From the family farm, bangers and biscotti
By MEGHAN PIERCE
Sunday News Correspondent | October 13. 2012 10:59PM
Mayfair Farm owner Craig Thompson, with son Callan, 2, checks up on the sheep on the family's Harrisville property. (MEGHAN PIERCE)
Husband and wife Craig Thompson and Sarah Heffron moved from South Carolina to Harrisville to rehabilitate the old dairy farm a year ago.
This Saturday, Oct. 20, they'll celebrate the anniversary by conducting a farm tour at 10:30 a.m. and by serving some tasty farm treats at the end of the tour.
Thompson is the farmer, Heffron the chef.
He raises pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens and turkeys for meat and combines some of that meat with fresh herbs in a wide variety of sausages. Among the offerings: bangers, bratwurst, hot and sweet Italian links, chorizo, kielbasa and hot dogs.
“I'm really useful on a farm, and I'm really useful with livestock. I'm not very useful at anything else,” Thompson said.
Heffron bakes the quiche, biscotti and gluten-free almond cakes that are sold in the Harrisville General Store, on their farm and at local farmers markets.
“I grew up around food,” Heffron said. “My mom is a chef, and she had various businesses including catering.”
Thompson sees diversification as the key to survival for small farms.
“Serve the farmers market needs, serve local customers' needs ... serve the local restaurant needs,” he said.
The couple say they take a humane approach to raising happy animals on their family farm. Livestock are fed grass and grain that are hormone free and not genetically modified.
Thompson and Heffron encourage their 2-year-old son, Callan, to join in farm chores and say the biggest challenge this year in rehabilitating the old farm has been getting up in the middle of the night to tend to their newborn daughter, Fiona, who recently turned 1.
Mayfair (the farm's original name) dates back to the 1930s, when it was a dairy farm. The once 120-acre property is now 40 acres, Heffron said, adding that the rest of the land was placed in conservation by a previous owner.
The farm long ago ceased being a dairy operation, and the current owners have no plans to make it one again, so as part of the property's rehabilitation, they built a new barn.
“I grew up milking goats every day, so I wasn't interested in milking anything (here),” Thompson said.
To help Heffron with her food production, she and her husband also are constructing a new kitchen, which they say will eliminate her commute to a commercial facility for production during the farmers market season.
“One of our problems was keeping up with the demand, and that in part was because we had to rent a commercial kitchen in Peterborough one day a week,” Heffron said.
During the summer, the Mayfair owners took their goods to farmers markets in Keene, Harrisville, Nelson and Peterborough. Customers also started coming to them, arriving at their farm at the end of Clymers Drive to buy meat and other products.
“There is a lot of local meat in the area, in the Monadnock region, but what we do is different,” Heffron said. “We make our own sausage with fresh and local ingredients. It's definitely our most popular thing.”
Especially at the farmers markets, sausage is often what snags the new customer, she said.
“They won't stop for a pork chop, but (they will) for a bratwurst,” she said.
“It's something they can't get elsewhere,” added Thompson, who is now planning to begin producing cured meats, such as smoked ham and pastrami.
“You go to a farmers market and that's one of the things that you don't find: cured meat,” he said.
Mayfair is working toward having farm offerings year-round. Next summer, the strawberry patch will be ready for a pick-your-own business, Heffron said. The plan is to include raspberries the following year.
She and her husband also planted an apple orchard this past summer.
They are raising 50 turkeys for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving turkey isn't a big money maker for the farm, Thompson said, but it is a “gateway product.”
“People who won't buy anything (else) from you will buy a Thanksgiving turkey from you, or they will buy a chicken,” Thompson said.
He said he also introduced Christmas trees to the farm this year.
“How cool would that be, if people could come and get their Thanksgiving turkey here and then come back and get their Christmas tree?” he asked.
“That's a long way away,” Heffron said.
The couple also are planning to host a farm dinner in the pasture next spring.
All are welcome at the farm tour Saturday, but Heffron is asking people to RSVP, so she can be sure to have enough food on hand. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.