photo story

Beauty, Worthwhile Work and Fun

By / Photography By Kimberly Peck & Jackie Caserta | November 04, 2015
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Tending the chickens

When the Caserta family bought this former dairy farm in 1998, they didn’t dream of pasture-raised pigs and organic cotton linens. Siblings Chris and Jacqueline and their parents simply wanted to protect the land from development. They’d grown up on a bordering property and held the sloping pastures and wide forests dear.

But once you buy 105 acres, you need to do something with it. Jacqueline, known as Jackie, and Chris were interested in organic farming, local foods, and contributing to a vibrant rural economy. So, naturally, they chose to start a “green” bed-and-breakfast and grass-based, organically managed farm.

The fact that none of the Casertas had farming or innkeeping experience didn’t discourage them. Neither did the ramshackle 1774 Colonial house, the other shaky historic home, the two huge dilapidated barns, the rickety outbuildings scattered like mushroom spores, or the overgrown, nearly feral property itself.

Holding up eggs
Sitting in front of the farm store
Eggs in a basket
The Casertas are not a family to let a few rehabilitation projects slow them down. They opened the Inn at Valley Farms in 1999 and launched Walpole Valley Farms not long after. With Jackie as innkeeper, the inn can now accommodate 28 guests in three private rooms, two guest cottages, and a farmhouse rental. Green lodging and travel practices are de rigueur, from fresh local foods at breakfast, to environmentally-safe cleaning supplies, to a composting system guests can use.

On the farm, Chris, his wife, Caitlin, and their two boys raise 100% grass-fed beef, pasture-raised heritage pork, chicken turkey, and eggs. They also sell GMO-free feed for layer hens and pigs, as well as pet food.

Pigs
Cows

Inn guests are welcome to tour the farm and participate in chores—collecting eggs is a favorite—though Jackie makes it clear that this is a working farm, not a petting zoo. She often leads guests through her gardens, where she grows herbs and heirloom vegetables that they can pick and use during their stay. Jackie proudly tells them about her no-till gardening method, a system of permanent paths and beds that helps increase soil fertility and plant production (and cut down on weeding, much to her delight).

Holding up a chicken

This element of gentle, joyous education sets the inn and farm apart. Jackie and Chris run the businesses to support their environmental beliefs, and to make it possible for their guests to do the same. They understand that they have a responsibility to preserve, protect, and enhance this land. They know that such responsibility is best upheld through community, where people can experience together beauty, fulfilling work, and fun. With the Inn at Valley Farms and Walpole Valley Farms, that’s just what the Casertas do.

Article from Edible New Hampshire at http://ediblenewhampshire.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/beauty-worthwhile-work-and-fun
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