As with many modern farmers, Tim and Amy Bassett would like to be working their land full time and with total devotion; after all, farming is in their blood. Tim is a fourth generation farmer, growing up on their family dairy farm, now run by his brother in Woodstock, Vermont. Amy’s grandfather, was a dairy farmer as well in Landaff, New Hampshire. But time and conditions impose the same challenges on farmers as they do on all families, and children of the earth cannot always carry on the traditions which they have been raised in and love as in the old days.
Contoocook, NH 03229
By Helen Brody (October 16, 2013)
As with many modern farmers, Tim and Amy Bassett would like to be working their land full time and with total devotion; after all, farming is in their blood. Tim is a fourth generation farmer, growing up on their family dairy farm, now run by his brother in Woodstock, Vermont. Amy’s grandfather, was a dairy farmer as well in Landaff, New Hampshire. But time and conditions impose the same challenges on farmers as they do on all families, and children of the earth cannot always carry on the traditions which they have been raised in and love as in the old days. Tim and Amy, though their agricultural ties are profound, are among those who have had to adapt to today’s financial realities. Both have no choice but to keep outside jobs – Tim in marketing and Amy working for the state of New Hampshire – in order to pursue their dreams of farming.
In 2010, the couple purchased 58 of the farm’s 80 acres and continue to lease the remaining 22 acres of the land for the near future. And indeed, the farm and orchards were worth saving; the land goes back to the mid-1700s when Joseph Gould, a Hopkinton New Hampshire town incorporator, staked his claim during the first land division of the state. The land has been farmed continuously ever since. The father of the most recent owner, Erick Leadbeater, had purchased the land from Robert Gould, a direct descendant of Joseph, in 1938.
The orchard sets at the top of Gould Hill Road in the village of Contoocook within the town of Hopkinton and has been known for its apples, peaches and nectarines by families for generations. Beyond the farm’s heritage and orchards is a panoramic view of much of the state, and on one of those crisp, clear days, Mt. Washington looms to the north..
As all new owners do, the Bassetts began to put their personal stamp on their farm, first by renovating the 200 year old post and beam barn by enlarging the farmstand and adding a bakery and increasing the number of products sold. The store offers fresh baked goods (made at the farm), maple products, honey, cider, and many unique gifts. They also offer corn and produce from other local farms and other locally made specialties. The smell of freshly made cider donuts wafts through the store on fall weekends. During apple season, crates of some of the farms 85 varieties of apples line the barn with a plate of samples in front of each for customers to taste and compare.
The Bassetts are making every effort to grow their fruits in the most environmentally sound way possible. For those visitors who take the wagon tour, not only are they amazed by the breathtaking landscape, they can spot the trappings of integrated pest management bugs as well as other traps that lure bugs to them instead of the fruit.
This coming spring (2011), the Bassett’s will be planting over 500 dwarf apple trees of five different varieties. “The dwarf trees allow for faster return, as they will produce fruit within the first year of growth and gain in strength from there. The smaller trees are a more efficient use of the land, as well as needing less spray and pruning than semi-dwarf and standard trees,” said Tim, “so it’s a time and money saver with the pruning, spraying and picking. The dwarf trees,” he continues, “can produce up to 1,000 bushels of apples per acre, compared to semi-dwarfs which are around 385 bushels per acre, making them more economical all around.”
But as many growers have learned, thou cannot live by apples alone. This spring they will also be planting over 800 Christmas trees to start the growth toward a pick your own Christmas tree plot. Tim and Amy have added a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, also with a strict eye for the environment. Rather than plastic mulch, a cover crop of rye or oats will become the mulch. The crop is rolled down tight to the ground just before it goes to seed and pumpkin seedlings are planted in rows through the mulch. Paths are left between the rows for the pickers to tread as they gather in their Halloween Jack o Lantern, while those with an eye for later kitchen delights pluck sugar pumpkins for pies and soups.
Gould Hill Farm
Tim and Amy Bassett
656 Gould Hill Road
Contoocook, NH 03229
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