December Community Member Spotlight: Gentile Family Homestead
Tucked away in Fitzwilliam, NH, the Gentile Family Homestead, a 24-acre gem of sustainable open pasture and hayfields is producing heritage breed livestock and farming for a promising future for us all!
Both growing up on the seacoast, Amy and Brian Gentile were raised with a love of farming. The Gentile’s spent much of their childhood in agricultural settings. Brian spent his childhood summers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, working on his uncle’s cattle farm. Summers on the farm were a highlight for Brian, where he learned many different aspects of farming. These childhood experiences shaped a life-long love of farm machinery.
Amy’s father was raised on a farm and continued raising livestock on a small scale throughout her childhood. She grew up alongside flocks of laying hens, and at times pigs, steers, and goats for production. These fond memories sparked Amy’s enthusiasm for farming from a young age.
When the Gentile’s purchased their first home on a small cul-de-sac lot, they were quick to add a small chicken coop and raised garden beds. When the couple’s first son was born in 2012, they became more concerned with the quality of foods they were consuming and made the decision to purchase locally grown foods.
The Gentile’s began to frequent local farms and developed relationships with the farmers growing their foods. They joined local CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and utilized cooperative buying groups for food staples that they were unable to purchase locally.
When the Gentile’s relocated to the Monadnock Region in 2014 for a new job, it was time to expand their passion for farming. Amy and Brian decided to purchase the 24-acre property in Fitzwilliam and begin their farming adventure, and named their farm “The Gentile Family Homestead”.
Brian and Amy sit on a stonewall on their farm. Image Credit: The Gentiles
In addition to farming, Brian works full time as an Operations Manager for a Mechanical Contracting Company in Boston. Amy received a master’s degree in School Counseling but follows her farming passion full time and runs the day-to-day operations of the farm.
The Gentile Family Homestead is a small pasture-based beef and pork operation, selling meat from animals born and raised on their farm, direct to community members. The Gentile’s offer registered breeding stock as well as quality feeder piglets and steers for community members who are interested in raising their own animals for production.
The Gentile Family Homestead also offered eggs for sale, and occasional poultry. The family mainly focuses on heritage breed livestock, they note,
“We’ve found these traditional breeds to be hardy and well-adapted to both our farming practices and the sometimes harsh New England weather. We are passionate about the animals we raise and thus the majority of our breeding stock are registered with their respective breed associations, so that we can also contribute to the preservation of these important breeds”.
Quality is key for the Gentile Family Homestead, they currently produce the following breeds, “Eggs, roasting birds, and chicks come from our flock of Delaware hens, we keep Bourbon Red turkeys for both freezer and for poults, British White cattle for beef and breed stock, and perhaps most notably, our group of Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs. A threatened heritage breed, our Gloucestershire Old Spots have made many public appearances over the years”.
Most recently, the Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs traveled to Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH where they spent a week on display at the museum for the “Baby Animals: Heritage Breeds at the Banke” event.
One of the Gentile's son sits with pigs in the barn. Image Credit: The Gentiles
In addition to beautiful and healthy livestock, the Gentile’s grow and bale most of their own hay. To ensure healthy soils, they rotationally graze cattle and capture and spread manure onto their fields. Leftover fruits, vegetables, and raw milk are fed to the farm’s pigs and chicken or composted to minimize food waste. The farm is truly a self-sustaining system, and the Gentile’s have been mindful to design it as such.
In addition to striving to be as sustainable as possible, the Gentile’s also strive to mitigate and adapt to climate change within their operation. The Gentile’s began working with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) this summer when they learned about the Cheshire County Conservation Direct (CCCD).
After signing up for the CCCD newsletter, the couple learned about the first round of the NH Conservation Districts Climate Resilience Grant.
