Hurd Farm: Diversifying to Save the Farm

From its beginnings as a dairy farm, Hurd Farm in Hampton has had to make necessary changes as the price of milk dropped, leaving them with an unviable business. From Deborah Mcdermott’s article for Seacoastonline.com:

Holiday bird is part of Hampton farmer’s resurgence

When 120 Seacoast families sit down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, they will not be eating a supermarket turkey. Instead, they will know where their bird came from and how well it was raised.

And they won’t have to travel far from their front door to bring it home.

A short way down Timber Swamp Road in Hampton, Steve Hurd has been raising 120 broad-breasted whites for the past five or six months precisely for the Thanksgiving tables of local residents.

They gobbled and squawked one day this past week, gathered together in a pen for the first time since they were released onto Hurd’s pasture last spring to graze and grow.

“They were in the field until just last night,” said Hurd, who added the birds were regularly moved to fresh grass during their time on the farm.

All of the birds are claimed. Hurd started to take orders in September from among the customers at the numerous farmers markets he and his 18-year-old daughter staff each summer.

Last year, the first year he offered turkeys, he bought 60; he doubled that amount this year and sees himself raising even more next year.

“I noticed I had a lot of repeat customers,” he said. “They like the fact that it was raised locally and they could talk to the farmer.”

In that, Hurd is not alone. Sara Zoe Patterson of Seacoast Eat Local, which runs many of the area farmers markets, said more than a dozen farms are selling turkeys this year, “maybe ones who haven’t sold turkeys in the past but they see the demand is there.”

“Thanksgiving is the most natural local meal. It’s timed for everything in season,” she said. “Many of these farms may already be raising chickens or pigs, and to add on or increase the number of turkeys is less challenging than changing the business altogether.”

That’s exactly the story of Hurd Farm, a 160-acre farm not more than a couple of miles from Interstate 95. Here, turkeys graze with chickens, cows are raised next to pigs, and all but the laying hens will end up on the plates of Seacoast residents.

It wasn’t always so. Hurd is a third-generation dairy farmer, like his father and grandfather before him. Since the time Hurd was old enough to help, he’s been working in the family business.

“In the past few years, the price of milk got so bad, we really struggled,” Hurd said, adding, “when things were very good,” he sold milk for $20 per 100 pounds. By 2009, that price had slipped to $11. Read more…

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