Crows' Feat Community Farm

Karen Parker Feld and Peter Freeman are going back to their roots in agriculture, and are taking Crows’ Feat back to its roots as a working farm.  Karen “knows” all about farming from an altitude of 30,000 feet, having earned a Ph.D. from the Food Research Institute at Stanford. She became interested in agridulture from her studies of the farming practices associated with an improved variety of beans in Nigeria. What she found surprised her, and the scientists at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan. It’s not enough to have a seed that performs brilliantly under controlled conditions – as a sole crop, sustained with heavy application of fertilizers and pesticides. Rather, one must look at the entirety of the farming system – the interaction between crops in the field, the cost and availability of key inputs, and the uses of farming residue – in order to determine what constitutes an improvement in the eyes and lives of farmers. Karen came to understand the meaning of permaculture, without having ever heard the term.

The challenge of providing sufficient and nourishing food for our society has assumed new urgency as a result of climate change, especially the widening drought and loss of topsoil that are ravaging the agricultural heartlands of California and the rural Midwest (her home ground). Karen believes that the sustainable cultivation of arable lands in the eastern and northern United States is vitally important to the survival of our people and communities. It is upon that belief that she and Peter are restoring these lands as a regenerative farm. Her hope is is to take her 30,000 foot knowledge right down to the ground, creating a space for collaboration and cooperation among farmers who can sustain our soils and our souls.

Peter is a self-taught and talented carpenter, builder and mechanic. As a dyslexic boy who struggled to read – at a time when educators had little understanding of the condition, and even fewer ways to navigate its challenges – Peter became adept at learning through careful observation and practice. He turned his dyslexia to his advantage, becoming more attentive and adept in seeking and overcoming challenges than most people. He started his own construction business at the age of 25, and managed it successfully for 30 years. Along the way he built a loyal clientele who appreciate his skill, integrity, and craftsmanship. As Karen is proud of saying, everyone loves Peter. He has a knack for making friends and building trust – along with just about anything else!

A talented photographer, lover of nature, and someone who chafes at being indoors, it’s been Peter’s lifelong dream to become a farmer. It is a dream that he and Karen are fulfilling together with the cultivation of Crows’ Feat Farm and the community it nurtures.

The dandelion project

Linh Aven is both a biologist and a chef. Her love of learning has taken her from observing ladybugs as a child growing up in southern California, to a Biology degree at Whitworth in Spokane, WA.  She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine at Boston University, then joined a biotech start-up. Feeling called to nurture those around her through food, she took off her lab coat and put on an apron.  Linh stepped into non-profit catering, baking from-scratch croissants at a French bakery, then product development as the Executive Chef of the healthy fast-casual restaurant B.Good…and is now full-circle back to watching ladybugs! These beautiful insects are one part of a more holistic and complete ecosystem at Crows’ Feat Farm.

Linh’s experience in food service gave her a broader understanding of how we eat: large-scale agriculture, lengthy distribution chains, and a lot of waste. This led her to think there has got to be a better way! Inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s book, One Straw Revolution, she found herself reading deeply about permaculture, agroforestry, and holistic practices. All point towards a return to ancient and indigenous ways of growing food. 

Linh started to understand that, somewhere in our striving towards innovation and efficiency in food production, important knowledge was lost. Things like dandelions, which we all think of as weeds, are actually edible from root to flower. She thought, what if a farm focused on growing foods that grew as well as weeds? What if that farm also focused on perennial crops that only need to be planted once yet harvested over many years? Crops like chestnuts, hazelnuts, elderberries, herbs, and so many more! 

The Dandelion Project is a journey into the world of edible perennial crops, rebuilding soil health, and sharing abundance. Linh’s drive is to apply her systems-thinking and scientific approach to support a better quality of life for our communities. She is focused on strengthening local food networks while creating natural habitats. With the Dandelion Project at Crows’ Feat Farm, she will explore the culinary possibilities of edible perennials that naturally grow well in the New Hampshire Seacoast. When you visit, you’ll likely find her in a berry patch, hands deep into the soil, marveling at the insects and plants all around.

 

Merryman's Fine foods

Chris Hitzel and Sean Merryman are lifelong friends from the Hudson Valley of New York. They grew up in Marlboro, a small apple town consumed by industrial agriculture in a region of eutrophied lakes and the mighty-but-dirty Hudson River. Everywhere they looked they saw beauty and everywhere they looked they saw a threat to that beauty.

Sean has a background as a horticulturist and arborist. He has always had an interest in farming and food independence. Six years ago he became highly focused on sustainable agriculture. Chris has a background in the energy and software industries. He has always been drawn to the outdoors and living systems.
 
Both feel frustrated with the disconnected, nutrient-poor, and unsustainable path the American food system seems to be marching down. They have joined forces to combine environmental and ecosystem science with engineering rigor in hopes of contributing to solving this problem.
 
