By Helen Brody (July 19, 2010)
Outside of the town of Colebrook, sits the 315 acres of New Earth Organic Farm. A developing eco-village related to the Canadian based “Cité Écologique” eco-village ( www.cite-ecologique.com), the land supports 35 people who, in 2004, moved from Florida to Colebrook NH, and by revitalizing the land in an environmentally enlightened way, have dedicated themselves to becoming a self sufficient enclave.
Micheline Freyssonnet, acts as spokesman for New Earth and as the marketing manager for one of the eco-village’s companies. “Responsibilities change upon needs,” she says. “Everything is kept very simple and everyone must be open-minded and flexible.” All the inhabitants share in the major investments and the work load and are focused on the main purpose of the project; giving the children a lively environment and teaching such disappearing skills as “how to make a garden or make compost.” And Micheline continues, “Of course the traditional academic demands , math, English, history, get the full measure in a home school setting.”
The community works in many different but integrated spheres of organic agriculture and related businesses.
The farmland’s southern exposure with views of Vermont’s Mount Monadnock assures a variety of vegetables that seem to have a head-start on any in the area. A collection of brilliantly colored flowers border gardens and the high tunnel, while a collection of herbs, culinary and medicinal, are sprinkled about in the vegetable gardens. A large herb garden also exists behind the house which serves as Micheline and her husband Pierre’s home and features a community kitchen and dining room. A large cold room exists to store vegetables over the winter. The culinary herbs flavor the cooking; the medicinal herbs take care of them when they are sick.
In the eco-village members grow a great array of what might be called the more common varieties of organic vegetables, among which are lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, beans, scallions, peas, beets, broccoli, corn, peppers, zucchinis, garlic, onions, but in keeping with the goal of preserving plant varieties, their garden also includes a number of the less common vegetables such as fennel bulbs, ground cherries, leeks, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, and edible flowers.
As the farm is organic, members of the community lavish considerable care in placing flowers, vegetables, or herbs that are known to ward off pests near a vulnerable plant. Kohlrabi, for instance, protects the other members of the cabbage family as well as the cucumbers. Marigolds drive away nematodes. Basil helps tomatoes overcome both insects and disease while at the same time improving growth.
As for community responsibilities, members are drawn to their own strengths and interests. Such is the case with their 1.2 acre vegetable garden. Although many take part in the care of the gardens, the planning and early spring start-ups in the four season high tunnel are the domain of Venessa Fortier and Luc Lamirande. “They are the heart of our garden” says Micheline. It is meticulously manicured with hay mulch lining the paths to discourage weeds.
The vegetables are sold at The Copper Leaf, the community’s small store at the foot of the driveway and through the North Country Farm Fresh Co-operative Project which supplies many restaurants and grocery stores in Coos County.
There is clearly no lack of work awaiting the members of this growing farm and agribusiness. A detail of members is currently in the process of enlarging a sugar maple stand and building a sap house to boil and bottle the syrup next year. A chicken coop has recently been completed and is populated by white Chantecler chickens, a breed that is not an arbitrary selection; as they are birds that can stand up to the frigid temperatures of the North Country of New Hampshire. The chickens were purchased for the community through a Heifer Grant administered by the Small and Beginner Farmers of New Hampshire.
There are also potato and hay fields nearby that demand attention. Residents are now managing their forest to produce firewood and construction wood. Nor do energy saving devices get short shrift; solar panels are being installed around the property.
Micheline has planted over 300 trees in her tree nursery by seed or woodcutting. As the trees become larger, they will be transplanted around the site.
Even during the brutal winter months that smite northern New Hampshire, you won’t find any idleness. Members keep busy in a growing wholesale gift business. Formerly named KHEOPS, for the Great Pyramid of Egypt, Cheops, the business started modestly by selling only art glass pyramids, incense holders, and candle holders. Today, the business has grown to offer thousands of gifts to customers around the world.
“We have little time to socialize,” says Micheline matter of factly. But some of us participate in Colebrook area initiatives such as the Santa’s warehouse, a shopping experience that offers activities for the children.
Meanwhile, the members of the community work tirelessly to make their land productive healthy, sustainable, and attractive.
New Earth Organic Farm
120 Angels Road
Colebrook, NH 03576
Micheline Freyssonnet and Pierre Miron
Contact number: (Pierre’s cell phone) 603-915-0760
Tours upon request during week-ends only. Please e-mail to make appointment and check our availability.
Retail: The Copper Leaf (on route 3 inside the Kheops building)
Also sold at Copper Leaf: Natural food and vitamins
Wholesale: North Country Co-op
Credit Photographs: Leslie Tuttle