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216 Portsmouth Ave (Rte.33), Stratham, NH
Barker’s Farm, Stratham, NH
Edie Barker’s warm welcome instantly brightened the overcast day. I felt as though I was speaking with someone I had known a lot longer than a few minutes, and immediately got a sense of her love for the farm. Purchased by Willard Barker in 1917, with the first road side stand built in 1965, Barker’s Farm is still going strong almost 100 years later. After studying horticulture at the University of New Hampshire, Edie joined her late husband, Gordon Barker (Willard’s great grandson), on the farm. She had wanted to work for herself, and enjoyed being outdoors and working with plants, so the natural progression into farming was not surprising. An interest in cultivating seems to have spread to Edie and Gordon’s daughter, Forrest, as well. She is studying agriculture at Cornell University, and will complete an internship this summer at a 100 acre organic farm in Oregon!
Although farming is “all consuming,” Edie enjoys cycling, running, and hiking when she has time. Luckily, there is a recreational opportunity nearby. Barker Trail is part of a network of trails that cross through the farm’s property. Need a break while on the trails? There is an option to follow a trail right to Barker’s Farm! Edie also has an interest in landscape design. When asked if she is able to incorporate this interest into farming, Edie replied that the cut flowers, display gardens, and farmstand allow her to utilize her design skills. So visitors are not only able to purchase local food for the table, but are treated to a visual feast as well!
Approximately 35 – 40 of the 80 acres that belong to Barker’s Farm is under production with a variety of produce and flowers. The fields are surrounded by wooded areas that also connect to conservation land and town parks such as Stratham Hill Park. Edie’s passion for the area and cultivation of healthy produce is evident in her tone as she describes how the land is cared for. The same variety of crops are grown every year, however, they are rotated among fields. Fields are also taken in and out of production, with cover crops planted in between rotations to allow the soil to remain healthy. Various organic methods are used to maintain a sustainable balance between crops and soil, and in addition to crop rotation, green manures and compost are also utilized.
Of course, crops are not the only items demanding to be cared for on a farm, and Edie recently built a wash room and renovated the farmstand. No other major projects are planned at this time as she prepares for a busy season that runs from May to the end of October. The farmstand on the premises supplies 90% of her sales, but Barker’s Farm also participates in the Exeter and Portsmouth farmers’ markets and sells wholesale to a few boutique grocery stores.
Barker’s Farm enjoys being part of the local community as evidenced by her weekly pizza nights that featured Stone Oven Catering. Stone Oven would delight attendees with wood-fired pizza that was topped with Barker’s fresh produce. Community support made this a very popular event, but due to the huge success, Edie no longer had the capacity to continue it at the farm. However, she is offering an alternative at Barker’s Farm as she is hosting Super Sundays which begins in June. One Sunday per month during the months of June, July, August, and September, visitors will have the chance to participate in day long food and craft fairs that may include music and other activities. Be sure to check their website to stay up-to-date on what is happening!
Farming can be a difficult business, and Edie is proud to be one of the few farms left in the Stratham area that is still in operation. So whether one is looking for an assortment of fresh produce, or a bouquet of freshly picked colorful blooms to brighten a room or a loved one’s day, stop by Barker’s Farm. As Edie said, we “love what we do and love being able to supply healthy produce to the community,” and it shows!
216 Portsmouth Ave (Rte.33)
Retail: Seasonal farmstand
Farmstand: at the farm
Farmers Markets: Exeter and Portsmouth
Wholesale: boutique grocery stores
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Services
Tammy Cloutier is an Environmental Studies PhD Candidate at Antioch University New England. She enjoys writing, loves purchasing locally produced foods, and is excited about the opportunity to be able to combine both for NHFN!
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