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460 Old Drewsville Rd., Walpole, NH, 03608
Holly Gowdy, Brookfield Farm, Walpole, NH
At the Brookfield Farm, noisy purple finches nest under the eaves of the farmhouse porch. They provide a perfect soundtrack to owner Holly Gowdy’s energetic narrative explaining her affection for animals. “It began with my love of horses which was passed down from my grandmother. My siblings, too, had a passion for large animals.” Holly learned the ropes of farming in Connecticut, Georgia, and North Carolina—areas where she grew up. Neighboring farmers taught her to ride, drive a tractor, and look after cows and beef cattle. “Out of that experience and my family’s encouragement grew my desire to farm the land.”
Today, Holly and husband, Christian, own a 70-acre hillside dairy farm not far from the Cold River on Old Drewsville Road in Walpole, NH. Their 1830 timber frame barn is a reminder that the land has been a continuously working farm for nearly 200 years, a legacy Holly is proud to uphold.
Arriving in 1995, the Gowdys initially raised beef cattle and sold meat locally. With her degree in animal science, Holly also worked off-site at Hubbard Farms, then as a department manager with Holstein Association, USA, and with UNH Cooperative Extension. By 2004, they noticed a saturation in the local meat market and began to make a transition to organic dairy production. By 2010, Holly and Christian were full-time organic dairy farmers.
The Gowdys milk 30 cows in the fall and winter exclusively for Organic Valley of Wisconsin, the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the world committed to protecting the health of the family farm and organic sustainable practices. “A small dairy like ours is a good fit,” Holly says of her relationship with Organic Valley. Holly breeds primarily Holstein and Jersey crosses, as well as a breed from the Normandy region of France known for their milk’s high butterfat content. She also milks some Norwegian Reds and Dutch Belts.
The Gowdys lease another 300 acres, and they recently purchased some old farm land “in need of some TLC.” They are rebuilding its organic matter the old-fashioned way with manure and the introduction of earthworms. “Get grass in your pastures up in production, and you’ll benefit,” says Holly. With a focus on nutrient management and a grant from the NHDA, Brookfield Farm installed a non-electric underground water fountain and a system to manage greywater. In the future, the Gowdys plan to install solar panels to reduce their reliance on conventional energy sources.
While Brookfield Farm has participated in local farmers’ markets and offered CSA shares, they prefer to sell wholesale to Organic Prairie, a division of Organic Valley, or simply trade produce with neighbors. Their teenage sons are also developing a small agribusiness, raising pastured lamb with a small flock of 20 crossbred ewes. It’s a 4-H project growing on its own, as they started with two ewe lambs about five years ago.
This afternoon’s project is to prepare electrified fencing for a nearby pasture where grazing sheep will help “mow” the field. Dotting the Brookfield Farm landscape are giant marshmallows of baled hay and a large greenhouse converted to winter housing for sheep and calves. There’s a makeshift village of dog houses and multiple clotheslines laden with wash. Other treasures include beloved old tractors, an old dugout cooler for milk cans, and a vintage milk tank. Beautifully carved into the timber frame beams of the old Scottish barn are the maker’s joiner marks.
Brookfield Farm is as rich in history as it is in sustaining a rich and fulfilling agricultural way of life for the Gowdy family. “At the end of the day, when all the cows, sheep, the cat, and the dog are here, and everyone is okay, and nothing needs attention— that is my greatest pleasure,” says Holly. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
460 Old Drewsville Rd.
Walpole, NH 03608
Retail: No store hours but will sell grass-fed beef and lamb directly to customers.
Wholesale: To Organic Valley and Organic Prairie; some lamb direct to NH/MA processing plants
Martha Esersky Lorden is a food writer, culinary historian, and cookbook reviewer for Publishers Weekly and BlueInk Reviews. She teaches classes in food history for Osher@Dartmouth and the Hanover Consumer Co-op and is owner of Kitchen D’Or, a personal cooking service.
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