THE MONADNOCK AGRICULTURAL CENTER, LLC WAS ESTABLISHED IN 2017 to purchase Maple Homestead Farm, the first of several potential farm acquisitions in the region. The center is NEFA’s first in New Hampshire. New housing is coming soon, with our first visitor-cottage in place and ready for the season.
Our brochure, below, takes an in-depth look at the Center today and our plans for the future (full-screen viewing recommended):
The Center’s vision is to create a community with independent farm operations that collaborate when and as it is appropriate for them to do so. We want to bring together social, financial, and environmental or “natural” capital, using community-based approaches that create farmland and farmhouse security, equity, and legacy.
Following NEFA’s model of “forever farms” will help us to break the cycle of farm loss during inter-generational and other transitions to develop a community-focused approach to owning and leasing farm assets. On the lower fields, we plan limited development with several small green-design houses around a restorative agricultural landscape. Bridging the two farm areas is diversified farming, a center for our agroecology work, Tisané’s herb and food farming, plus artist residencies in four-season farm cabins, the Carriage Barn and Farmhouse. We can research and learn from our agroecology work and share that research with the broader organic community.
Meet the Farmers
Hilltop Bottom Farm – Karl and Jennifer Comeau purchased the hay business and cattle from retiring farmer and previous owner of Maple Homestead Farm- Hank Kenney. Hay grows on 42 acres at Monadnock Agricultural Center, with an additional 160 acres of field leased from multiple neighboring landowners.
Hilltop Bottom Farm grows about 200 acres of hay and pasture, and sell hay, raw milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, meat, and eggs.
They hope to not only pick up where Maple Homestead left off, but also create sustainable practices which will build soil health. Plans for the future include managing the farmland holistically by making the micro dairy more efficient, and planting more food such as pick your own fruit and large scale vegetable production.
Maple Sugaring at MAC – Ryan Lavigne, his wife Martha, and their boys Eli and Noah are taking over the maple sugaring operation at MAC to keep a family tradition alive. As a child Ryan made maple syrup in the family sugar house with his grandfather, John Woodbury of Keene, over on Old Concord Road. Ryan’s sugaring operation will create an environment that brings the community together by teaching the process, creating and sharing memories in the warmth of the sugar house, and indulging in the sweet taste of pure New Hampshire maple syrup and other maple products. If you see smoke and steam coming from the sugar house in the Spring season, please stop by for a visit.
Artist Residencies – With its studio space, MAC is unique among NEFA’s agricultural centers, offering an idyllic setting for making and viewing art. We’ll be offering this space to artists whose work is thematically and materially relevant to our place in the environment, and how to preserve it for the future. Our artists and viewing spaces will be an integral part of the community we are creating at MAC.
AGROECOLOGY AT MAC
Ecologist Jeffry Littleton of Moosewood Ecological LLC (MELLC) is completing an ecological inventory of the farm. Jeff’s work will align sustainable land uses and ecological components of the property with its surrounding landscape. His work with natural systems supports biological diversity and sustainable land use, through which he does educational outreach on applied ecology.
Maple Homestead Farm is a piece of history nestled between Mount Monadnock and Spectacle Pond in the Town of Marlborough, New Hampshire. Established in 1770, its farmhouse remains standing to this day, having changed with the times. The town relocated Marlborough’s first schoolhouse to the farm in the early 1900’s. For more than a century after, the old farmhouse served as a carriage house, with a root cellar established below to store the farm’s potatoes. Today, the old farmhouse is now a two-bedroom apartment that houses a combined sculpture and tractor shop.
The farm’s previous owner, Hank Kenney, purchased the farm in 1972 to start a 70-cow dairy operation, a business that he ran for more than two decades. Eventually Hank turned his focus to maple syrup and hay, selling to farm outlet stores and stables. Hank also kept Dutch Belted Galloway cattle for clearing pastures and breeding them for sale. Hank capitalized on the farm’s prime views of the iconic Mount Monadnock, offering a stunning wedding venue for local couples. In 1998, Maple Homestead received the highest farm honor in the state as a New Hampshire Farm of Distinction.
The Monadnock Agricultural Center is building on the work that Hank Kenney completed over the years. Farming at Maple Homestead Farm will continue to focus on haymaking, maple sugaring, livestock and poultry, with some fruits and vegetables planned as well.
The NEFA Model
In brief: NEFA saves working farms by setting up Limited Liability Companies of investors interested in preserving our local agricultural systems and bringing together farmers who, with long-term renewable leases to rely on, can keep farmland producing fresh, local food. The fair and equitable returns on investment to each, and to the larger community, include:
- Perpetually conserved and actively farmed organic and biodynamic land
- Farm restoration and preservation at sustainable “mid-scale” levels
- Farm infrastructure and farmer homes
- Abundant, fresh, local food and herbs
- Secure 30-year, renewable “ground leases” for our farmer-lessees
- Financial capital preservation with 2%-4% appreciation
- On-farm experiences, such as farm stays, workshops and more
At present, the Monadnock Agricultural Center has one lead equity investment of $150,000 and bridge loans of $550,000 committed. NEFA is starting to raise another $500,000 in equity investments to complete the purchase, and about $250,000 to make initial renovations and buy much of Hank’s equipment.
Due to both Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and our organizational values, we have a very specific process for finding new investors. Without a dealer-broker license, we cannot advertise for investors. Instead we work with people with whom we have a “prior relationship,” or create one prior to discussing the investment opportunity. We do so through word of mouth, personal meetings, farm visits, or other direct discussions. This allows both NEFA and interested parties to determine if their values and interests align.
Once a “prior relationship” has been established and the party states that they would like to know about how an investment might work, pertinent conversations can begin. After years of working to acquire this locally important farm, we are now seeking meetings with people interested in learning more about NEFA’s methods.