A few Wednesdays ago I had the opportunity to get out of the office and onto the road as part of our work with the New Hampshire Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which allows us to bring more support and attention to our Upper Valley NH farms. Over the past several weeks, I have been out of the office 4 times to take pictures of various farms in NH and today my path of travel was north on Rte 10 from Lyme to Piermont. Though I stopped at many farms, it is always hard to find the farmers around the house when it is a beautiful sunny day. Many weren’t home or working out back in pastures and fields where visitors could not find them. At my last stop, I was able to run into farmer Mark Robie at Robie Farm in Piermont, NH coming out of the farm store just as I was walking in. He was happy to talk for a few minutes about his family’s farm.
Robie Farm is a small family dairy farm spanning back 6 generations since 1870 on 150 acres of forests and fields along the Conecticut River raising a herd of over 50 mixed Holstien, Jersey, and Normande cattle. These cows graze throughout the pastures during the summer months and then on the hay the family work all summer long to put up. The commitment the Robie’s have to this piece of land is clear. By maintaining fertile pastures through grazing, selling products locally, and passing down knowledge and skill from generation to generation, Robie Farm is well aware of their responsibility to their Connecticut River Valley ecosystem, close-knit family, and UV community.
One of the ways Robie Farm expresses this is by selling raw milk in their farm store and in food stores around the region. Due to the cleanliness of their animals, facilities, and modernization of equipment and technology for extracting and storing the milk, the Robies do not feel the need to alter the natural state of their milk through pasteurization. They are happy to provide a raw, health-giving, and trustworthy product. In addition to milk, the Robies make 5 different kinds of cheeses which are all aged for a minimum of 60 days due to federal regulations around products containing raw milk. In addition to this value-added product, the Robies have experimented with ice cream, yogurt, and whey-fed pigs in order to make the most of this rich resource their cows and land provide.
As mentioned earlier, Robie Farm supplies some of their raw milk to food stores around the Upper Valley and have partnered with many regional farmers to supply beef and pork to many restaurants and food stores throughout the region including the Upper Valley Food Coop, Stella’s, Simon Pierce, Crossroad Farm, and the Colatina Exit to name a few. It was interesting to hear Mark’s perspective of farm to restaurant transactions. It is an intricate web of relationships between farmer, chef, and customer fueled by reputation, consistency, and quality control. Many meat and veggie producers who sell to restaurants face similar challenges balancing and managing all these relationships and factors. Luckily, Robie Farm has a strong community following and strong family participation to help them manage it all but it is also up to us as consumers to continue our support of family farms, restaurants, and food stores who all work to make the Upper Valley a better place to live, work, and play by supplying and sourcing locally grown food.