manchester, NH
Author of this article, Patricia Neary-Hayward, lives in Florida but writes about her native state of New Hampshire when she visits. She has a bachelor’s degree in literature and creative writing from Eckerd College, and has written for the Bradenton Herald. Her interest in farming comes from stories told to her by an aunt, Marilyn Lund, of life on her parents’ farm in Hollis, New Hampshire during the Depression.
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