Meet Our Members | June 2022
Name: Joanne Cottam
Business: Fowl Manor Farm
Joanne Cottam grew up in the countryside of Wilpshire, a small town in Lancashire County UK, where her grandfather was a gardener who grew much of the family’s food. Her immediate family all still live in England, so Joanne is here in this country pretty much on her own. In addition to being a farmer, she’s also a full-time social worker.
“I work with special needs kids doing animal therapy – mostly therapeutic horse riding,” she explains. “The foster care agency I work for owns farms where they do animal therapy and teach vocation skills for special need kids and adults. I focus on helping young adults 16 to 22 acquire vocational skills for the future. In addition, I host students from a local special education school, Seacoast Learning Collaborative, on my farm to help them learn skills, work with others and get some experience.”
Joanne has owned Fowl Manor Farm in Newton NH for two years and lives on the 6.5 acre farm. Her best friend, Katie Grenda, and Katie’s adopted son, Justin, help with the farm work. Justin is autistic and loves farming and fixing the farm’s machinery.
“We’re not certified organic, but we try to be biodynamic,” Joanne continues. “Genetic diversity worked for farmers in the past, so why not now. I favor animals that are naturally resistant to various diseases and have low parasite loads, like Soay sheep. They can live outside on pasture 24/7/365.”
“My Soays are a rare Scottish breed and fit my goal of animal preservation. They’re small, very primitive and easily handled by one person. They love to escape, however, and we had a police standoff in town for a while trying to catch them. They have very nice meat, even though you don’t get a great deal. It’s super tasty and leaner than I expected, so I gave some to friends to try. I’ll probably start selling it next year.”
“The ewes don’t produce a great deal of wool and naturally shed their coat, so you need to catch them before they rub it all off. The ram has a thicker coat and needs to be sheered. I sell the raw wool.”
“To diversify my farm, I added poultry,” Joanne recalls. “I already had some ducks and had previously raised chickens. It just expanded from there. I love all the different breeds and colors and put rainbow eggs in my dozens. My hens are all free range, so collecting eggs is like an Easter egg hunt every day. And my hens do tricks for mealworms.”
“I came across some Royal Palm turkeys and liked the color, so I added them. I don’t have any right now, but I do have Bourbon Reds and Blue Slates. Then I bought some Cotton Patch geese. My grandmother had geese, and these looked like the same kind. They’re very easy keepers and pretty friendly as geese go. All of my livestock is slow grow and free range.”
Joanne distributes her produce from a farm stand outside her farm and at local farmers markets. She only sells retail at the moment and doesn’t yet produce enough for very large orders.
Taking good care of her animals is very important to Joanne. While some may end up being food, she believes they all should have a good quality of life. She strongly believes in preserving animal diversity and taking care of the land for the next generation.
“I’m not into large-scale factory farming and have a low number of animals per acre compared to many farms,” she adds. “I love hosting volunteers and anyone who wants to see what real farming is like. I enjoy sharing and teaching.”
“Organic farming is the only way for the future— preserving diversity and naturally managing pests and plants. I want to see more community support for local farms with neighbors and local retailers helping to preserve them. The average consumer does not understand how much work goes into organic farming and is often reluctant to pay higher prices—even for a superior product.”
“Farmers are close to environmental change. They see the natural cycles first hand. They see crops grow or fail. They need to stand up and be a voice for everyone. If there are no farms, there will be no food.”
—Interview and Article by Karl Johnson, Board Vice President
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