Farm hands needed

HOLLIS – Chip Hardy is part of the sixth generation to operate the Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, and his 34-year-old son Trevor is part of the seventh.

There is no reason to think their farm, which now has 380 acres of orchards and fruit and vegetable fields, and which gives Hollis much of rural character, won’t go on indefinitely.

But Brookdale is unusual.

A recent study shows that many New Hampshire farms could be in jeopardy because older farmers have no one to take over when they retire.

In New Hampshire, farmers 65 and older operate 30 percent of the state’s farms. Of these 1,338 senior farmers, just 6 percent of them have someone younger than 45 managing the farm with them, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census of Agriculture data that was part of a study released by American Farmland Trust and Land For Good.

Land for Good is a Keene-based nonprofit that helps New England farmers, land owners and community groups transfer farms and also helps find affordable farmland for farmers.

"Land is the foundation of the food system," Jim Hafner, Land for Good’s executive director, said in a phone interview. "If farmers don’t have land security," it’s hard for them to continue.

On Federal Hill Road in Milford, Tim and Noreen O’Connell produce vegetables, flowers and goat milk products on their Butternut Farm and Milford Goat Dairy.

Lorraine Merrill, the state’s agricultural commissioner, said the O’Connells are a good example of a family who have a younger farming generation.

Their younger daughter, Marcy, operates the Holland Farm on leased land on Osgood Road, and Tim O’Connell said he likes to think she will take over their farm someday.

The issue of farm succession is a complex one, Merrill said, especially in New Hampshire where the vast majority of farms are very small, which means they don’t support a family.

Indeed, the O’Connells were not full-time farmers for much of their working lives until they retired. Tim was a high school science teacher; Noreen was a dental hygienist.

The situation is a bit more uncertain for the Pomeroy Farm in Mont Vernon, owned and operated by Kevin Pomeroy with his brother Greg and their father, Keith.

The brothers come from a long line of farmers who have raised dairy cows here on one of the town’s last remaining farms, one that is visible along Route 13.

Kevin has two young sons, and it’s too soon to tell if they’ll want to continue the farm, he says.

They have about 130 cows, mostly Holsteins, and grow corn and hay in scattered parcels, including the cornfield next to the Milford Drive-In, because of the lack of available farm acreage.

"There needs to be farms to keep the land open," said Kevin, who said not many people realize how farms support the economy throughout New Hampshire.

The last U.S. Department of Agriculture census puts the number of New Hampshire farms at 4,400, Merrill said, and most of them aren’t big enough to support two generations.

What the study looked at is how many in the senior category have someone 45 or younger to take over.

The results "are not alarming, but they do highlight areas of concern, as well as opportunities … to get people thinking," Merrill said. "We need to do a better job of informing farmers" about ways to save their farms in perpetuity.

"We are losing farmland, especially in southern New Hampshire," she said. "If there’s no family member interested, the land is more likely to be sold for development. Planning ahead and looking toward the future means the land is more likely to stay in agriculture and not be developed."

One way to make sure that farmland stays farmland is through transfer of development rights. Brookdale Fruit Farm, which has been operated by the same family since 1847, has been protected for future generations through transfer under the state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.

Decades ago, Eleanor and Frank Whittemore, who are now 89 and 90 respectively and part of Brookdale’s fifth generation, sold the farm’s development rights, which means the acreage will always be farmland.

Back then, Eleanor said, Hollis was changing from a farming community that once had 40 active farms to a bedroom community.

"I have a habit of looking to the future," she said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

Farm hands needed

HOLLIS – Chip Hardy is part of the sixth generation to operate the Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, and his 34-year-old son Trevor is part of the seventh.

There is no reason to think their farm, which now has 380 acres of orchards and fruit and vegetable fields, and which gives Hollis much of rural character, won’t go on indefinitely.

But Brookdale is unusual.

A recent study shows that many New Hampshire farms could be in jeopardy because older farmers have no one to take over when they retire.

In New Hampshire, farmers 65 and older operate 30 percent of the state’s farms. Of these 1,338 senior farmers, just 6 percent of them have someone younger than 45 managing the farm with them, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census of Agriculture data that was part of a study released by American Farmland Trust and Land For Good.

Land for Good is a Keene-based nonprofit that helps New England farmers, land owners and community groups transfer farms and also helps find affordable farmland for farmers.

"Land is the foundation of the food system," Jim Hafner, Land for Good’s executive director, said in a phone interview. "If farmers don’t have land security," it’s hard for them to continue.

On Federal Hill Road in Milford, Tim and Noreen O’Connell produce vegetables, flowers and goat milk products on their Butternut Farm and Milford Goat Dairy.

Lorraine Merrill, the state’s agricultural commissioner, said the O’Connells are a good example of a family who have a younger farming generation.

Their younger daughter, Marcy, operates the Holland Farm on leased land on Osgood Road, and Tim O’Connell said he likes to think she will take over their farm someday.

The issue of farm succession is a complex one, Merrill said, especially in New Hampshire where the vast majority of farms are very small, which means they don’t support a family.

Indeed, the O’Connells were not full-time farmers for much of their working lives until they retired. Tim was a high school science teacher; Noreen was a dental hygienist.

