I walked into Beans and Greens the other day and saw a Zestar apple displayed at the pinnacle of a mountain of apples in an antique wagon. It was shinning red and gold. I could almost see a halo over it. The taste did not disappoint. Nothing at Beans and Greens disappoints. The quality of this apple represents the care taken by the Howe family to grow, harvest, wash, and prep their produce to offer the best to their customers.
Let me paint a picture for you. The road to Beans and Greens meanders through beautiful open meadows. It is idyllic farmland. This working farm has preserved the pastoral setting that is typical of the lovely Town of Gilford. The store is housed in an authentic New England barn with rough-hewn beams, classic board-and-batten siding and green metal roof. You can feel the earthy goodness.
Beans and Greens of Timber Hill Farms is one of the Lakes Region farms on the cutting edge of the “buy local, buy organic” movement. The NH Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food named it a New Hampshire Farm of Distinction. Andy and Martina Howe took over full operation of the farm in 1998. Martina and Andy’s sons, Isaac and Alexander, and daughter, Katrina, are also active in the family business. According to Beans and Greens webpage, it is one of only three remaining active farms in Gilford. The farm store offers fresh produce and other New Hampshire products in abundance. Over the years Beans and Greens has grown in size and activities. Every time you visit, there seems to be something novel and innovative to enjoy.
Apart from providing farm products of exceptional quality, the farm store has a state-of-the-art bakery with a vast array of fresh baked pies, cookies, and specialty items. A section is allocated to egg free, dairy free, sugarless, and wheat free items. Have you dreamed of that unusual pie your grandmother used to bake? The staff in the bakery will do their best to recreate the pie and those memories for you. Adjacent to the bakery is the deli, which features many gourmet items on a clever menu. What hungry person wouldn’t be enticed by a sandwich or wrap named ‘The Tractor” or ‘The Pig Pen?” Just so you’re not wondering, ‘The Pig Pen” ingredients include all natural ham, cheese, and fresh veggies.
A walk through the store is like a walk through a farm museum. The rafters are filled with farm antiques – wagons, plows, a horse drawn carriage, a sleigh, barrows, baskets, and farm implements. You are walking through a bit of the history of the farm, a history that spans over two hundred years from when the Honorable Ebenezer Smith first bought the land in the late 1770’s. The land has been active farmland since that time. The barn store itself is one of the original Smith family barns. Built in 1838, it was beautifully restored by the Howe family. Apart from the history, the displays of produce and products in the store are works of art. The colorful fruits, veggies, and candies are arranged with great care. Everywhere you turn, you encounter a photo moment. One thing is abundantly clear as you move through the building and the surrounding displays of plants and flowers: the Howe family has gone out of their way to provide the quintessential farm store experience for their customers.
Outside the store are numerous greenhouses, which allow Beans and Greens to provide a large variety of annual and perennial plants and great activities. They have been gearing up for the grand opening of this year’s corn maze. Other fall events beginning later in September include hayrides around the fields and a veggie sling shot. The farm also offers fun and educational fieldtrips for schools. Some of the activities available include petting and feeding animals, exploring a section of the corn maze with an opportunity for Q&A’s, observation of the beehive, feeding the fish in the water garden, exploring the green house hay maze, picnicking, and pumpkin picking. Beans and Greens also hosts creative birthday parties and seasonal PYO flowers, strawberries, and pumpkins. Check the Beans and Greens website for more details on all these activities and more.
Near the store is the Beans and Greens Pavilion. This impressive timber and frame structure is available for parties and other get-togethers. It also hosts seasonal farm dinners with intriguing names such as the Thunder Moon Pig Roast & Dance or the Blue Moon BBQ Dinner. Recently, a lot of the young princesses in the Lakes Region immersed themselves in the construction of fairy houses under the Pavilion. Beans and Greens provided all the necessary supplies, tools, and supervision. During the event, country music played in the background and created a perfect atmosphere for the young princesses to twirl around in their fairy costumes.
The Howe family also owns Timber Hill Farm, which has been in the family since the 1940’s and is a short distance from Beans and Greens. The farm now consists of numerous plots around the Timber Hill location. The current operations include the Beans and Greens farm store, the greenhouses, timber framing, logging and forestry, haying, and other activities. There are no words to describe the expansive hilltop meadow with the backdrop of lakes and mountains, including Mount Washington on a clear day. Check out the Timber Hill Farm website for more information.
The Howe’s farm is also a New Hampshire Community Supported Agricultural Farm. CSA’s allow the community to support their local farmers by purchasing subscriptions for products at the start of the season. This provides money in advance to begin the arduous process of planting, caring for the crops, and other expenses. Membership subscriptions are available for Beans and Greens summer and winter programs called their Healthy Harvest Subscriptions. The subscribers share in the bounty of meats and produce grown at the farm throughout the season. Beans and Greens’ program allows the subscribers to choose their own products, including those from their selection of all natural meats. This and other CSA programs are a perfect way to support your local farmers and reap the benefits of the best foods the Lakes Region farms have to offer. Other CSA’s in the Lake Winnipesaukee area include Picnic Hill Farm in Meredith, Winnipesaukee Woods Farm in Alton Bay, Surowiec Farm in Sanbornton, and Still Seeking Farm in Gilmanton.
Beans and Greens, Timber Hill Farm and the Howe family reflect the old saying that necessity is the mother of all invention. Farming is a challenging proposition in New Hampshire even when the weather and economy are cooperating. It takes perseverance and hard work. It takes a great love for the land you’re working. The Howe family has all these qualities and something more. They have a great sense of innovation that has allowed them to survive and adapt to the challenges. Ebenezer Smith, the original owner, would be surprised and pleased to see his beloved farm in such capable hands. Next time, when you walk amidst the beautiful displays in the farm store, listen carefully. You may be able to hear old Ebenezer say “Well done, Howe family.”
Lake Winnipesaukee is surrounded by numerous farms and orchards open to the public. If you are in Meredith, check out Moulton Farm. Heritage Farm in Sanbornton offers a pancake breakfast. These and others are treasures waiting to be explored.
This post was written by Mary O’Neill.