The mission of the NH Conservation Districts Climate Resilience Grant is to support and empower local farmers to build climate resilience throughout the Granite State. This will be done through reducing the impact of agriculture on climate change (mitigation) through greenhouse gas emissions reduction and carbon sequestration, and through increasing the resiliency of New Hampshire Farms in a changing climate (adaptation), while meeting farm’s conservation goals and needs. Extreme weather events, frequent and prolonged droughts, and increased pest pressures are increasing challenges for NH farms. This grant program, through the NH County Conservation Districts, seeks to support farmers in meeting those challenges.
Cows on pasture. Image Credit: The Gentiles
When the Gentile’s learned about the opportunity, they knew it would be the perfect fit for their farm. Through the grant, they received funding this fall to install an automatic livestock watering system in the common area of their three season rotational grazing paddocks. They noted, “We very much look forward to adding our new cattle watering system to reduce water consumption here on the farm”.
The couple noted that the project will allow them to provide fresh water efficiently and effectively to their herd of 25 cattle, while also conserving available water. This conservation will be done by limiting the amount of waste which can occur while dumping and cleaning stock tanks on the farm.
Climate scientists and the University of New Hampshire released the NH Climate Assessment Report in 2021. The report notes the impacts of climate change on the Granite State, and cautions that New Hampshire has become increasingly warmer and wetter since the 1970s.
The report states that by the year 2100 most of New Hampshire could expect 50 to 60 days a year to be above 90°F unless steps are taken to lower emissions and control the amount of heat-trapping, or greenhouse, gas emitted, in which case the number of days could be cut in half.
Now more than ever, programs like the NH Conservation Districts Climate Resilience Grant are crucial for supporting the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions, and to support farmers impacted by climate change.
The Gentile’s have also noticed the impacts of climate change on their farm, they shared,
“Like most folks in the area, our farm has also been impacted by climate change. In recent years, our property has been challenged by increased instances of drought and we have had to prioritize our water usage. This summer we hired a local well company to deepen our well to gain more access to groundwater on our property, but with large numbers of livestock, water usage is still a concern. The drought this past year also significantly slowed growth in our hayfield”.
Farm field at the Gentile Family Homestead. Image Credit: The Gentiles
The grant is an exciting opportunity for them to greatly conserve their water, especially in years of drought, which will likely become more common as climate change continues to impact our region.
With wet seasons, dry seasons, and a constant stream of work, it could be easy to lose motivation, but this is not the case for the Gentile’s. They note that their sons, aged 13 and 10 motivate and inspire their work.
On their sons, they note,
“...they’re the reason we first began homesteading and now they’re also hands-on, helping us in a really big way with almost every project we tackle here. It’s been heartwarming to see them develop into enthusiastic stewards of our livestock. In addition to the poultry, pigs, and beef cattle we raise, the boys also train and show 4H Working Steers, so there’s always a team or two of oxen (or oxen-in-training) here on the farm, which is pretty neat! For us, farming is truly a family endeavor, together we share in the joys and have one another for support during the difficult times”.
With winter approaching, the Gentile’s share that they are already looking forward to Spring, they explain,
“Spring brings lots of new life on the farm, we’re always excited to welcome litters of piglets and to witness the birth of new calves. In addition to the new automatic livestock watering system, 2023 will hopefully bring the addition of a small, onsite farm store as well as some new permanent fencing to make our rotational pasturing a bit easier on the humans”.
Cows graze in woodlands. Image Credit: The Gentiles
Community members can follow along with the Gentile’s farm adventures on their Facebook page: “Gentile Family Homestead”.
Until the farm store is up and running, you can reach out to Amy via text/phone 603-973-3418, or email GentileFamilyHomestead@gmail.com for information on meat or livestock purchases.
Interested in Applying for the NH Conservation Districts Climate Resilience Grant Program? Applications are due February 1, 2023!
An optional zoom informational session for interested applicants will be held on Monday, January 9, 2023 at 6:00PM. Registration Required: https://NHClimateGrant.eventbrite.com
Interested in applying? Contact your local conservation district for more information, or visit their website to view the full Request for Proposals and Application. Interested Cheshire County Applicants can apply here!