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487 Lyndeborough Rd, Wilton, NH
Ledge Top Farm, Wilton, NH
With the help of a co-worker and some pigs with appetites, a garden was rooted out and cleared into three acres of fertile land. Tom Mitchell, a Milford (NH) High School biology teacher, began the creation of Ledge Top Farm. Tom recalls, “When I started planting rhubarb back in 1975, I hit ledge within six inches. It seemed all digging projects hit ledge, so being at the top of a hill, the name came together.”
Tucked away in the woods of Wilton, New Hampshire, Tom found his unexpected calling. Ledge Top Farm operates under an organic version of the Golden Rule because Tom “wouldn’t want to eat food that has chemicals,” and, therefore, refuses to sell such crops to his community.Tucked away in the woods of Wilton, New Hampshire, Tom found his unexpected calling. Ledge Top Farm operates under an organic version of the Golden Rule because Tom “wouldn’t want to eat food that has chemicals,” and, therefore, refuses to sell such crops to his community.
While the zippy flavor of fresh arugula lingered in my mouth, Tom showed me the crops in his greenhouse. The greenhouse is heated from March to May to start the tomatoes, a substantial part of the farm’s income. Alongside the tomatoes are kale, cucumbers, basil, and other greens enjoying stored warmth.
A high tunnel at the back of the property is where the magic happens. Tom grows what he considers his “staple crop” inside the tunnel with a hive of bees, which keep four varieties of juicy, delicious organic raspberries healthy. The clean flavor of these blood-red masterpieces is protected from bugs (such as spotted wing drosophila), by screens at each end of the tunnel.
In the other high tunnels and around the property, one will find blueberries, strawberries, more raspberries, snow peas, cucumbers, 300 feet of Red Russian Kale, Granite 51 cantaloupe, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes.
Ledge Top’s organic eggs come from chickens that are always on the move in their coop on wheels. When the grass inside the surrounding fence area becomes worn out, Tom moves the chicken tractor. Relocating the chickens helps keep them happy, he says.
He states proudly, “I am happily raising food that is Certified Naturally Grown.” This is an alternative to the State Certified Organic label, with less paperwork and fees, making it ideal for small-scale farms that sell locally. This works well for the size of Ledge Top Farm, with 28 CSA members, two farm stands, and three farmers markets.
The organic methods Tom uses benefit more than just those plump raspberries. BT, a clay-like powder, is mixed with water and sprayed onto apple trees and other leafy crops. The residue is harmless, yet a distasteful texture for hungry pests. Ladybugs are standing on Tom’s battlefield to fight spinach-loving aphids, and thin netting protects Tom’s cucumbers. When the cucumbers were most vulnerable, beetles and squash bugs failed at causing any economic damage, which is the best any farmer can hope for.
This season, Tom uses an innovative approach to his CSA by offering three choices to his customers regarding how they collect their food each week. One option is to pick up the box that has various types of produce available that week. A second option allows customers to order exactly what they want, also according to what is available. The most unique option is to exchange labor for food, or food and money.
On Frog Hollow’s half acre, Tom grows potatoes, tomatoes, beets, carrots, garlic, and snap peas. He surrounds this garden with a high fence to keep out deer and woodchucks. Draped over a hill, the half-acre features wetlands, mud, and a watering well, leaving limited space for crops.
He is simple and smart and these qualities shine through in Tom’s farming techniques. Give the creator and front man of Ledge Top Farm a little bit of time and a little bit of space, and he will make gardens grow.
Ledge Top Farm
487 Lyndeborough Rd., Wilton, N.H.
Retail Sales:(direct farmer to customer)
Farmstand & CSA
Wilton Farmers Market (Tuesday)
Merrimack Farmers Market (Wednesday)
Milford Farmers Market (Sunday)
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