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Home » Farm Profiles, Loudon, Merrimack County (Concord/New London Region)

Red Manse Farm, Loudon, NH

By Helen Brody

“New Hampshire Farm of Distinction” is the term that New Hampshire’s Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food reserves for farms which are “pleasing in appearance.” And although Alice and Earl Tuson, owners of Loudon’s Red Manse Farm, report that “we are not there yet,” this energetic young couple is well on their way to returning a derelict family farm dating back 250 years to the position it deserves in the state. “When we bought this old farm house,” continues Earl, “the red-oxide paint, probably the one used over 100 years ago because it was available and inexpensive, had worn off.” Today the farm features a house with a fresh coat of red paint, a greenhouse, and freshly tilled land with certified organic crops.

Still often called “the old Bachelder place,” and referred to as the “old red Bachelder manse” in a genealogical history of the town,the last member of the family, Albert Bachelder, died in 1993. There were two farm houses on the  property. The original farm house, dating back to 1792, was auctioned  off in 1995, dismantled, and stored for many years before being built again in Nottingham, New Hampshire. A second  house, built shortly after 1800, was once the Loudon Center post office. Often referred  to as the oldest building in Loudon, “which it is not” says Earl, itis being restored by Earl and Alice to house them andtheir three sons.

Alice grew up in Missouri and Earl in Hooksett, New Hampshire. The couple met at Cornell  University, where both majored in engineering. After college, Earl did not have a job so he instead went and picked vegetables at a large family farm in upstate New York. “People tend to romanticize farming,” he said, so concerned  that his own thoughts of working the land were Pollyannaish, he decided to  take on what isconsidered to be one of the hardest outdoor jobs – farming. After that summer, “only to be practical” he followed his original career path as an engineer but, after a few years, found “working in a cubicle” not to his liking. It was then that he and Alice began to seriously  investigate the business of farming. They confined their search primarily to New Hampshire’s Belknap and Merrimack Counties. In 2005 they bought 74 acres of the “old Bachelder property” in Loudon. It borders large  conservation easements which are undeveloped and largely unpopulated  “except for some pedestrian traffic and canoes down at a small lake”

Today, ninety percent of the Red Manse Farm business is wholesale. After a difficult season in 2008, the Tuson’s decided to reduce the overall variety of crops grown on the farm and concentrate more on some of the most popular summer vegetables as well as traditional fall harvest storage crops such as winter squashes, beets, potatoes, and cabbages.  Rather than heirloom tomatoes, they are concentrating on paste varieties, which are best suited for canning. “The canning tomatoes that are often sold areusually slicing tomatoes that areimperfect and thus sold as seconds. Our thought was,” isn’t it better to have a good canning tomato to begin with rather than having to settle  for second best, ‘” says Alice, who herself is a home canner.

The remaining ten percent of the farm’s business is their “Farm Patron Program.” Similar to aCommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) system, theirFarm Patron Program assures a bit of cash ahead of the farm season for seeds and fertilizers and for starting plants in their 20 X 48 foot green house,  but it offers a bit more flexibility for their customers. One can join the Farm Patron Programat anytime and there is no fixed portion size or delivery day. Pick-ups are at the farm store during farm store hours.

“Because it is really the first crop of the season, rhubarb is surprisingly popular (see  recipes category), then the farm moves into lettuces, broccoli, beans, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. As the weather cools down, the larger harvests of cabbages, winter squash, and potatoes begin.

With their decision to focus on storage and core crops, theTusons are at the forefront of New Hampshire’s “Eat Local Year Around” movement. “We would like to freeze much of our crop for winter use,” Earl comments,” but there are no processing facilities available to us in the state.” With a recently purchased bean picker and the ability to mechanically harvest acres of certified organic green beans, Red Manse Farm is ready to initiate a full-scale movement to sell New Hampshire vegetables year around. Earl and Alice Tuson

Red Manse Farm
5 Pittsfield Rd.
Loudon, NH 03307
Wholesale and retail sales

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Published on: March 20, 2010 Last modified on: May 12, 2016

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