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Oliver Merrill & Sons Farm and Farmstand
Today, the land is managed by Ken Merrill, Oliver’s, great grandson and his family. The years have passed but “The farm has returned to its late 18th century roots” says Ken .
The white farmhouse sets on North Londonderry’s Mammoth Road, what was in the 1800s called the Lowell to Manchester Stagecoach Road, and was the servants quarters for the tavern. As for the tavern itself, it could accommodate 50 horses and was an ideal stopping off point for large groups. Among those who made the place their stopping off spot were no less than three presidents and their entourages. Those travelers had to be fed, of course, and that’s where the Merrill family farm, along with neighboring farms, played a vital role: from those farms came the fare that fed the tavern patrons hearty appetites. Like the Merrill farmhouse, the tavern exists today in the northern section of Londonderry.
As the American population began to grow, so did the demand for its most popular drink, hard cider, and by the late 1800s, as with much of Londonderry, the Merrill land became largely orchard producing apples for Merrill’s Cider Mill which shipped cider to large cities along the Eastern seaboard.
In 1911, prior to World War I, the first chickens were introduced on the farm. During the 1930s the farm survived off poultry and egg production. And until 50 years after World War II, their poultry business became one of “medical egg” production for use in the flu vaccine. Today says Ken, reaffirming that his land has returned to its roots, “we seem to have come full circle; we’re back to growing the same fruits and vegetables that we sold to the tavern in the 1800s.”
The diverse farm responsibilities are divided among family members. The orchard is under Ken’s stewardship with help from brother Bob. Vegetables belong to Ken’s wife Caroline Schulze, whom he hired as a single mother apple picker from Brooklyn, NY in 2003, and haying is overseen by Ken and Bob. Caroline also has a small flock of laying chickens that provide eggs for their farmstand which was formerly a carriage shed.
Apples are, however, the family’s primary crop and it begins in late July early August. The Geneva Early apples, with a tart and crisp flavor and named in 1973 for the city in New York, are the first to be harvested and are always a welcome beginning to what is to come later.
Because early apples of any type are not good keepers and ripen unevenly, the Geneva Earlys are picked as they are ready and are sold only at the farmstand. Peaches, plums, nectarines and pears come into the mix about the same time as the Geneva Earlys.
As the season moves into mid-September and October, the orchard swings into full production with an unusually large variety of apples. Their biggest sellers, Honey Crisp, Cortlands, Mutsus and Macintosh, Ken also wholesales and delivers to several local markets. “Pick your own” is on weekends when the farmstand is fully manned. After the season ends, the family stores Red Delicious, Empires, and Mutsus for local sales.
As for vegetables, following the tradition of all small farms, the family plants “a little bit of this and that to assure that we meet the needs of the customers” says Caroline. Squashes, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, carrots, onions, corn and much, much more, right out of a garden located to the left as you drive in. As it does all year around, the farm’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/Olivermerrillandsons, keeps customers up to date on what is available at the stand and winter farmers’ market activities.
Oliver Merrill & Sons Farm
Ken Merrill, Manager
569 Mammoth Road
Londonderry, NH 03053
Winter Farmers’ Markets: Derry & Raymond
Hannaford’s, Derry & Londonderry
Harvest Markets, Bedford & Hollis
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