HOW WE FARM
By Horse and By Hand
Hillside Springs Farm is a small horse-powered CSA farm in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, growing 3 acres and over 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, using only sustainable, organic, and biodynamic farming methods. Hillside Springs Farm is unique in the area for its extended 24-week harvest season, freshly pressed apple cider, and draft horse work.
Hillside Springs Farm is entirely horse- and hand- powered. Our Belgian horses Molly and Moon and black Percheron Ben plow, disc, harrow, spread compost, make beds, and cultivate the garden. They also help put up loose hay and firewood on the farm, keep our pastures nicely grazed, and provide valuable manure for composting. The horses give us the opportunity to have a working partnership with animals that is rare and vital these days. And we greatly enjoy their good company!
Over nearly twenty years of vegetable farming, we have found that being in it for the long haul means both starry-eyed ideals and earth-bound realities. We don’t own a tractor, but our lawn mower, weedeater, chainsaw, and farm truck all have a place next to the scythe, hand saw, and hay wagon on the farm. Our horse-drawn cultivator, hand-hoes, rakes, planting sticks, hand-seeders, and digging forks are in constant use!
Biodynamics, an approach to farming developed by Rudolf Steiner, has been practiced worldwide for over 90 years. Steiner, an Austrian philosopher working in the late 1800s and early 1900s, studied, wrote, and spoke extensively in many fields, including economics, education, medicine, religion, the arts, and farming.
The biodynamic farm is seen as a living organism, connected to both the daily work of organic farming practices and to larger cosmic forces, such as the rhythmic cycles of the sun, moon, and other planets. Careful attention is given to enhancing the life-giving properties of healthy soil, which in turn produces healthy food. Maintaining the farm’s optimal health as a physical and spiritual whole is of prime importance.
We are long-time members of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, and purchase our biodynamic compost and field preparations from the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics, as well as support and participate in the local Waldorf School and community.
Soil health and fertility are at the heart of any farm. Every year, we apply cover crops and ten to twenty tons of farm-made compost per acre to keep farm soils both healthy and productive. We also use row cover, scouting, and certified biodynamic and organic sprays when necessary for bugs or blights. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides are ever used on our fields or our food.
We grow many heirloom varieties of vegetables, including several developed especially for New Hampshire by University of New Hampshire plant breeder Elwyn Meader. We trial new varieties every year, and save seed. We are members of the Seed Savers Exchange and Fedco Seeds Cooperative.
We follow all biodynamic and organic farming practices, though we are not certified. We keep current with research, regulations, and recommendations as members of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, and the Cornucopia Institute.
The ongoing relationship between farmers, CSA members, and the farmland allows us all to understand what's happening on the farm without a third-party certification process. Our farming is "transparent" - i.e., members have the opportunity to observe, ask questions, and even pitch in!
Photo on right thanks to Lindsay Freese