By Catherine Liebowitz, Dartmouth College, Class of 2014 (August 15, 2014)
If you asked Sarah Governo 20 years ago if her future held owning a farm and living in rural Meriden a town within Plainfield, New Hampshire, she would have given you a puzzled look with a likely “no.” Born and raised in London, she has learned a lot about farming and community while beginning a small sheep and egg farm. She likes to call herself an “accidental egg and sheep farmer.” Due to her husband Mark’s job transfer and a desire to raise their family in a strong local community, the couple moved to Meriden to raise their two children, Jake and Lars.
When they arrived at their property on Croydon Turnpike all they could see were poplar trees on a 15 acre plot of land. Sustainability and community had always been an important part of the family’s life. “We’ve always had at least one solar panel on our home, even from day one, and wanted to live off-the-grid as much as possible,” says Sarah. So using their abundance of trees, the Governos cleared two acres of land for their home and to use as a wood supply for their heating woodstove, hence the name Falling Tree Farm.
But that’s not where raising farm animals started. Mark had been volunteering with the Upper Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity. While discussing his interest in raising chickens with his fellow volunteers, he discovered that one volunteer, had extra chickens needing a home. Mark took the the six homeless birds to his family in Plainfield to experiment with chicken farming. That summer, the Governo family built a chicken coop, and expanded the six chickens became 46. The Governo philosophy is that “everyone must pull their own weight,” says Mark. Thus the egg business began out of the family’s homemade school bus stop shelter in a cooler. Neighbors who walk their dogs and drive by the stand on their commute to work stop to get their eggs, often with double and triple yolks. All excess eggs get donated to the Listen Food Pantry.
But the six original chickens only begin the accidental farming journey; a family friend who was heavily involved in 4-H had too many sheep. With a shiny new tractor, Mark began to groom a pasture and Sarah studied proper sheep farming technique for their two new wooly family members. Sarah discovered a unique niche in a group of Upper Valley sheep owners who routinely work together to shear, care, and display their sheep and it was there that she discovered an opportunity for sheep to earn their keep though their wool. Since the Governos own a variety of breeds and Sarah didn’t want to produce yarn, the family decided to make duvets and mattress covers and by avoiding dyes and chemicals could stick to their sustainable living values.
Fortunately, making duvets turned out to be more than just an alternative to yarn, they improved the Governo family’s own well-being. Recognizing that a standard wool blanket was becoming too heavy for Mark’s aging mother as she rested in bed, the couple brought one of their warm and fluffy wool duvets to Pennsylvania for her to try. She loved it so much that her doctor bought several to sell to his patients and says a very pleased Sarah, “It means a lot knowing that others as far away as Pennsylvania can enjoy our wool as a New Hampshire made, useful, and sustainable product.”
Sarah and Mark Governo
98 Croydon Turnpike, Meriden, NH 03781
Phone: (603) 306-1526
Retail Sales: (direct to customer sales)
Farmstand for Eggs (March – December)
Winter Lebanon Farmer’s Market for Wool Products
All products through their website