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Meet Our Members | October 2023

Name: Chuck Cox

Business: Tuckaway Farm

chuck tuckaway.jpg

There are only a few NOFA-NH members who have been in it from the beginning, and fewer still who have dedicated their lives to the principles of our organization more than Chuck Cox – including serving as an early Board president.

“I grew up on a farm,” Chuck recalls, “so I've always had my hands in the dirt and worked with animals. I worked for a local farmer one summer when I was at the Quaker Meeting School in Rindge, New Hampshire. He still farmed with horses, and he let me drive his team. It sparked an interest in sustainable farming that has stayed with me all my life.”

After high school, Chuck attended the Cornell University School of Agriculture. While there, he took a year off to apprentice with Justin Brande, a pioneering organic farmer from Middlebury, Vermont. He also began relationships with the Soil Association and Rodale.

“It was a time when my interests were in homesteading and alternative lifestyles,” Chuck relates. “I was living in a yurt at Cornell and was introduced to the Soil Association out of England and the Holly Experiment. Holly did a long-term study on conventional animal agriculture versus organic animal agriculture and one with no livestock. They kept meticulous records of the yields and health of everything. I learned a lot from that study.”

After graduation and getting married, Chuck and his wife, Laurel, worked at Camphill Village in Copake, New York, after which he returned to the Quaker Meeting School as farm manager. After five years there and their first two children, he and Laurel had the opportunity to live at Chuck’s family farm in Plaistow, New Hampshire, running an organic market garden, PYO strawberries, raising hay, and doing custom rototilling.

During that time, they purchased land in Lee that would become Tuckaway Farm. They were excited by the diversity of the landscape and its proximity to UNH. There were no buildings on their original acreage when they moved there in 1982, so they built out the farm and homestead themselves as they raised their growing family of four children. Some of the farm’s favorite crops are still harvested from the first perennial plantings of high bush blueberries, asparagus and rhubarb.

Over the next 40 years, the farm grew to just under 300 acres, which the family stewards with the protection of conservation easements held by the Town of Lee and the Forest Society. “My neighbor decided to sell his land,” Chuck recalls. “It was prime for development, and we didn't want that. So with great work from Laurel and with our eldest son, Dorn, and his wife, Sarah, committing to the future of the farm, we were able to put conservation easements on the land to keep it in agriculture.”

Along with Dorn and Sarah continuing to grow the farm, Chuck’s daughter, Annalisa, and son-in-law, Joel, launched the CSA at Tuckaway. They farmed there for five years before creating their own Wild Miller Farm in Palermo, Maine.

The family works together raising hay, mixed vegetables, grains and blueberries. They have a specialty focus on culinary grains, including milling their own cornmeal and partnering with a local tortilla company, Vida Tortilla. They also work with another organic grower, Granite Grains Farm in Amherst, NH, to mill flour. Their market outlets include their on-site farm store and CSA, other local farm stands and retail outlets, Three River Farmers Alliance distribution, and strong relationships with Seacoast Chefs.

Chuck has phased out of draft horse work, but continues to enjoy the annual DAPNET draft horse gatherings. The family collaborates on grazing management, rotating poultry and a flock of 100 sheep.

“The hens provide eggs, and the sheep keep the land clear, fertile, and provide meat,” Chuck explains. “The farm has three high tunnels for vegetables, and one is used for the chickens during winter. We also harvest firewood and produce maple syrup in the woodland.”

The family emphasizes community and cooperation in agriculture over competition, and seeks to build mutually beneficial partnerships with other growers and producers that help share and best steward the land. Examples of what they call “enterprise partnerships” over the years have included hosting beekeepers, mushroom growers, wildlife and foraging educators, seed saving workshops, field dinners, and community gardeners.

Under Dorn and Sarah’s stewardship, the farm now includes a community center with space available for mission-related workshops, meetings and staff retreats, as well as being the home base for local food advocacy organization Seacoast Eat Local.

“Our ongoing mission at Tuckaway Farm,” Chuck states, “is to support a regenerative energy and food system by practicing agriculture that builds healthy soil, habitat and community. Our operations have changed some over the years, but our commitment to sustainable organic farming has been constant.”

Now at 79 years old, Chuck is as passionate as ever about organic farming. “Organic farming is important because it focuses on sustainability, recycling, community involvement, and diversity in farming. Organic farmers are involved in environmental changes. Farming in New England has traditionally meant small farms. Farmers need to share their successes and failures and social lives.”

“The future for small organic farms and businesses is not going to be easy, but there are many passionate young people involved. The greatest challenges they face are availability of land, taxes, markets and local zoning regulation.”

Chuck believes that small organic farmers can contribute toward environmental change by building soils rather than depleting them. “Small farms are recycling, using fewer fossil fuels, and helping people eat locally and seasonally,” he adds. “They’re caring for the land and providing the community with good food.”

One of Chuck’s favorite activities is getting people together. He hopes people can learn to work in cooperation – not competition.

“NOFA-NH has had a big influence on the whole acceptance of organics and the importance of caring for the earth and sustainability by educating the public, holding events, and bringing farmers together socially.”

“I love being a farmer,” Chuck proclaims. “Farming is not clean, easy work. Your hands get dirty, and you get cold and tired; but there are great rewards. It’s being connected to the land and being productive. It’s problem solving and learning new things.”

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