Lower Connecticut River Valley Region Farms
Featured Farmer | David Brown | Hay House Farm
This Farmer Brown is nothing like his namesakes in story books and comics. Neither is he like any other farmer you’re likely to meet. This is an accomplished artist, author/illustrator, practicing Buddhist and stupa-site creator, off-grid farmer and cockapoo breeder, camping host, tobacco grower, and producer of extravaganzas as in 100,000 daffodils and spiritual celebrations. Then there is Hay House Farm itself: 12+ acres surrounded by trust lands, one minute from civilization. It’s off-grid, but daily living embraces a wood stove, a propane stove (75 years old) and a cell phone connection.
David is a local man, OSHS class of 1971, and Dartmouth graduate with a major in geography. He has a spirituality honed in Nepal and India as well as a reputation for the best eggs this side of Tuscany. It’s hard to figure out what stirs his heart the most. Is it his 200 sq. ft. hay-bale house, filled with domestic Tibetan utensils brought back from his journeys? Is it his giant-leaved arugula, huge scallions, and those daffodils? Is it the diversity of what he grows and unusual successes like ginger, kiwi (the vines are 40 years old) and paw paws? Forty chickens whose breeds don't matter to the quality of the eggs? Bringing some 120 Tibetans to America? The farm's relationships with Chester Sunday Market and its other providers? Perhaps it's his new book, "Getting Along like Cats and Dogs: Kitty and Puppy at the Hay House." Aimed at first to third-graders, its message is ageless. (Available on Amazon or from R J Julia but do order directly from David. The paperback edition is $20, hardbound is $25.)
One thing is certain. Dave wants to spend more time in future-- lots more time-- on his painting. His life-size installation of Hay House at the Florence Griswold Museum in 2004, "The Hay House: Step Right In!" was one-of-a-kind. Farming life and art are inseparable but, at present, farming is getting the lion’s share of his time.
David is devoted to Chester Farmers Market exclusively where his many fans who have pre-ordered by text (but no CSA) and lucky passers-by can pick up flowers and herbs, vegetables and fruit, jam and eggs. Flowers are available from March to November with a peak in mid-June. Salad-makings, spinach and sage thrive in his greenhouses in winter. There are no bees now, so honey is no longer produced.
Come visit in April for the Daffodil Brunch and revel in the Daffodil Principle: one bulb at a time. One day at a time-- one small and seemingly insignificant step at a time-- yields the most incredible harvest when it's done with intention and consistency. You will come away from Hay House Farm with a sense that this farmer is not only prodigious, unpretentious and joyful but also living his credo: “This is more than enough.”
By Sandra Childress | January 2023
About the Author: Sandra Childress tends to her herbs on 1/3 acre in Essex. She is reluctantly moving toward growing them exclusively in pots above ground as an appeasement to her creaking joints. If it's edible and medicinal, Sandra is willing to give it a try. If they have a perennial inclination in an east-facing exposure, she's a dévotee for life. Hello sage, rosemary and thyme.