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Edgewater Farm
Contact: Pooh, Anne and Ray Sprague
Address: 246 NH Route 12A Plainfield, NH, 03781
Email Address: andre@heronpondfarm.com
Phone: 603-591-8720
About Us
The first strawberry crop was harvested in 1976, and from that point other crops were added to accommodate market demand. By 1983, both of the Spragues were working full time on the farm and, along with a few greenhouses, they opened their Plainfield farmstand. Today in 2014 Pooh, Anne,Sarah and Ray as well as 32 year veteran Mike Harrington are all involved with managing the many different aspects of the farm. Edgewater Farm is 170 acres in size, with about 60 acres of tillable land on which small fruit and vegetables are grown. We recently add 26 acres of prime tillage land when Ray bought the Putnam farm in Cornish.

We have approximately 70,000 square feet of poly greenhouses in which we grow bedding plants and greenhouse vegetables. Our small fruit production includes strawberries, raspberries and blueberries on 10 acres. Our produce is retailed directly at our greenhouses, our farmstand, through our CSA models as well as being available at select locations in the Upper Valley area. We donate to area food shelves and kitchens through our participation with the local non profit organization Willing Hands. In 2012 they distributed well over five tons of our produce throughout the Upper Valley area.
Edgewater Farm is a family farm located on the alluvial plains of the Connecticut River in Plainfield, NH. Originally a five generation family farm, Edgewater Farm was owned by the Colby Family from 1835 to 1974. The Colbys cut and sold firewood, eggs, butter and buttermilk in neighboring West Lebanon. The family’s long tenure of stewardship came to an end when Pooh and Anne Sprague took up residence at the farm in 1974, not more than a mile from where Anne grew up. Her family still owns and operates Mac*s Happy Acres Farm. Although initially the two Spragues maintained outside employment (Anne as an elementary school teacher and Pooh as a laborer and part-time musician), they were encouraged by their county agents William Lord and by Stan Colby (previous owner of the farm and also a former county agent) to try growing strawberries on the farm.

In May of 2012 we purchased the Putnam Homestead in Cornish NH. This was done with an eye toward providing a more stable land base as we were investing effort and money in some fields that are most likely destined to be house lots. With the addition of the Putnam Farm we now have a more secure land area and that will in turn insure Edgewater Farm’s ability to continue to provide it’s ability to produce a diverse product mix as well as provide more land for proper rotation. Despite the financial drain that this farm will initially provide, we are excited about our future and what this land can potentially provide us as we amend, work and restore its soils.
Practices
Now we are a somewhat larger enterprise than when we started out in 1973. There are 5 decision makers instead of 2- Michael Harrington, a veteran of 32 years on this farm, Anne, myself and our two children Ray and Sarah, veterans of a lifetime of this farming folly. Our shared philosophy is that good land stewardship has a direct relationship with profitability. The farm’s ability to sustain its membership -workforce is less likely to end up on the auction block or in developed house-lots. Many of the preferred organic practices are oftentimes more costly to institute, and yet it remains our commitment to farm in such a way that we can be assured that we can continue into the future as well as the farm be retained in sustainable production for future generation. I think that for Anne and myself one might say that farming “beyond the grave” is certainly taking the long view about what we do! But there are some notable practices that we engage in and that we have some pride about. they are as follows:

Today we know a lot more about organic systems and production. We are constantly working to find new techniques that make us better land stewards. Yes, we still spray certain crops with conventional to reduce weeds, control fungus and insect pests, but we always opt for materials that are biologically more compatible with the natural systems, the practice has been labeled Integrated Pest Management. Many of the systems are actually certified for use on organic farms. We are not a USDA certified Organic farm, and as such cannot use organic in any description of what our farm is about. We will continue to seek to incorporate every sustainable/organic practice that makes sense to this farm. Despite the fact that we grow every vegetable and small fruit in a typical seed catalog, we have reduced our herbicide use to just a few crops. We continue to try to find tune our cultivation techniques and hardware to further reduce our use of herbicides.
We were one of the first commercial greenhouse operations in New England to pioneer the use of beneficial predatory insects within our greenhouses. Prophylactic releases of predatory wasps, mites, beetles and midges as well the use of biorational pesticides is very expensive but has allowed us to eliminate the use of hard chemical sprays (carbamates, chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates) while allowing us to achieve acceptable levels of pest control. In the future we hope to eliminate the use of biorational sprays altogether and have absolute control of insect problems through knowledge and release of beneficial insects. Furthermore, as information becomes available, we hope to extend our knowledge and use of beneficials into the field production of our fruits and vegetables
We have invested heavily in mechanical cultivation ( but we haven’t figured out yet how to eliminate hand hoeing…) and have been featured contributors to USDA teaching videos showing innovative mechanical cultivating techniques. We will be investing in the latest European cultivation equipment in order to upgrade our cultivation techniques and further the reduce the amount of herbicides on the farm.
We have been IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practitioners for over twenty years – monitoring pest populations in crops, learning insect pest lifecycles and thresholds so that pesticide applications are reduced and prophylactic spraying is eliminated.
We have been long time practitioners of the use of green manures and cover cropping to help with soil management, and were recently included in a USDA Extension teaching video on these practices.The use of cover crops improves soil quality, both in the physical as well as biologic sense and traps nutrients in the soil structure, reducing nutrient leaching into the groundwater.
We are constantly trying to reduce our use of plastics and manage the waste stream that is generated on this farm. We always recycled cardboard packaging. We offer at no charge to customers greenhouse plastic sheeting for the myriad of uses homeowners can find it in an effort to recycle it. We pioneered the use of corn starch based agricultural field plastic mulch by jointly importing the european product into New England through Canada, and after 9 years of trial and use we feel,despite is high initial cost, that it works very well and is a preferable alternative to landfilling used conventional black plastic mulch. Now the Town of Plainfield has offered to us Zero Sort recycling, allowing us to recycle a broader range of plastic materials and reducing our waste stream to the landfill by and additional 35-40%. (see the January 2012 blog)
Currently we are using biofuels seasonally in our tractors and diesel offroad vehicles at an increased cost to us. The environmental benefit in terms of reduced emissions, we feel, offsets this cost, although there are many questions yet to be answered regarding the sustainability of the production of corn based biofuels as well as the limitation for lubricity in diesel motors . We had looked into the production of tractor fuel from waste vegetable oil (WVO) but determined that it would detract from our focus on growing.
Our practices here at Edgewater Farm are based not just on efficiency and profitability (although those are important), but also on long term sustainability and compatibility with the natural biodynamics of our environment. We believe that Edgewater Farm is in business for the long haul, and that means making the correct business and environmental decisions. Do we think we know everything and are a cutting edge farming enterprise? Nope. Do we have a lot to learn about our craft? Absolutely. We are constantly trying to become better farmers and better land stewards. In so doing we ultimately become better neighbors.- Pooh Sprague