Evandale Farm, Pittsfield, NH
Evandale Farm, located at 424 Tilton Hill Road in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, is a great example of what a permaculture farm truly stands for. Owners Ray Connor and her husband, Peter Dow, along with interns who live on the farm, do all the necessary things to be successful. They believe in growing food humanely, using organic practices, and employing the principles of permaculture. Their major objectives are to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable, provide for their needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are sustainable in the long term. At Evandale Farm, use of inherent qualities of plants and animals, combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures, produce a life-supporting system.
One of the unique characteristics of permaculture gardening at Evandale is that it aims to imitate nature. The most noticeable difference is the lack of bare soil. Conservation of soil and water is a high priority, resulting in a more complex use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are inter-planted for pest control; they are not planted in rows. The permaculture system aims to harvest and maximize water, sun, and other natural energies – wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings—and minimize energy input. The farm takes responsibility for its waste; it aims not to pollute the surrounding environment.
Two big things that Ray and Peter strive for when farming are sustainability and “people power.” Ray said, “To us, sustainability means creating what you need and want locally, while minimizing outside inputs and waste.” Ray and Peter do an excellent job of creating a sustainable environment not only for themselves, but for the community.. Ray emphasized that people power—physical bodies on the farm and customers at the market—makes Evandale Farm flourish. Currently, eight people live with them on a rotating basis. Ray and her husband want to build a team so when they decide to move on they can trust others will successfully take over the farm.
The farm is currently 40 acres, but only three to five acres are used per year, rotating every three to four years. Their property is a mix of hemlock and white pine forest, mixed hardwoods forest, marsh, pasture, and orchard on pretty solid hardpan. They are reclaiming old pasture and hayfields, as well as apple trees of varying ages throughout the property, most specifically in the back pasture where a small orchard was planted decades ago and has sat untended for almost as long. They harvest firewood and are doing some preliminary milling experiments.
Evandale uses a high-tunnel for season extension and is developing annual, perennial, and herb gardens, some of them with the help of “livestock engineers.” Old, worn out areas are being resurrected by the work and energy of pigs, chickens, and goats, as well as humans. They planted over seventy-five edible trees and shrubs, including cultivated varieties of grape, pear, plum, sweet cherry, blueberry, mulberry, and peaches; and native varieties of Juneberry, elderberry, beach plum, Virginia rose, hazelnut, and bayberry. The farm has an outhouse and uses the waste as compost.
They sell pasture and forest-raised pork and goat meat, assorted seasonal vegetables, and certified organic whole chickens. All of their animals are raised on organic feed and forage and live on open pasture or in the woods. Their fruits and vegetables never see synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, as they opt to build healthy soil communities to support plant health and vigor. They market most of their produce in farmers markets, through a small Permaculture CSA called “Fair Share Permaculture,” and directly from the farm.
The authors are students at Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH
Ray Conner and Peter Dow
424 Tilton Hill Road
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