Meet Our Members | March 2023
Name: Katie Doyle Smith & Paul Swegel
Business: Pork Hill Farm
Neither Katie Doyle Smith nor Paul Swegel grew up on a farm. They were, however, children of immigrants who had a strong tradition of gardening. Paul was inspired by his Portuguese grandparents’ harvesting their garden, preserving and root cellaring their vegetables, and making wine.
Katie and Paul both grew up in Massachusetts. They met in a small western Massachusetts town on the way to a music festival in upstate New York. Paul was working in landscaping, and Katie was studying global ecology.
Paul loved working outdoors with soil and plants, but had come to the decision that farming was more productive work. Katie discovered that local farming was a solution to the global catastrophe she saw unfolding around her. She worked for several years on two Carroll County farms before starting her own urban farm in the city.
“My first farming experience was at the Earle farm in Conway,” Katie remembers. “The Earle Farm had the first CSA in northern New Hampshire. I hosted apprentices who lived and worked on the farm. Upon graduation from college, I took a job at the Community School in Tamworth. It was a magical place with a collaborative learning model for middle and high school students.”
“After switching to farming,” Paul recalls, “I worked at Laughing Stock Farm in Freeport, Maine and then at the Earle Farm. Those two farms couldn’t have been more different, but those differences helped me learn how to farm.
“We started our farm in 2009 with one acre. We named it Pork Hill Farm because of our location on Pork Hill Road, not because we got a great big hill of pigs for sale,” he quips. “2023 will be our fifteenth growing season together in Ossipee, and we now farm 6 acres.”
Paul and Katie grow a mix of vegetables, herbs and flowers. They sell their produce right on the farm, through their CSA and wholesale to local grocery stores and florists.
“We grow a variety of vegetables,” Paul continues. “Greens like salad mix and head lettuce tend to dominate our field space, but we also grow a variety of produce for our CSA. And we grow a lot of hot green chili peppers and other hot peppers that we love to use in our own kitchen.”
“We also grow an assortment of culinary and medicinal herbs,” Katie adds, “like basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and mint – plus tulsi, chamomile, valerian, echinacea, St, John's Wort, motherwort, calendula, catnip and lemon balm. We like adding herbs to the landscape to compliment the farm ecosystem.
“And we grow cut flowers that we sell in buckets or as PYO flowers for our CSA. We have zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, snapdragons, celosia, amaranth, rudbeckia, verbena, and bachelor buttons. We sell them in bouquets to grocery stores and florists.”
Paul and Katie both love harvesting the bounty of their farm. They believe that farming isn’t farming without food production; and that farming adds beauty to the land and incredible value to the environment.
“The open land and the abundance of farmland is a key habitat for all kinds of wildlife,” Paul explains. “We try to balance the production of the farm with openness to wildlife. Small-scale organic farming is best at preserving the special farm environment that is both beautiful and a key habitat for wildlife in the area.
“Small organic farms need more community support in order to survive,” he continues. “There is a lot of energy for farming in young people, but new technology is needed to help harness and enhance this energy. I hope that new technologies will help organic farmland remain productive with less need for labor and a more balanced life for farmers.
“Small farmers are on the edge of intense developmental pressure. We expanded our farm in Ossipee by leasing small fields from our neighbors. Some of those fields have now become house lots. Conservation efforts have protected some land from development, but the amount of farmland available is shrinking. These efforts are often geared towards large acreage that is inaccessible to small and beginning farmers.”
“NOFA-NH has been a partner in promoting organic farming in New Hampshire and connecting consumers with producers,” Katie says. “It engages with the state government to advocate for organic farmers. Its program to help people afford CSA shares also helps small farms like ours. NOFA-NH is the only statewide organization promoting organic farms, and we benefit from the networking opportunities and community events it organizes.
“We have so many wonderful farm memories,” she adds. “They range from the incredible abundance of food we’ve produced to the relationships we’ve had with the awesome people who have worked for us. We have a tradition of hosting a “farm thanksgiving” a week or two before the actual Thanksgiving holiday. We cook a feast for everyone who worked with us to celebrate our work together and to say thank you at the end of our regular growing season.”
Interview and article by NOFA-NH's Board Vice President, Karl Johnson.
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