Meet Our Members | August 2023
Name: Georgia Elgar
Business: Branch Hill Farm
Branch Hill Farm is an award-winning tree farm. It’s also a working agricultural farm with a very active CSA. Carl Siemon established the farm in 1962 with the purchase of his grandparents’ farm in Milton Mills NH.
Over the next 40 years, Siemon grew Branch Hill Farm from three acres to its present 3,500 acres of managed and conserved forests and fields. The farm is now owned by a private foundation with an educational and conservation mission.
Georgia Elgar is the Education Programs Coordinator at Branch Hill Farm. She manages the farm’s CSA and helps plan its conservation-oriented, educational workshops and events.
Georgia grew up in suburban Smithfield, Rhode Island. She got interested in farming while she was a freshman at UNH.
“I was already an idealist, highly averse to working in an office and passionate about environmental issues,” she recalls. “I was taking a course called ‘Intro to Eco Gastronomy’ — a course about food and the environment.”
“Becky Sideman from the UNH Cooperative Extension came in for a guest lecture. She told us how industrialized farming caused the rapid commodification of the food we eat and the land we depend on. She explained how mechanization and synthetic fertilizers allowed farms to exponentially increase in size and decrease in biodiversity causing untold ecological damage.”
“I decided right then that learning to work with the land and grow healthy food for people in the right way for the earth was what I wanted to study. I did my first farming apprenticeship the following summer.”
This is Georgia’s sixth full season growing vegetables and her first season growing for Branch Hill Farm. She previously leased the same garden from Branch Hill and co-owned another vegetable CSA.
Branch Hill Farm currently has 65 acres in farm production including hay, fruits and vegetables, and heirloom apples. The farm believes in educating its customers on the “hows and whys” of buying, cooking and eating locally-grown food. It offers educational workshops throughout the year and runs an annual summer teen apprentice program.
“Branch Hill Farm does so many things in the fields and in the forests to ecologically benefit and regenerate the land it stewards,” Georgia states with pride. “Things that will never translate to profit but are absolutely imperative to the long-term aliveness and diversity of the land it stewards.”
“The human element is the most important aspect of farming to me,” she maintains. “The community building and education we offer through programs is particularly important. We can’t transform our local food and farming system without getting many more people committed to and skilled in ecological, regenerative farming. We must invite our communities onto our farms.”
“As a society, we must internalize the costs of ecologically-destructive farming. The loss of biodiversity, pollution of waterways, soil depletion, desertification, climate change, chronic disease, social instability, and the general health crisis are the costs that industrialized farming is passing on to future generations. We just can’t afford to continue growing food so irresponsibly.”
“Small organic farms must work together to be inspirational stewards of the land by re-inventing our food system at the local level. We must get better at what we do and how we organize. We must take back community-scale seed saving and stewardship of seed genetics.”
“I have hope,” Georgia says. “Just in the few years since graduating from UNH, I’ve seen the momentum for a resilient and thriving food system grow stronger in New Hampshire. The science around no-till and reduced-till farming is becoming clearer. I see more farmers at all scales managing soil with a lot less tillage.”
“The greatest challenges facing small farmers are land access and affordability, business viability and equity building, especially among young and BIPOC farmers.”
“Our socio-economic-political system doesn’t support small farmers. It actively supports mega-industrial, corporate farming and the mass accumulation of land and wealth in the hands of a few billionaires. Farmland is more and more expensive and out of reach for people genuinely interested in feeding their communities. A small organic farmer is an activist by definition.”
“I’m grateful to know that there are people and organizations like NOFA-NH out there tirelessly working to help farmers with these issues at the local, state and national levels. NOFA-NH’s Bulk Ordering program saves us money each spring and its online classifieds help us to spread the word about job postings and such.”
Branch Hill Farm produces more than forty diverse vegetables and herbs on a no-till permanent bed system, blueberries and heirloom apples. Its produce is available at its farm stand in Milton Mills from late May through October, and you can shop at its online store at branch-hill-farm.square.site/.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information and availability on the farm’s CSA. Branch Hill Farm accepts SNAP payments for the CSA and at the farm stand.
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