Beech Hill Farm & Ice Cream Barn, Contoocook, NH
For eighteen years Beech Hill Ice Cream Barn has been a magnet for both area residents and visitors to the state who want to purchase New Hampshire made goods, plants and unique garden decorations, farm-raised meats, and ice cream. Nine generations of the Kimball family have worked the land at Beech Hill Farm which was originally granted to Aaron Kimball by the King of England in 1771. On Memorial Day 2015, as they sat on a glider shaded by a 200 year old shag bark hickory in front of the 1800 farmhouse, Donna and Bob Kimball spoke of their five decades of life at Beech Hill.
Donna grew up in Milford, NH. Bob’s home was always Beech Hill Farm. Because Donna’s grandparents had been farmers, Donna’s family had a membership in the Grange which offered opportunities for farm families to socialize. At a “Youth Night” social, Bob spotted a pretty girl in a green dress and “that was it.” For Donna, who was selected as New Hampshire’s State Grange Princess, the decision took a little longer. The nineteen years olds courted for three years, wedding in June, 1965.
The newlyweds moved into rooms on the second floor of the fifteen room family farmhouse. Bob’s mother and father and other relatives lived downstairs. Even though Donna was one of eleven children, the living arrangements were a challenge as she had “wanted a place of her own,” but Bob was committed to the family farm and Donna loved Bob. Good things came of the situation. Bob’s mother shared treasured family recipes with Donna whose outstanding baked goods continue to delight Beech Hill Ice Cream Barn visitors today.
For years Beech Hill had been a successful dairy farm. Then in 1996 the dairy business was no longer profitable and an allergic reaction to a dairy disinfectant resulted in Bob’s contracting a serious staph infection. A careful examination of their financial needs led Bob to cut and sell 125 cords of firewood, as well as manure and hay, and to transform the dairy barn into an ice cream barn using what Bob termed his own “brute strength and ignorance.” That “ignorance” turned out to be bliss for the Ice Cream Barn’s thousands of happy customers.
What is required for successful farming? Donna and Bob agreed that a successful farm requires a strong “farmer’s work ethic.” Bob often worked over one hundred hours a week, but as daughter Holly noted, “It can’t be just work. You can survive only if you love it.”
Reflecting on a long farming history, Bob and the family, after Donna’s death, continue to see themselves as careful and loyal stewards of the Kimball family legacy. As for the future, they are watching with pride as grandson Nate, a graduate of the Integrated Agribusiness Management Program at UNH and a ninth generation Kimball, assumes management of Beech Hill Farm.
Beech Hiil Farm and Ice Cream Barn
Bob Kimball & family
Donna Kimball, d. February 2016
107 Beech Hill Road
Hopkinton, NH 03229
Ice cream – 75 flavors
Rhodendron Nature Trail
Janet Ward is a New Hampshire Farms Network board member and writer who lives in Contoocook
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