Valley Bounty: Everyday Farm
Published April 8, 2023 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
Baby Lambs Ring in Spring at Everyday Farm
By Jacob Nelson
Spring is springing up at Everyday Farm in Gill. Actually, it’s bouncing all over the place.
“We’ve had about a hundred lambs born so far this year,” says farmer Hannah Sol. Once all their mother ewes give birth, the number of bleating babies will more than double.
In its sixth year as a commercial operation run by Sol and her partner Joseph Connelly, Everyday Farm is rounding into form. “We’re a small farm raising beef, lamb, pork and eggs on land in Gill, Bernardston and Leyden,” Sol explains. “We’re focused on grass-based meat and using regenerative farming techniques.”
This season, farm work will be all about their animals – 300 sheep, 300 laying hens, a dozen cows, and half that many pigs. But the farm didn’t start that way.
Both Sol and Connelly grew up living and breathing farm life, working on several area farms. Sol worked on the retail side of local food too in the produce department at Green Fields Market in Greenfield. In 2018 they decided to start growing food for themselves on Sol’s family’s land in Gill.
“Then,” Sol explains, “we started growing for other people through a vegetable CSA. Then we realized how much we liked raising livestock and started doing more of that. And then it just skyrocketed.”
Soon the young farmers, running things themselves, wanted to simplify and create a more stable income. And growing veggies profitably was proving difficult, especially facing increasingly extreme weather conditions fueled by climate change.
“In the five years we ran a veggie CSA, we had three years of droughts,” says Sol. Keeping everything alive took much more time and energy. As she puts it, “when you’re paying yourself almost nothing, and you’re no longer enjoying it, what’s the point?”
So, the veggies faded while the animals ascended. Though droughts and poor conditions still affect the productivity of their pastures and animals, they’re better positioned to adapt to those challenges. High labor and irrigation costs didn’t fit their business plan, but when pastures are sparse, they know landowners with more space for their animals to graze.
In fact, collaboration with other nearby farmers and landowners has been central to Everyday Farm’s success.
“Ideally we’d own land all in one spot,” Sol says, “but our animals graze more than 100 acres, and that’s just not possible to afford in this area.” So, while their base of operations is still Sol’s family farmland in Gill, most of their pastures are scattered across Franklin County, leased from or shared with others. These arrangements benefit everyone. Animals get room to roam while Sol and Connelly improve the property, repairing barns, clearing brush, and increasing pasture fertility through managed grazing.
As a newer farm, they’ve benefited from the generosity of fellow farmers with more resources and experience. Over time, they’ll pass that on to others.
“Tyler Sage of Sage Farm, who raises pastured pork in Bernardston, lets us graze our sheep there, and for a long time we borrowed their livestock trailer before we had our own,” says Sol. “Leyden Glen Farm, where I used to work – we use their mobile sheep handling system. It’s basically a trailer that unfolds into a corral that funnels the sheep into it, and we couldn’t do without it.”
“There’s just things you can’t do or buy right away,” she continues. “Luckily there are people around to help.”
A little help and a lot of hard-earned experience allow them to raise, “the happiest, healthiest animals we can,” says Sol. “We feed organic grain to our chickens (which also graze their pastures) and non-GMO grain to our pigs. All our lamb is 100% grass-fed, which a lot of people specifically look for, and we move our animals to nice, fresh grass most days.”
“We want to eat meat from animals that were well-raised and had great lives,” she adds,” and a lot of our customers feel the same.”
The main way customers can buy meat and eggs from Everyday Farm is through monthly online ordering with on-farm pick up at 469 Main Road in Gill. Sol compares the process to a community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription, but with key differences. Rather than paying up front for a predetermined box of food each month during the season, customers can place custom orders for lamb, beef, pork and chicken for monthly pick up right on their website at everydayfarmgill.com.
“Month by month ordering offers people more choice and flexibility,” says Sol. “Some people do order the same bundles each time, but a lot of people switch it up, and you can always skip a month.”
People can also sign up for the farm’s newsletter for ordering reminders and news from the farm. “Sometimes we offer deals just for people on that list, like a free bunch of garlic or a free dozen eggs,” she adds.
This arrangement also retains the social bond often sought between farmers and CSA customers. “We love getting to know people who want to support us and invest in our farm,” Sol says. She also notes their success engaging with their community through social media – particularly Instagram, where she posts frequent looks at daily life on the farm under the account @everydayfarmgill.
People can also find their eggs and lamb at Upinngil Farm‘s store in Gill, and lamb at western local stores like Atlas Farm Store, Mill Valley Market, and Manning Hill Farm just over the border in Winchester, NH. “We also sell through two home delivery services,” says Sol, “Mass Food Delivery and the Hilltown Mobile Market.”
As this new season begins with the animals in full focus, “we finally feel like maybe we have a little bit of a handle on it,” Sol laughs, acknowledging that the farming learning curve is always steep.
Still, she’s excited for this year’s fresh grass and new opportunities. American Farmland Trust recently awarded them a $10,000 regenerative grazing grant, which will go towards better equipment for transporting animals between pastures, and warm evenings and bright green fields beckon.
“Working with the animals is just such a fun part of our lives,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about farms of all kinds raising food near you, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.