Meet Our Members | November 2021
Name and Occupation: Steve and Dawn Forde
Business: Hop N Hen Farm
Steve & Dawn Forde grew up in Westford, Massachusetts and have known each other since elementary school. They graduated from college and married in 1981 with a dream of someday finding a piece of land where they could create a self-sufficient lifestyle.
They both enjoyed successful careers in high technology — Steve as a computer chip designer and engineering manager and Dawn as software engineer. When retirement came near, they began looking for their dream farm. After searching for two years, they found a 23-acre piece of land in Henniker that had been part of an old dairy farm.
“The land had been out of use for several years, so it was suitable for organic farming,” Steve explains. “We had soil tests done and found the soil was in pretty good condition.”
“Initially, it was all about producing and eating healthy, real food,” Dawn adds. “We’re both foodies, and we love growing, cooking and sharing our food. Over time, we realized that it was also important for us to be good stewards of the land we live on.”
Steve and Dawn both work fulltime on the farm, sharing the daily activities. Steve enjoys early morning chores and planning, and he does most of the heavy lifting. Dawn handles customers and farmers’ markets. They both enjoy being active and outdoors.
They started farming commercially in 2015. They now raise pears, peaches and raspberries plus a half-acre of vegetables. They also raise organic pastured poultry — laying hens, broilers and turkeys.
“We both love learning,” Dawn continues, “and being fairly new farmers, we’re constantly learning new things. We enjoy spring planting and the arrival of each batch of baby chicks. We then have the satisfaction of harvesting our own fruits and vegetables and putting our own chickens in our freezer.”
Steve agrees. “We like producing healthy, nourishing foods for our customers and ourselves and trying to be the best stewards of our land we can be.”
“The biggest challenges facing small organic farms in New Hampshire,” he states, “ are access to land, labor costs, and capital. I’m hopeful there will be more new farmers who want to embrace organic farming methods in the Northeast. I see a new generation of young farmers who practice alternate models for collaborating and growing healthy foods. I love what the Kearsarge Food Hub is doing to reinvigorate the food systems in our area.”
“Our NOFA-NH membership has given us a way to meet and network with other organic farmers in the state as well as consumers and eaters who care about how their food is produced. NOFA-NH’s education programs and conferences have helped us implement better practices on our farm.”
“Most organic practices are based on working with nature rather than against it to maintain healthy, living soils. Low- and no-till practices keep soils healthy and alive. Minimizing the inputs that are needed means reduced transport and fuel usage. Cover cropping and pasture management helps sequester carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
In addition to being fulltime farmers, both Steve and Dawn find time for other endeavors. Dawn is an accomplished weaver and quilter. Steve has climbed all 48 of the four-thousand-footers in New Hampshire. Steve and Dawn both performed at Symphony Hall in Boston in 1976 as members of a District high school music concert.
“We already generate all our electricity with solar panels,” Steve declares. “Our next dream is to eliminate all fossil fuels from our farm.”
—Interview and Article by Karl Johnson, Board President
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