Horse Power on the Farm
Hillside Springs Farm is a horse-powered vegetable farm. With three draft horses, one kitty, and two and a half farmers -- my spouse, myself and our college-aged daughter -- we are kept busy with our pastures and hayfields, an apple orchard, 8000 square feet of greenhouse space, and two acres of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
When I was in my early twenties, I discovered that I loved growing vegetables. After working on several vegetable farms in the Northeast, and still in my idealistic stage of life, I thought if I'm going to farm I'm going to do it with horses! I spent another year learning on a place in the Catskills that offered work in the fields with draft horses.
The next step was to find a farm. My spouse and I had to decide early on whether we wanted a postage stamp size property that would only be about growing vegetables, or we wanted to have horses powering the farm. Working with horses would mean having pastures and hayfields, a barn for stalls and hay storage, and horse machinery. It also meant we would think about our garden plans differently.
We chose horses, and were lucky to find an old farm with good possibilities for garden and pasture land, as well as a barn. Over the years, we found our horse-drawn equipment at auctions and in our neighbor's hedgerows. We cleared the overgrown fields for pasture, and started making hay with the horses. We also started our compost yard, which certainly benefited from all the horse manure.
In the garden, we laid out 400 foot beds, because it meant the horses had a long straight stretch to work, and we needed less headland to turn around. But it didn't take us long to realize that 400 foot long beds were completely daunting to a weeding farmer with a hoe! The next year we divided our garden in half, making 200 foot beds, and grass pathways. The horses didn't mind at all, and the weeding was a lot more inviting.
Slowly, over the last 18 years, we have turned this overgrown place into a farm. Our decisions were based both on the horses and the farm fitting together, and on being able to work together full-time on the farm as a family. Although farming comes with many challenges, from wild weather to marketing and everything in between, it is wonderful to be solidly grounded, and to be able to farm in a way that prioritizes healthy and holistic cycles of soil, water, air, plant, animal, and human life.
Hillside Springs Farm is a horse-powered Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Westmoreland, NH growing 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers using only sustainable, organic, and biodynamic farming methods. Produce is sold at the Farmers' Market of Keene and CSA SNAP shares are available at 50% off when you use your EBT card.
Written by: Frank Hunter
CCCD Associate Board Member
Farmer at Hillside Springs Farm