The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill in Bedford is poised for its best year ever

The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill has an exciting 2014 in store for the families in Bedford and surrounding towns, but we need your help to make it happen.

After the most successful fundraising year in our history, we have a contract to repair the landmark red barn on Joppa Hill Road. Because so many families, business leaders and civic-minded individuals appreciate the educational and recreational value this farm adds to the region, we are able to bring the barn back for agricultural use. The work is scheduled to start this month.

Although we did raise enough money to repair the barn, our contractor has advised us that keeping all of the silos and bringing the barn to the standard for classroom use were not cost-effective. So when you come to visit the farm, please remember that the barn is for animals, staff members and volunteers for the time being. We intend a separate fundraising campaign to add classroom space. And although we hate to see any of the silos go, the fact is that they have not been used in years and we can take them down now for less than it would cost to remove them in the future.

Over the last year, we have added a number of features, the most prominent being our Bedford Community Garden. Thanks to the commitment of one of our newest board members, master gardener Michelle Moore, her friend Eileen Peterson, Lowes and other members of the community, we have established an organic community garden for public use. The garden, which runs along Joppa Hill Road, features 10-by-20-foot plots in which anyone can grow fruits, vegetables and flowers. You can call or email the farm to reserve your plot. Next year, we plan to expand the garden into a CSA.

For children and families, we already have added four Katahdin sheep (they grow hair, not wool!) and a llama. They join our alpacas, goats, sheep, chickens, horses, ducks, rabbits and pig in helping us teach students of all ages about farm animals. We also are in the process of revamping the curriculum for our popular summer camps to make them even more fun and educational.

And we have a lot of new family activities planned for this year, including a hoe-down country dance scheduled for Sunday, March 23, at McKelvie School, hikes through the woods, day classes to learn about the area’s plant and animal life, a kid-friendly Halloween adventure, and bigger fairs this spring and fall.

We also have an intern from Keene State University’s nutrition program who is helping us develop a nutrition curriculum.

All of these activities are made possible by our wonderful supporters. In the last two years, we have brought on several new board members, who are helping to shape the farm’s future, and the board wants even more people to get involved. If you have any interest in helping to pass on Bedford’s vanishing agricultural heritage, please call us.

Of course, we also need money to make these programs possible. If you share our love for education, farming, gardening, conservation or historic preservation, you can further the cause by donating through our website at or by check. One of our short-term goals is to raise another $20,000 for additional upgrades of the barn, so if you would like to help with that effort, please let us know. You can reach our executive director, Annette Handy, at 472-4724.

To everyone who already has donated your time or money or both, thank you so very much. Whether you volunteered at an event, donated at one of our bake sales, attended our auction or fall fair, or just gave for the satisfaction of giving to a good cause, thank you! Without you, we would not have been able to repair the barn and bring Bedford so many exciting new programs and amenities this year.

On behalf of the hundreds of children and families The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill serves every year, please accept our sincere thanks for making 2013 our best year ever and placing us in such a great position for 2014. And please join us this year. It is going to be great.

The Board of Directors of The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill include Michael Scanlon, chairman, Chris Bandazian, vice chairman, Mark Hayner, Stephanie Willer, Jo Hendry, Jon Allan, Jolee Chase, Andrew Cline, Stephanie Chmielecki, Bill Foote, Dustin Gauthier, Keith Lavallier, Michelle Moore, Jen Nickulas and Eric Pascoal.