The tour was conducted in two groups, one led by Farm Manager, Will DeWitte and one by County Administrator Ken Robichaud. I was on the tour with Will. He has been employed by the county for 9 years. Originally from Michigan, he was in the service for 5 years in the military police and then went to work as a corrections officer before coming to Carroll County. His knowledge of the entire operation was very impressive.
The farm originally opened in 1852. There are 894 acres of land. About 90 acres are open for hay production. There is an 84 x 26 unheated "high tunnel" and 1,100 high bush blueberries.
With the county delegation ( the 15 NH House Reps from Carroll County) vote to defund the farm this past March, one full time 22 year county employee was let go. The one acre vegetable garden was not operated this year due to the reduction of staff.
There are just two full time employees in department of public works, one of which is the Farm Manager. This is down from 3.6 in 2015. A part time employee who supervises the inmates that work at the farm, is now paid through the House of Corrections budget.
These two employees comprise the Department of Public Works and are responsible for care of the grounds at the county complex including lawn mowing, plowing and shoveling sidewalks, the water department including water testing, treatments, monitoring and reading of the meters for 40 customers in Ossipee Village. They also manage the sewer department, monitoring the treatment plant, state required testing, septic pumping of sewage and grease tanks. Both have to be licensed by NH to operate water and sewage operations.
The remaining land is managed under a long term forest management plan.
During the tour, Commissioner Sorrensen mentioned that the farm used to grow potatoes which were used by the nursing home. They had good storage and were able to keep them all winter. They stopped growing them when the nursing home kitchen transitioned to canned peeled potatoes because it was a time savings to not have to peel them. A suggestion was made that perhaps inmates could peel the potatoes and process them in a form useful to the nursing home and the jail.
There are on average 5-8 inmates available to work on farm and maintenance duties. They mow lawns, stack wood, bag camp wood, deliver firewood shovel snow and treat sidewalks. In 2015, inmates put in 6,500 man hours for the county. New programs at the jail will decrease the number of inmate hours.
There have been four timber harvests since 2010 on 75 acres of forest for revenue of $29,800. The forest management plan a focus has been to grow quality saw timber for income generation.
Hay produced in 2016 ( through 9/30/16) was 7,779 bales for a gross income of $29,685. The bales produced were about 35% greater than 2015, when 5,129 were produced ( due mostly to the dry summer. (The delegation at the March 21st 2016 meeting were told by Rep. McConkey that only 929 bales were produced in 2015.)
Wood sales- gross income was about $34,561 which included 4 cords of wood ($1,500) and 9,775 bags of campfire wood for $33,061. In 2015, 70 cords were sold and 7,050 bags of camp wood for $20,537. ( Rep McConkey told the delegtion in March that only 3,015 bags were produced) Wood inventories were not sufficiently replaced in the past and timber sales did not generate enough firewood. Lastly, due to budget cuts, there no funds to buy tree length wood to close the gap.As a result, they could not meet the demands of the campgrounds due to insufficient inventory of dry wood.
Inmates participate in bagging the camp cord wood when the temperature is above 30 degrees.
Blueberries-The dry summer took it's toll as only 336 pints were harvested compared to 1,545 in 2015.
Vegetables to nursing home and jail, food pantries- none in 2016 due to the 1 acre plot not being farmed. In 2015, 2,326 lbs of produce were produced.
At the end, the two groups joined in a conference room at the nursing home. The chair, Steve Knox, emphasized the need for public input.
One persons comment spoke to the many concerns people have that the decision on the future of the farm will be based soley on profit or loss. Ours is just one of two remaining county run farms in New Hampshire. There is a great deal of historical value in that land and buildings. The owner of Spider Web Gardens spoke of the difficulty for farms to make a profit in New Hampshire, but he and others still do because of the passion for it. There is significant intrinsic value in this farm that simply can't be measured on a ledger.
Getting the information about farm operations from the source was a very good achievement by the Commissioner's subcommittee. I contrast that with the inaccurate information on production and profit and loss the delegation received from some of it's members. Not researched and not from the people that would have the answers, namely our County Administrator and Farm Manager.
Many citizens want to know why the delegation didn't perform this due diligence before deciding to defund the farm?
|Will DeWitte, Carroll County Farm Manager beginning the tour near the nursing home|
|Remaining wings of the old nursing home,used only now for storage space. There is no planned use for the property. This is the area that had been proposed as a possible shelter for homeless veterans|
|View of mature blueberry bushes. There are approximately one acre of blueberries. Much of the upkeep (weed wacking and mowing is done by the jail inmates. The blueberries this year were self pick.|
|There are about 1,100 high bush blueberry plants|
|Will DeWitte just outside the jail yard. There are a small percentage of inmate available to work at the farm, less than 10%|
|Hay barn which could hold as many 6,000- 7,000 bales. All the hay still in the barn has been sold and awaiting pick up or delivery|
|Wood processing machine outside of wood processing barn. The equipment was purchased on a 5 year "lease to own plan" and has one payment remaining.|
|Inside the wood processing barn. Bagged cord wood is seen in the background|
|Wendy Scribner discusses the comprehensive forest management plan|
|The wood processing barn was used in the past as a pig barn|
|View to cord wood logs|
|Hoop greenhouse "High Tunnel"|