Spring has finally sprung, which means many things. One of the best: adorable, fuzzy baby animals are frolicking on the region’s farms.
The Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy is home this spring to six-week-old piglets, nine baby goats and a batch of 20 chicks. Education is a large component of the farm. Over the past 70 years, it has offered a hands-on farm experience, typically including milking cows and goats, collecting chicken eggs, churning butter, making cheese and feeding animals.
Also a vacation resort located at the base of Mt. Monadnock in Troy, The Inn hosts farm school overnight field trips, Grown Up Farm Camp and business retreats.
There are several breeds of goat on the farm, including Boer (meat goats), Sonnen (dairy goats) and the rare breed, San Clemente Island.
“Boar goats grow faster and stronger. Sometimes we will cross Boer and Sonnen, which are good milking moms who can produce meat babies,” said Perri Adams, a member of the family that owns and operates the multi-generational farm.
Two breeds of chickens – Ameraucana and Rhode Island Red – are also bred at the farm.
“Ameraucana lay blue eggs and Rhode Island Reds are hearty,” Adams said, of the two varieties recently born at the farm.
The hope is for the farm to be open to visitors next month.
Mark Florenz, owner/operator of Archway Farm in Keene, invites visitors to come see his 20 or so piglets at the 80-acre farm (which straddles Arch Street) while the farm store is open. His chicks are five weeks old right now, and he is getting another batch next week. Wyatt Chingery of West Wood Forest Farm in Keene supplies Archway Farm with duck and chicken eggs.
Florenz’s breeding stock (there are about 100 pigs at the farm) of heritage breeds include Tamworth, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Berkshire and Chester White – all pigs that do well in an outdoor environment.
“They are different from the modern pig, which is raised inside,” he said.
Archway Farm is known as an animal welfare-approved farm, meaning its products are certified as coming from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. It is also part of A Greener World, a nonprofit organization that audits participating farms annually based on sustainable practices and high livestock management standards.
Florenz is president of the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition, consisting of 80-plus organizations and 50 individual members. The coalition’s mission is to help build a sustainable food network in the region, and it sponsors activities and events that highlight local agriculture. His sows have piglets every six months at the farm – three are currently nursing.
“We stagger them,” Florenz said. “Our piglets stay with the sows [mothers] for the first six weeks. We don’t intervene that much; the sows do most of the work.”
Magzalea Farm and Sanctuary in Fitzwilliam offers visits by appointment. Mandy Exel and her husband, Silas, bought their home in 2002 and soon after began to adopt animals in need of long-term care. What started as rescuing a goat, rabbit and a couple of pigs on an eight-acre property has turned into a 93-acre farm with llamas, donkeys, alpacas, sheep, chickens, ducks, turkeys, a mini-horse and most recently, a handicapped lamb named Roscoe.
The animals the couple takes in are for life. They look for unadoptables – animals that are handicapped or considered untrainable. Because they don’t want to have to turn away an animal due to cost, Exel makes a line of products in her kitchen to help offset the cost of hay, fencing, veterinary visits and other expenses for the nonprofit farm.
“I started making my own [personal care] products as a kid. I grew plants and herbs,” she said. She makes her own soaps and lotions for her family and larger batches to sell. Exel forages for and grows many of the ingredients herself, including mint, lavender, a variety of berries and hops for her body lotions, perfume oils, hand soaps and lip balms – she can also make vegan-friendly versions and other custom orders.
She grew up taking care of goats and chickens; her husband grew up with sheep. Now their two boys, Isiah and Koda, help care for the animals on their farm.
Exel and her husband have narrowed their focus on the care of handicapped, orphaned, elderly animals that require long-term care or that have special medical needs.
Roscoe came from a Richmond farm at six weeks old. He suffers from a joint infection that prevents him from walking. By the time he arrived at Magzalea, it was too late to administer treatment. And while his infection subsided under their care, he uses a wheelchair to get around.
“He lives in the house; he thinks he’s a dog,” she said, adding that caring for a baby farm animal is like caring for a newborn. “There’s bottle-feeding, getting up in the middle of the night, changing pads.” As they try to wean Roscoe from the bottle, Exel has been giving him grain and water from a raised dog dish. “We hope he’ll become a little more independent over a couple more weeks.”
Some years they’ve had multiple bottle-fed babies on the farm, including calves, goats, piglets and the like.