Merryman’s Fine Foods is building a bio-intensive, no dig, market garden, focusing on nutrient-dense foods and soil health. Growing a variety of annual vegetables and a few perennial herbs, Merryman’s hopes to feed the local community and prove that sustainable practices can provide more value and more nutrition than industrial agriculture, while still competing on cost.
 
Chris and Sean believe that localized production and short supply chains lead to greater community autonomy, smaller environmental footprints, and healthier living (both physically and spiritually), and they believe that Crow’s Feat Farm is the perfect place to begin making this much needed change.

Capricorn Rising Ranch

Elizabeth Haskett and Julia Weiner are the proprietors Capricorn Rising Ranch, a small livestock operation at Crows Feat Farm. Both are recent transplants to New Hampshire, having spent the last 12 years living in Brooklyn, NY. After owning and operating a successful bar and restaurant from 2011 until 2016, and then transitioning to the world of urban agriculture and biodynamic farming, Elizabeth and Julia decided it was time to leave the city and live a more sustainable life closer to Nature, and closer to their true values. As co-owners of Capricorn Rising Ranch, Elizabeth and Julia will be integrating chickens, ducks, goats and more into the larger farming operations — producing eggs, milk, cheeses and meat while helping to build resilient, dynamic and regenerative systems at Crow’s Feat.

  Elizabeth, a California native, has worked with food most of her career — in restaurants, food co-ops, farmers markets and in agriculture. Her first introduction to farming was as a WWOOFer  on a small organic farm in Maui, Hawaii in 2006. After her five years as Executive Chef at their bar and restaurant, Elizabeth attended a one-year intensive urban farming program in New York City, and then worked for two seasons on a two-acre biodynamic farm on Long Island. There she was able to follow her natural impulse to care for animals, when she fell in love with her first flock of chickens. Elizabeth is also an astrologer and strives to be in Right Relationship with the natural cycles of Nature above all else. She has been a lifelong student of the stars and strives to serve as a bridge between the Earth and the Cosmos. She has a passion for tracking cycles and patterns using our natural time-keepers, the planets. After being in the city for so long, she is excited to be able to see the stars again, walk barefoot and reconnect with Mama Earth.
 

Julia was born in Connecticut, and has lived in Western Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon, in addition to New York and now New Hampshire. She received her BA from UMass Amherst in 2006, double-majoring in Women & Gender Studies and Social Thought & Political Economy. She is a singer-songwriter, an avid home chef and a lover of animals. From 2011-2016 she ran the front-of-house for her and Elizabeth’s bar and restaurant, which became a vital neighborhood gathering spot for so many in the community. Recently she was ordained as an Interfaith/Interspiritual minister with the One Spirit Class of 2020. Julia has always been interested in life and death cycles, and the sacredness of all the interactions we have in our lives, and the Spirituality of Nature. Since childhood she always felt a sense of alienation due to the unsustainability of how we live our lives and build our modern societies, and that the antidote to that disconnection is slowing down and connecting with ourselves, each other, the animals, the plants, the land, and the whole Universe. Some of Julia’s skills include deep listening and empathy, which she is very much looking forward to utilizing to their fullest extent with Capricorn Rising Ranch.

Hungry Heart Farm

Terry O’Brien is the owner of Hungry Heart Farm, a small, diversified, culinary-focused vegetable farm in Kingston, NH. Originally from New Jersey, Terry made his way to New England to work for his wife’s family’s farm, Canaan Farm in Wenham, MA. Terry was impressed with the extensive local food community that existed in both the North Shore and Seacoast regions, and spent the next 4 years honing his skills at Heron Pond Farm before starting his own. 

Terry is passionate about building healthy soils, growing quality food, and transforming that food into healthy and delicious meals and other products. Terry hopes to introduce and encourage more local food, especially vegetables, into people’s homes. He also hopes to show people the environmental implications of their food choices, and how eating local food can minimize your impact on the environment.

SOkoki Falls Farm

Jordan Keating is partnering with Crows’ Feat Farm to develop a fruit and nut tree orchard, which will feature chestnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pawpaw, persimmons and peaches.  The orchard will be planted on terraces that follow the natural contours of Rolling Ridge, supported by swales to gather rainwater and promote soil fertility. 

Jordan and his wife Marina manage Sokoki Falls Farm, a homestead, nursery, ecological landscaping service, and budding forest garden nestled in southeastern Vermont. They believe that perennial food, medicine, and indigenous resource crops are the key to a verdant future. Theyt use no chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and their farm is almost entirely human powered.

Jordan is a passionate ecologist, forager, and farmer with deep roots in New England. He received a B.A. in Regenerative Agriculture and Food Systems from Sterling College.