FSA administrator visits two Hinsdale farms

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Photo Gallery | USDA FSA Administrator visits Hinsdale

HINSDALE, N.H. — Val Dolcini recently added two Hinsdale farms to the agricultural enterprises he has visited — a list that will grow to 32 states by week's end.

The administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, Dolcini is on a tour of New England farms and he stopped by Echo Farms and Wingate Farm on Aug. 19 to tour the businesses, discuss the issues important to area farmers and talk about the Agricultural Act of 2014. He started his trip in Vermont on Monday and is visiting New Hampshire and Massachusetts before ending the week in Maine.

He and others toured Echo Farm, which specializes in producing pudding, at 573 Chesterfield Road before driving to Wingate Farm at 941 Northfield Road. Beth Hodge, who co-owns Echo Farm with her sister Courtney, gave Dolcini a one-hour tour that included a look at the dairy cows, the production center, and where they store bales of cotton. Hodge explained the farm receives cotton from a mill in Colrain, Mass., and uses it for bedding for the cows. She said she uses five 700-pound bales every other day — which equates to a tractor-trailer load every three weeks.

Dolcini sampled some chocolate pudding, which he said was excellent, and told the Reformer how pleased he is to see businesses like Echo.

"This is another great example of a small New England operation that really works and they do it by diversifying a little bit and she has found a value-added niche with the pudding production and sounds like she's doing a great job," he said.

Hodge told the Reformer the farm started in 1997. She mentioned all excess milk goes to Agri-Mark, a cooperative that owns Cabot Creamery.

Dolcini said the USDA has issued 15,000 microloans to small farmers since Feburary 2013 — and Wingate Farm was one of those recipients. Susan Parke-Sutherland, a business partner with siblings Olivia and James Pettengill at Wingate Farm, said the farm just closed on a loan of roughly $10,000.

"I'm not sure what we would have done without the microloan from them," she said. "Because we're just not really super familiar with the financial world and going to a bank and asking them for a loan. I'm sure we could have done that — it probably would have been much more difficult."

Wingate Farm — which sells produce, eggs, pork, chicken and flowers — has also gotten loan money from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Charlene Andersen, the manager of business education at the loan fund, was present for the tour that showcased meat chickens, pigs, egg-laying chickens, and growing produce.

Dolcini spoke with Parke-Sutherland and Olivia Pettengill throughout the tour and then thanked them for their time before taking off.

"It's a good example of the USDA teaming with private entities like the Community Loan Fund to support beginning farmers like Olivia and Susie build their own version of the American dream," he said. "When I go around the country, I said that we're really in the American Dream business."

Contact Domenic Poli at 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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