GUEST BLOG POST By Tim O’Connell
In 1975 my wife Noreen and I purchased 20 acres of an abandoned apple and chicken farm in Milford, NH. The house was OK but the chicken barn was half collapsed and the old Baldwin apples hadn’t been pruned in years. As we continued our off-farm jobs, me as science chairman at Milford High School and Noreen as a dental hygienist, we plugged away getting our dream farm ready for production. By 1977 we started our first farmers’ market in Peterborough and the next year in Milford, where we continue to market. By 1995 both of us decided that after 30-plus years of teaching and cleaning teeth it was time to focus more fully on Butternut Farm.
We started marketing in Manchester and Nashua, along with the Milford market. In the meantime we became active in our community. Noreen joined the Milford Planning Board, the Milford Downtown Improvement Team, and was a Selectman for six years. In 1998, I was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives and served for eight years on the House Environment and Agriculture Committee and was active in the Council of State Government’s State Agriculture and Rural Leaders. From 2009 to 2013, I lobbied for a nonprofit that advocated for NH’s current use law in protecting our working landscapes.
In 2008, we began an additional venture when we acquired six Alpine does. Our youngest daughter Marcy is also farming in Milford as a sizeable CSA that features laying hens and Nubian goats. Four years ago, as both herds expanded, the Milford Goat Dairy was incorporated, marketing goat products from milk to hard and soft cheeses, soap, and USDA meats.
In 2010, I was asked to have lunch with former New Hampshire Agricultural Commissioner Steve Taylor, NEFU’s Annie Cheatham, and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. I knew nothing about either National or New England Farmers Union at the time. I was very impressed with Roger Johnson, as some of our members have likely experienced. I was hooked, especially with NEFU’s slogan at the time “Six States With One Voice At The National Table.” As a former politician I knew how difficult it is to get legislation passed even at the state level, so having the six small New England states working together is huge to have our needs and concerns heard in Washington, D.C. I quickly became a NEFU member, and then a board member, and was fortunate in 2011 to represent New England Farmers Union as a member of National Farmers Union Policy Committee at the 2011 NFU Convention in San Antonio.
Editor’s note: Tim O’Connell served New England Farmers Union as a board member between 2010 and 2014, and as Treasurer from 2013 to 2014. We appreciate his service to the organization over the years, and his continued support as an active member.