Every Cabot farm is unique in some way, but Don Kimball manages a member farm that he believes is among the last of its kind.
Grafton County Farm in North Haverill is part of a New Hampshire county jail operation where sentenced inmates participate in “everyday service,” working under close supervision in a variety of capacities that contribute to running the facility and to the broader community.
“Years and years ago, every correctional facility in New Hampshire had a working farm,” Don says. “Now we’re the only county left with one.”
Don grew up nearby on his own family’s farm where his father and grandfather had made a living off a small Jersey herd. After they got out of the dairy business, Don went to work for another local farm until he started at Grafton County Farm in 1981.
“I enjoy farming because it’s different every day,” Don says, though he acknowledges that milking “is the same every day, 365 days of the year.” But, he says, “Working out in the fields: cropping, haying and growing vegetables for the farmstand, that’s different.”
In addition to the milking herd of 90 registered Holsteins, Don also manages 300 acres of crops including 25 acres of vegetables, from sweet corn to pumpkins to potatoes. Much of the produce goes into the kitchen of the jail and to the county-run nursing home. Some is sold to the public through a farmstand and also donated to local food pantries, churches, schools and nonprofits.
A small pork operation helps recycle livestock-appropriate waste from the kitchens. There’s also a laying flock of chickens.
Inmates help with a wide range of farm chores including feeding calves, cleaning out barns, mucking out the hogs, collecting eggs, picking produce in the summer and helping with milking.
It’s honest work, Don says, and about three-quarters of the inmates seem to enjoy and benefit from it. “We give them the opportunity,” he says. “It’s up to them to get the most out of it. Some care and some don’t.”
Job training is one of the goals of the program. For some, “this might be their first experience learning what work is,” Don says. “We’ve sent a lot of people over the years out to other farms and places after they’re through here, and they’ve worked out well,” he says with satisfaction.
Grafton County Farm contributes to its community by growing fresh food for schools, food pantries and the local nursing home. How do you give back to your community?
Cabot has a great program called Reward Volunteers that is a free, easy way to track the time you spend volunteering in your community and to earn rewards for your contributions! Between February 14, 2012 and March 14, 2016, over 270,000 hours were logged by nearly 3,500 selfless volunteers, to the benefit of more than 4,000 organizations improving lives and communities and inspiring friends on Facebook to do good.
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Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).