The situation is a bit more uncertain for the Pomeroy Farm in Mont Vernon, owned and operated by Kevin Pomeroy with his brother Greg and their father, Keith.

The brothers come from a long line of farmers who have raised dairy cows here on one of the town’s last remaining farms, one that is visible along Route 13.

Kevin has two young sons, and it’s too soon to tell if they’ll want to continue the farm, he says.

They have about 130 cows, mostly Holsteins, and grow corn and hay in scattered parcels, including the cornfield next to the Milford Drive-In, because of the lack of available farm acreage.

"There needs to be farms to keep the land open," said Kevin, who said not many people realize how farms support the economy throughout New Hampshire.

The last U.S. Department of Agriculture census puts the number of New Hampshire farms at 4,400, Merrill said, and most of them aren’t big enough to support two generations.

What the study looked at is how many in the senior category have someone 45 or younger to take over.

The results "are not alarming, but they do highlight areas of concern, as well as opportunities … to get people thinking," Merrill said. "We need to do a better job of informing farmers" about ways to save their farms in perpetuity.

"We are losing farmland, especially in southern New Hampshire," she said. "If there’s no family member interested, the land is more likely to be sold for development. Planning ahead and looking toward the future means the land is more likely to stay in agriculture and not be developed."

One way to make sure that farmland stays farmland is through transfer of development rights. Brookdale Fruit Farm, which has been operated by the same family since 1847, has been protected for future generations through transfer under the state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.

Decades ago, Eleanor and Frank Whittemore, who are now 89 and 90 respectively and part of Brookdale’s fifth generation, sold the farm’s development rights, which means the acreage will always be farmland.

Back then, Eleanor said, Hollis was changing from a farming community that once had 40 active farms to a bedroom community.

"I have a habit of looking to the future," she said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

Farm hands needed

HOLLIS – Chip Hardy is part of the sixth generation to operate the Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, and his 34-year-old son Trevor is part of the seventh.

There is no reason to think their farm, which now has 380 acres of orchards and fruit and vegetable fields, and which gives Hollis much of rural character, won’t go on indefinitely.

But Brookdale is unusual.

A recent study shows that many New Hampshire farms could be in jeopardy because older farmers have no one to take over when they retire.

In New Hampshire, farmers 65 and older operate 30 percent of the state’s farms. Of these 1,338 senior farmers, just 6 percent of them have someone younger than 45 managing the farm with them, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census of Agriculture data that was part of a study released by American Farmland Trust and Land For Good.

Land for Good is a Keene-based nonprofit that helps New England farmers, land owners and community groups transfer farms and also helps find affordable farmland for farmers.

"Land is the foundation of the food system," Jim Hafner, Land for Good’s executive director, said in a phone interview. "If farmers don’t have land security," it’s hard for them to continue.

On Federal Hill Road in Milford, Tim and Noreen O’Connell produce vegetables, flowers and goat milk products on their Butternut Farm and Milford Goat Dairy.

Lorraine Merrill, the state’s agricultural commissioner, said the O’Connells are a good example of a family who have a younger farming generation.

Their younger daughter, Marcy, operates the Holland Farm on leased land on Osgood Road, and Tim O’Connell said he likes to think she will take over their farm someday.

The issue of farm succession is a complex one, Merrill said, especially in New Hampshire where the vast majority of farms are very small, which means they don’t support a family.

Indeed, the O’Connells were not full-time farmers for much of their working lives until they retired. Tim was a high school science teacher; Noreen was a dental hygienist.

The situation is a bit more uncertain for the Pomeroy Farm in Mont Vernon, owned and operated by Kevin Pomeroy with his brother Greg and their father, Keith.

The brothers come from a long line of farmers who have raised dairy cows here on one of the town’s last remaining farms, one that is visible along Route 13.

Kevin has two young sons, and it’s too soon to tell if they’ll want to continue the farm, he says.

They have about 130 cows, mostly Holsteins, and grow corn and hay in scattered parcels, including the cornfield next to the Milford Drive-In, because of the lack of available farm acreage.

"There needs to be farms to keep the land open," said Kevin, who said not many people realize how farms support the economy throughout New Hampshire.

The last U.S. Department of Agriculture census puts the number of New Hampshire farms at 4,400, Merrill said, and most of them aren’t big enough to support two generations.

What the study looked at is how many in the senior category have someone 45 or younger to take over.

The results "are not alarming, but they do highlight areas of concern, as well as opportunities … to get people thinking," Merrill said. "We need to do a better job of informing farmers" about ways to save their farms in perpetuity.

"We are losing farmland, especially in southern New Hampshire," she said. "If there’s no family member interested, the land is more likely to be sold for development. Planning ahead and looking toward the future means the land is more likely to stay in agriculture and not be developed."

One way to make sure that farmland stays farmland is through transfer of development rights. Brookdale Fruit Farm, which has been operated by the same family since 1847, has been protected for future generations through transfer under the state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.

Decades ago, Eleanor and Frank Whittemore, who are now 89 and 90 respectively and part of Brookdale’s fifth generation, sold the farm’s development rights, which means the acreage will always be farmland.

Back then, Eleanor said, Hollis was changing from a farming community that once had 40 active farms to a bedroom community.

"I have a habit of looking to the future," she said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.