What a pleasure to introduce Edgewater Farm, honored this year by Vital Communities for its contributions over the past 45 years to the vitality of the Upper Valley. If it’s possible to have a crush on a farm, I have one.
Edgewater is truly one of the great farms of the Upper Valley. Not because of its size, which by acreage alone is modest, but because of the people who own and work the farm, who are also modest – who have exercised humility, hard work, good humor and intelligence – to grow the farm into the remarkably diverse and beautiful enterprise it is. Farm founders Pooh and Anne Sprague, business partner Mike Harrington, and business partners/children Ray Sprague, Sarah Sprague Houde, and Ray’s wife Jenny Sprague, are but the tip of the iceberg of the human ecosystem that is Edgewater. Observe the farm from the inside long enough and you will meet four generations of family members, a remarkably loyal seasonal staff including greenhouse workers like Cricket who’s been showing up for 30 years and seasonal field workers like Roy, who first came to the farm from Jamaica in 2002. You’ll meet a farm stand staff of neighbors, friends, and extended family that literally grew up on the farm. Finally, Edgewater’s loyal customers who come in great numbers, sometimes traveling far out of their way to pick berries, buy annuals and perennials or visit the farm stand for produce, plants and prepared foods straight from the farm.
If that’s not vitality, what is?
At the heart of every great family farm is a love story, at least one, probably many. Pooh and Anne first met when they were teenagers hanging out together with their show animals in barns at county fairs. Who knows what really went on in the barn? They both grew up on dairy farms, Pooh on a hill farm in Hillsboro and Anne just down River Road on her family’s valley farm, McNamara Dairy. They graduated from UNH, got married and settled back in Plainfield. In 1974 Stan Colby’s farm came up for sale. They jumped in, and haven’t looked back. In addition to being an early adopter of green house agriculture, Edgewater has accomplished an impressive array of projects from summer and fall CSAs and strong relationships with area coops and restaurants, to a solar installation, cool storage barn for root crops, and professional kitchen in the farm stand for prepared foods.
Edgewater embodies the qualities that make our family farms so vital to the beauty and good health of our region. Edgewater contributes to regional food security; provides jobs and skill development; and offer generous contributions of food to Willing Hands for distribution to families in need. The owners model the hard work and team play they expect from their staff. Together they are also working through the challenging process of passing along a complex farm operation to the next generation.
I asked several farmers I know what it is about Edgewater that stands out in their minds and generosity was what came up. Edgewater has helped cultivate a spirit of collaboration among Upper Valley farmers that’s needed more than ever to meet the challenges of farming now and in the future.