I thought it might interest you to hear about what my friends and I, young farmers all, are doing here to revive my family farm in Brookfield, New Hampshire.
I am Andrew Weeks, I was born in North Conway, and spent most of my summers on my grandparent’s farm in Brookfield, NH. I initiated the move to Brookfield after my father passed away unexpectedly in 2010 and, with the state of affairs my family’s finances were in caused in no small part because of the economic downturn, I saw my family’s farm at risk of deteriorating or worse, becoming sold off. I saw this as the perfect, and necessary, chance to turn around the fate of the farm and do what I could to halt the spiral of disappearing small farms, as well as youth, from New Hampshire.
As the 10th generation of my family living here in New Hampshire, I’d like to focus on the farm my grandfather started, in the town my ancestors founded. Hopefully, longevity will sprout success!
We are two couples, with the medium age of 26 between the four of us, that broke ground only in March and now have over 160 varieties of vegetables, two bee hives, and 31 free range chickens and ducks. It’s been hard. Really hard without a tractor. But with the help of a nearby octogenarian with a tractor, and work exchange with neighbors, we now have a farm stand up beside the road that commonly sells out and we hope to have our first classes this fall. You can find us on facebook here.
We are young farmers setting out to keep farming alive and new and vibrant and appealing to other young people. Knowing something of how hard it is to start up a small farm (I have experience running a CSA elsewhere and on these fields growing up) we are making a twist on the normal farming framework: We are hoping to build and run a farm that is also a school. We hope to start programming focused on farming as well as sustainable building practices and the arts using experienced based learning methods. But, for now, one step at a time. We are still struggling to make our market garden in the green for next year.
I believe that young people reinvesting in New Hampshire’s food economy are crucially important at this juncture, and with a little help and support, we can be successful. In our experience, there has been an amazingly positive response, and surprise, from the community here. (Only 5.5% of the town’s population is between the ages of 18 and 24 and you would be hard pressed to find many people between the ages of 19 and 40!) While we may have surprised the town with moving here and planting our feet by starting a business, but we have been equally surprised by the response. Neighbors are always dropping by with gifts and words of encouragement. Those words have meant the most to us. And it’s given me the message that this is the kind of community reinvestment that New Hampshire really needs. People are literally asking for it!
To save this farm we need a boost. Some of the infrastructure is in good shape, but other necessary improvements need to be made before we can make this a success. There is no electricity or water on the barn and field side of the property, these have to be run across the road, the 200 year old wood-shop out-building needs it’s foundation replaced before eminent collapse (we are going to transform the wood-shop into an artist residency!), and we need a four season greenhouse so we can grow and teach year round. To get that financial boost we created this Kickstarter campaign.
We are very excited that we made the front page of New Hampshire’s biggest newspaper on Friday, the Union Leader! It’s a start but we still need help getting the word out about our Kickstarter fundraiser. Posting on facebook news-feeds and sending to emails lists is the best way to help. If you like what you see, tell your friends, strangers, family, co-workers, ex-lovers, and bitter enemies alike!
How can we make investment in rural New Hampshire cool, and economically feasible again, for young people? I think this is one step in the right direction and I’d really like to share.
Thank you so much! And I hope to hear from you soon!
Andrew Weeks, Coleraine Farm
Brookfield, New Hampshire