By Helen Brody (February 27, 2009)
It was the year 1761, a mere nine years after Walpole was chartered, that John Graves bought two large lots and moved from Saybrook, Connecticut to New Hampshire. The history of two of the tracts is lost. The third piece, today called Great Brook Farm named after the brook nearby, continues the Graves dairy farming tradition that John began almost 250 years ago. Peter Graves, who represents the ninth generation of the farm being handed down from father to son, lives with his wife, Brenda, and their family in the original farm house. Peter runs the dairy and manages the cattle and land. In addition to the 150 acres that he owns, he leases 300 acres to grow hay and corn and for grazing. Andy Westover, the tenth generation, works the farm with Peter.
To quote, Peter’s sister Cindy Graves Westover “Preserving a dairy farm these days is not easy; there are so many pressures and there is always the question of who will be the one to give up.” Unlike earlier years when the entire family could support itself well enough by working on the farm, today with the vagaries of milk prices, the Graves must look beyond their land to supplement their income, for insurance and just to keep their farm in running working order. Brenda works in Putney, Vermont. Cindy, who co-owns the Galloway Real Estate office in town, opened a farm store in 2008 in what was once her father Robert’s milk house. She sells Walpole Creamery ice cream (her husband is a partner), Boggy Meadow cheeses (from a nearby Walpole farm), and maple products (from her son Andy’s sugaring business) and raw milk (from Peter’s own cows). During the summer she sells vegetables from her small vegetable garden and also has available their own USDA hamburger meat “all good meat goes into it – not just the ends.”
One of the first questions that arose when the store opened was store hours. Quipped Peter, “why not farmers’ hours? ” So he trips the lights on at 7:30 in the morning and trims the lights so to speak at 8:00 when he finishes his milking chores in the evening. As for how customers pay for their purchases, it’s decidedly high tech and involves that classic New England ethos known as the honor system; they drop the money in a box and, Cindy notes, “we’ve never lost a dime.”
But farmers’ hours are only a part of what the family does to get people to understand what farmers are like and what they do. Cindy holds an open house in the fall in her 15 X 15 foot former milk parlor to have people meet her dairy farmer brother, Peter and sugarer son, Andy – who also keeps the farm machinery in running order. As with all farm families, it’s a full life, a very full life.
Peter Graves Great Brook Farm 437 County Rd.
Walpole, NH 03608
Mailing address: Cindy Graves Westover 238 Kingsbury Rd.
Walpole, NH 03608
Farm and store contact number (Cindy): 603-756-3661
Milkhouse store hours: 7:30-8:00, 7 days a week