At Echo Farm in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, the cows come first. The 36 acre farm, which resides between the Pisgah Wilderness State Park and the Connecticut River in southwestern corner of the state, is home to a mix of 100 jerseys and milking shorthorns and 80 young stock, each of which has their own name. Cows like Royal, Miracle, Misty, Candle, Elise, Lollipop and Ticket have all held a place of honor at the farm, and in the hearts of the Hodge Family.
The Hodges purchased Echo Farm in 1987. Bob, a CPA and Financial Planner, and his wife Bonnie always dreamed of owning a large piece of property where they could keep a horse and a few sheep. Shortly after moving in, they started a 4H club on the property, and began showing horses, and eventually cows. Their daughters, Beth and Courtney, who currently run the farm, were also responsible for getting the family into the milking business. In 1990, when the girls were just 16 and 14 years old, they convinced their parents to buy five milking shorthorns. The cows quickly calved the following year, and Beth and Courtney officially became dairy farmers.
“We loved it from the beginning,” remembers Beth. “We always knew that in addition to selling our milk, we wanted to make a product of our own. In 1997, while we were both in college, we began investigating our options. Ben & Jerry’s was already big by then, so ice cream was out. It seemed like everyone was making yogurt, and of course, Cabot was making amazing cheddar. It was our dad that suggested we try pudding, and it’s become our passion ever since.” Their product took off, and Echo Farm Puddings are now available in many states, and nationwide online.
While the farm is still family run, with Beth caring for the cows, Courtney overseeing the pudding business, Bob managing the financial side and Bonnie helping out wherever she is needed, the Hodge’s take particular joy in employing local high school and college students. “Most of the kids who work for us have absolutely no farming background,” notes Beth. “I get so excited watching them become interested in agriculture. It is tremendously rewarding to see a new generation, with no previous exposure to the lifestyle, become interested in farming. I’m proud to say three of our former employees have now graduated from college and are working in the industry.”
The Hodges are active members of their community, and still heavily involved in the 4H club they started decades ago. Beth is a member of the Farm Bureau, the voice of agriculture in state legislature, and Echo Farm Puddings was the first dairy farm in the country to be Certified Humane by Humane Farm Animal Care. “We treat our cows like members of the family,” says Beth, “and they reward us with high quality, award winning milk. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Try the Hodge family recipe, Au Gratin Potatoes with Stout. It’s a perfect St. Patrick’s Day meal!