Recently I walked through the Hopewell Farm in Newbury New Hampshire photographing along the way.
Below is an interview with Marc Moran from Hopewell Farm.
When I am landscaping one of the principles of Biodynamic that I find vital for growing in Southern Californina is double digging, prepping the soil and digging at least 24″ for optimal growth. What priniciples of Biodynamic do you find most vital for growing in NH?
Because of the constant cycle of seasons in New England the breakdown of organic matter is far more rapid than it is in semi arid climates. Through the application of carbons to the surface of our orchards, pastures and gardens in the form of shredded leaves, composted manures, wood chips and bark there is constant development of mychorrizhae, as well as an endless supply of nutrients and feed for other soil dwelling creatures that increase soil fertility an tilth. The soil, properly ammended, builds structure for accelerated root development.
How does raising heritage meat relate to Biodynamic Farming?
Heritage livestock are animals that are tied to place- not simply old lines. For example we raise white-face Hereford beef cattle with an emergent lineback stock. These animals are voracious herbivores that are extremely easy to mature and fatten on grass based diet alone- unlike warm weather breeds that require a much higher intake of grains to develop fat. They are also more cold hardy and able to withstand hard Winters because of their large body size and smaller, stockier legs. The mothering instincts provide for a longer nurse- the madre method- giving their calves excellent cape for the first Winter. Animals belong in the climates where they evolved for the maximum productivity possible.
Who do you find influential right now with regards to the process of raising and harvesting meat?
I am an admirer of Joel Salatin’s work as a farmer because he has shown that a superior livestock can be raised through intensive livestock management and species selection/development, rather than through progressive agricultural practices and the application of non-traditional feeding/stocking methods of the past 50 years. You can convert a steer to market weight by feeding it a constant supply of GMO corn and candy bars- yes this practice is acceptable to the USDA- but you cannot raise a healthy animal with the proper mix of nutrients and protein to fat rations unless it eats the type of diet it was designed by nature to digest, i.e. grasses and forbs. By working with your herds daily in moving them to fresh pastures you assure that their diet is the best possible, that they are tempered to human interaction, that they help to fertilize their pastures through rotation. Joel Salatin was the catalyst for our embrace of these practices and we are thankful to him for sharing his methods. We also believe deeply in the philosophy put forth by the Animal Welfare Approved organization- we were the first farm in New Hampshire to bear the appellation of AWA Approved- in both handling, raising and slaughter practices. Our animals are slaughtered on farm for our family and at an AWA Approved USDA licensed facility for our customers. The one we use was designed by Temple Grandin, another giant in the field of humane animal practices.
Your farm is off the grid are there Pros and Cons to this?
Off grid living gives us an opportunity to reduce our dependency on the fragile and costly systems of energy supply. The costs upfront are often cited as the biggest drawback to installation of such set ups, but that kind of thinking is never applied to using a taxi as rather than owning a car, or living in a hotel room rather than buying your own home. Long term dependence on the existing power supply of pubic utilities is far more costly than owning your own means of energy production. We live in one of the coldest climates in the United States and the only source of heat we use is solar thermal- 100% generated on the roof of our home. The biggest drawback is that on very sunny days in Winter you have to open windows because the passive solar gain combined with the radiant system causes the house to get too warm. We supplement our photvoltaic system with a wind turbine and have an ample battery backup system to store energy, however after our day working on the farm, once darkness falls we usually head to bed so nighttime electric usage is minimal.
What are some of things your children are learning by living on a farm?
I think the most important lesson our children have learned living on a self sufficient farm is that you can depend upon your own skills and abilities to solve virtually all of your needs. The era of specialization that has developed in America over the course of the last century has led to a population that can’t feed itself, doesn’t know how to fix their own home or belongings, or even raise their own children without reliance on “professionals”. Once you’ve learned how to plant, harvest, prepare and eat your own meals from the earth you begin to understand the processes associated with virtually any operation. I always include our children in whatever I am doing daily, from cutting timber and slaughtering chickens to building barns and repairing equipment. The level of problem solving required, the use of tools, the constant implementation of mathematics and natural science- all of these lead to a greater understanding of the underlying mechanics of the world we live in. If I were to point to the one thing that our children benefit from the most it is their exposure to the concept of true independence- not the hypothetical freedom used by politicians to motivate voters- but the actual liberty of living your life by your own wits and abilities nd the resulting confidence it builds in their character.
Awards for this farm include in 2012 the New Hampshire Farm of Distinction and as Mother Earth News’ Homesteader of the Year.
this is a quick background on Marc Moran from Hopewell Farm
Marc and Meredith Moran along with their children Matthew, Sarah and Will raise Animal Welfare Approved beef cattle (Chianina and Hereford), sheep (Dorset, Romney and Lincolns) and pigs (Landrace) at Hopewell Farms in Newbury, NH.
In 2008, despite not having any type of farming background, Marc and Meredith successfully started Hopewell Farms. Marc, who previously ran an internet finance company found farming to be much easier than he imagined. Marc says, “We thought it would be grueling. I wish I did it 10 years ago. The rewards outweigh the labors. I’m glad we read up and didn’t get caught up in the monoculture and government sponsored agriculture.”
The Morans are most proud that they are able to raise animals as close to their natural environment as possible. They live outdoors in 40 acres of mature maple trees. They eat what they’re supposed to, live outdoors and they thrive. Marc and Meredith are also very proud of the health of their grass and soil. The farm had been neglected when they first purchased it, but they’re convinced that their beautiful pastures are the result ofrotational grazing and always keeping their animals on the move.
Hopewell Farms decided to become Animal Welfare Approved because they wanted to have a way to legitimize what they thought were the besthusbandry practices by having AWA come out and certify the farm. Marc says, “AWA helps to refine the intuitive part of farming and helps consumers see that AWA farmers truly care about the lives of their animals.” Marc went on to say, “We’re honored that we passed the AWA audit. The woman who visited the farm was really, really good at what she did. She wasn’t just looking at a checklist. She looked at the whole picture. Everyone at AWA has been great to work with.”
“It’s an honor to be the first Animal Welfare Approved farmer in New Hampshire,” says Marc. “NH has some really fantastic farmers that are doing great things. We really appreciate the work that Animal Welfare Approved is doing.”
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