Live Free Farm is on a well known plot of land on the Winnicut River. It’s hard not to be floored by the sheer mythology of the place and its buildings. Its red barn is almost certainly a century old, and the house even older. People have been working this land for 300 years. It has been a jumping off point for an astounding number of farmers in the area. However, to try and tell all their stories right now would take away from the couple for whom this article is written.
Maddie and Tim are the owners of Live Free Farm. Before visiting Live Free, I met them at their apartment in Exeter. Their 8 month old baby Violet was squiggling on the floor. It’s hard to imagine how to pump out enough energy to keep up with such a bright eyed deity living in their midst. And yet, they have energy to spare, enough to start their first year as independent farmers. Tim gathers up Violet, and we take our cars a few miles out of town to the farm.
The farm itself is flat and giving. It’s not enormous, but it is picturesque with its towering red barn. It seems perfect for two new farmers. Maddie and Tim take me through on a tour of the barn. It feels so old and worn you’d think it had its own memories. Time hasn’t been kind to parts of the exterior, but a string of handy owners have kept the inner body strong and lasting. Imagining the animals and people who have tread these same floorboards stirs up a deep feeling of appreciation.
Maddie tells me that this barn was used to host the wedding of a good friend the summer before. The history of surrounding this place seem to pull community stories together. Local people, local farmers, and so many today have had a relationship with this farm. Many farmers started out their own independent farms on this land – New Roots, Meadows Mirth, Heron Pond – before moving on to something bigger. The place is fully equipped with storage, a sweet farm store, and plenty of manageable land.
We end up in the greenhouse, three adults standing around a little baby and rows of seedlings. Violet chortles and wiggles on a blanket, while Maddie starts to explain her own history with farming.
“I was initially interested in medicinal herbs five or six years ago, and I looked into WOOFing also – just as something to do to see the world. And I’ve always been interested in healthy living and everything. It was through the WOOFing catalogue that I learned that farms did internships.”
She applied for an internship in New Mexico, and one locally as a part time worker at Willow Pond Farm with Kate Donald. Kate, now the owner of Stout Oak, almost hired her.
“But I met Tim, and I fell in love with him and he was moving to Connecticut.”
So she started looking for internships in Connecticut. She describes how she found her first farming job at Woodbridge Farm in Salem, CT. Maddie tells me about the biodynamic, organic full season internship she had at Woodbridge that led into jobs for the next several summers. When she and Tim returned to the Seacoast she immersed herself in the local food community. This time when she applied to work for Kate at Stout Oak she was hired and worked for two full seasons.
Maddie has a real history with working as a farmer. Tim, a hard worker in his own right, has a much less farm specific history.
“Maddie was my introduction into farming.” Tim shrugs happily. “I’ve always had an interest in nature, the way systems work together, that kind of thing. But, before that I wasn’t into it [farming].”
Tim says while Maddie was busy farming the work didn’t interest him, the results always did. He was introduced to the difference between supermarket produce and veggies pulled fresh from the ground. Tim admits he didn’t really think about food or where it came from before he met Maddie. When he finally experienced what the farmers had to offer, he couldn’t really go back.
“He used to say he didn’t want to be a farmer.” Maddie interjects, laughing. “He liked it, but he didn’t want to be a farmer. But now he does.”
Tim takes to farming so seamlessly that you would never guess he had any less experience than Maddie. He doubles as marketing the person behind their facebook page. It’s hard not to notice how enamored he is with nature and the farm life. Tim is the one who told me about the history of the farm, the barn, and the surrounding area.
Little green shoots poke out of the planters on the tables around us. They are a peek into the year ahead. Maddie and Tim have a five person CSA planned, along with their farm store and local markets. The hope is this year will produce greens, veggies, and ultimately a successful new adventure for two passionate young farmers.
It’s exciting to start my farm interviews with such an energetic and optimistic young couple. Admittedly, there is an unbalance in the local farm movement, and we’re on the brink of having too many farms and not enough consumers. The generation that Maddie, Tim, and I are all a part of comes with a weight and responsibility to fix things for ourselves. But, in this greenhouse, with a smiling baby and a lot of living things, anything seems possible. It’s nice to know that we’re in this together.
Please support and visit Live Free Farm this season. You can find their farm store active during the growing season at 3 Barker Lane in Stratham, NH. Also, please follow them on Facebook for more information and updates!