Thirty years ago, the name White Gates Farm represented simply a stand of pine woods. To quote Heather Letarte, “when we say ‘we started from scratch in 1982,’ we mean scratch.” Since then, single-handedly Heather and Hank Letarte, while working full-time off the farm, have built a house for their family and managed several small agricultural endeavors, such as pumpkin patches, Christmas trees, and a few animals. All the while they yearned to take the farm to ‘the next level.’ At White Gates Farm you can buy natural beef, pork, chicken, fresh produce, wood fired pizza, and more.
By Helen Brody (April 4, 2013)
Thirty years ago the name White Gates Farm represented simply a stand of pine woods. To quote Heather Letarte, “when we say ‘we started from scratch in 1982,’ we mean scratch.” Since then, single-handedly Heather and Hank Letarte, while working full-time off the farm, have built a house for their family and managed several small agricultural endeavors, such as pumpkin patches, Christmas trees, and a few animals. All the while they yearned to take the farm to ‘the next level.’
Today with 16 of their 113 acres transformed into working fields with breathtaking views of the surrounding White Mountains, with the help of two of their sons, Tucker and Reid, their farm has become a full-time effort with three year around greenhouses, a herd of Blonde d ‘Acquitane beef cattle, pigs, chickens, and a full range of vegetables.
While developing a self-supporting small farm is their goal, Heather and Hank must continue to work full-time off the farm to pay for what they most want to do. Heather, continues with three jobs and Hank continues with his three jobs including managing a bio-diesel company.
On the farm, the raising of Blonde d’Acquitaine beef began ten years ago when Tucker expressed his desire to have a cow. After some serious research and equally serious saving, the Letartes bought a bred cow, her heifer calf, and another young steer with the intent of raising beef cattle. Originating in the Aquitaine district of southwest France, the “Blondes” are one of the most popular breeds in France for their leanness, high growth rate, and flavor. The family currently pastures 20 or so cattle during the summer and stable them with hay during the winter. Their broiling chickens create healthy grass for the “Blondes” as they travel in their moveable pens eating insects and fertilizing the pastures.
And then there was the “smoking compost pile,” a phenomenon that was a vital step, if serendipitous event, in an effort to make White Gates Farm a more diverse farm business. Hank, an avid recycler, had given permission to a tree trimming company to use a sand lot as a holding spot for chips. After looking out a window on a cold December day and seeing steam rising from the pile of chips, Hank probed the pile to find it registered 135 degrees. His first thought? “Wasted energy is in this pile.”
The first winter he covered the woodchips with some loam and compost, planted arugula, radishes, spinach, and kept them under cover for the winter. “In March we took off the cover and saw beautiful plants.” With the success of that “thrown together experiment” they went on to bigger things. Today, they have water pipes underground from the compost piles to a green houses all winter. In those classic New Hampshire winter days when freezing weather is a fact of life, the plants are covered during the coldest parts of the day, and that’s it; no other care needed.
Currently, Organic Matters LLC at White Gates Farm is one of three licensed compost facilities in New Hampshire, and Hank has the notion that there’s a lot more use to be made of that smoldering compost–perhaps even to heating a house during the winter. “Far less work than cutting firewood,” he says, “and the only cost would be installation.” Having received certification from the University of Maine composting school he is now certified to consult and speak on the subject.
And the Letarte boys have taken over the vegetable farming. The family currently leases 1½ acres for the vegetables that they bring from the greenhouses to plant. The boys manage the vegetable sales at the farm, farmers’ markets, and area restaurants.
As with all the hardy folks tending small farms today, the Letartes plan to continue to build on their successes and teach others by hosting a day camp for children.
Says Heather, “We are an evolving small farm.”
White Gates Farm
Hank and Heather Letarte and Family
2153 Cleveland Hill Road
Tamworth, NH 03886
Retail: Farmstand: at the farm
Farmers Markets: Tamworth
Wholesale: (restaurants, markets, & schools
Margarita Grill, Glen, NH ( http://www.margaritagrillnh.com) CERTIFIED LOCAL by NH Farm to Restaurant Connection
North Country Farmers’ Cooperative