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Monitor Board of Contributors: A new generation of farmers gives us hope for the future

We are surrounded with distressing and disheartening news each day. Random shootings by aggressive, abused and angry people. Senseless killing of innocents. The destruction of land and environmental resources.

Many days it is a real challenge to experience a sense of hope in the future of our world, country and even our state. However, New Hampshire has always offered my family a rich resource to create a life that can make a difference. The self-destructive course we seem to be following as a nation can be turned around one person, one relationship at a time.

The WWWOOF you might have heard in Dunbarton center this summer was not our two large dogs barking. It was the sound of two seasoned hippies, my husband and me, participating in a global exchange of labor, food and hours of conversation. Our farm, Chanticleer Gardens, extended a welcome to several young farmer trainees.

World Wide Workers on Organic Farms is a loose international organization that links willing organic farmers with equally willing workers. Host farms provide room and board and workers provide at least 20 hours of labor a week.

Our 150-acre farm in Dunbarton reflects a long-held belief in sustainable agriculture. We moved to New Hampshire in the mid-’60s and raised three children and all our own food. Now we are both retired and have too many projects and too little time. We invited our first WWWOOFR last summer to provide the extra hands and energy we needed.

Amanda came for a week and left behind an amazing legacy of memories, completed tasks and a friendship that has kept on growing. She was young and energetic. She knew nothing of farming. Yet her visit fulfilled the stated mission of WWWOOFing-to “promote educational exchange and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.” Amanda returned to college to change her major to plant biology.

Brad, Catherine, Lucus, Dan, Cecily and Julia have all made their mark on our lives. Catherine and Lucus are Australian, and this was their first U.S. visit. We tried to take them to see more of New Hampshire, but they asked politely if they could please stay on the farm the entire week. They absorbed every bit of information they could from Ken and me. We stayed up way past our bedtime to tell stories. We both expanded our convictions and concerns about the way food is raised and marketed in this country.

Cecily and Julia are college sophomores. They worked all day every day. They cooked and harvested. They organized my canning shelves and could not get enough of “what’s next?”

Dan and Brad both had the muscle and endurance that challenged both of us. We loved working with them and setting them on their own.

Ken and I are amazed that this way of life we have been living for more than 40 years is suddenly new news to these young people. Each visit reaffirmed our belief in our convictions. We renewed our faith that the future has young stewards of the land. They are willing to work as hard as farming demands. They are excited and curious. They brought us hope. They brought us friendship.

The New Hampshire Advantage is the new motto to help promote our state. For me the real New Hampshire Advantage is in this experience. If you invite strangers into your home, New Hampshire provides room for self-sufficiency farms of 150 acres right in the center of town. The Advantage is reflected in neighbors who support our community efforts and reach out to our visitors. New Hampshire has safe space to grow new ideas. New Hampshire has many experienced mentor farmers to share their challenges and their wisdom.

I am sure Chanticleer Gardens will open its doors again next summer to a new group of WWWOOFs. We will take a chance on another adventure. My hope is that others in the farming community will join us.

(Susan Koerber of Dunbarton is the retired founding director of the nonprofit Woodside School in Concord.)

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