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424 Tilton Hill Road Pittsfield, NH 03263
Home » Farm Profiles, Farm Women, Merrimack County (Concord/New London Region), Pittsfield

Evandale Farm, Pittsfield, NH

By Helen Brody

Evandale Farm’s Ray Conner and Peter Dow are part of the growing small-scale, regenerative farming movement in New Hampshire and New England; part of a growing sect of first generation farmers who are rediscovering the challenges and rewards of running a small farm and business.

Already, this young couple has had many diverse life experiences. Pete majored in mathematics and physics, and Ray in adventure based education and creative writing at New College of Florida, in Sarasota. They spent their first seven years together on a 45-foot Bruce Robert’s design steel sailboat, traveling, studying, and picking up odd jobs—including farm labor—as they made landfall along the way.

After a couple years at Longacre Farm in Newport, PA where community living and sustainable farming are intertwined, the urge to have firm footing on terra firma won out over the nautical life, and in 2010, they purchased 40 acres of land in Pittsfield, NH. Approximately 18 of the 40 acres are currently being converted into agricultural production.

While Ray focuses on the production of organically-raised meats and produce, Pete is focused on generating on-farm energy in order to create closed-loop systems on their farm.

“If there has been one overarching theme in my life, I suppose it has been a hunger for self-sufficiency” says Pete. Recycling the farm’s wasted energy has become one of his and Ray’s passions.

The farm depends on solar power for heat and electricity, wood for heat, and is exploring ethanol and methane production with the hopes of producing enough biofuel in the future to meet all of the farm’s energy needs.

They are proponents of permaculture, where a major tenet is to derive more than one product or function from every component of the farm’s systems. They are very excited about exploring the conversion of 15 acres of dense woodland into a silvopasture where they can produce timber, nuts and fruits, pastured meats, and mushrooms simultaneously, in a system that provides forage, fodder, shade and shelter for their animals.

“This system of farming, where you ‘stack’ multiple functions in one space takes more effort to establish than does a single crop farm,” says Ray, “but once established, requires less care and produces a more diverse—and potentially more profitable—yield.”

While all these plans incubate and hatch, the couple is working to fix and beautify their 1850s farmhouse to welcome friends and future farm partners, and are doing so according to a permaculture design first drawn up in 2011, the details of which shift and change as they uncover new quirks and discover new innovative ideas.

In addition to farming, Ray is pursuing a growing interest in agriculture policy work. She participated in the 2012 New England Farmer’s Union “fly-in” to Washington D.C., representing the growing constituency of small-scale, beginner farmers in our region who are seeking to be considered by Congress as they draft the new Farm Bill.

“It was important for myself and other small-scale New England producers to attend the fly-in,” she says “because much of what our representatives in Congress hear about agriculture concerns larger mid-west style operations.”

She currently chairs the New England Farmers’ Union Policy Committee, and is learning a lot about how decisions made on the ground are effected by those made from afar.

She works close to 40 hours each week off the farm.  “I have two off-farm jobs,” says Ray, “one at Northeast Organic Farming Association of NH (NOFA-NH), and the other as a youth mentor with the Appalachian Mountain Teen Project (AMTP ). Peter works ad hoc with a machine shop in town, and with a company that installs solar energy systems.

In addition to a small vegetable crop, Ray and Pete sell pigs by the whole and half share, which are sent to local abattoirs for processing. They also sell various cuts of pork off the farm, which they have processed at Westminster Meats, a USDA certified slaughterhouse in VT. They raise Kosher King chickens, a heritage breed of roasters and broilers, which they sell frozen off the farm. Two dairy goats, a flock of laying hens, two mutts and two wily felines complete their current farmyard.

A high-tunnel, funded by National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is the newest addition to the farm.

Ray hopes to establish a three to four farm mini-distribution system in the near future. “I think it’s important to develop a variety of market opportunities for small-scale farmers, like us. Diversifying your markets is as important as diversifying your production in terms of mitigating risk. Both lead to a more resilient farm enterprise,” says Ray.

Clearly, the small-scale, organic, and regenerative farming movement is beginning to establish a firm foothold on Evandale Farm with these beginning farmers.

 

 

 

Evandale Farm
Pete Dow & Ray Conner
424 Tilton Hill Road
Pittsfield, NH 03263
(772) 341-1850
www.evandalefarm.com

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Home Drop off Points: Concord, Wolfeboro, Laconia, Alton

 

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Published on: December 9, 2012 Last modified on: May 11, 2016


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