Larry Pletcher’s legacy: Keep the farm alive

  • Vegetable Ranch farmer Larry Pletcher is one of many New Hampshire food system players who makes an effort to get his products out locally, but runs into barriers. ELODIE REED

  • Pletcher Farm, Warner - and at Concord Farmers Market Pletcher Farm

  • Larry Pletcher of the Vegetable Ranch in Warner points to where tomato plants are strung up in April 2020. He died in May from a heart attack. Geoff ForesterMonitor staff

  • Larry Pletcher of Vegetable Ranch talks to customers at Concord’s Winter Farmers Market at Cole Gardens, April 2, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Vegetable Ranch farmer Larry Pletcher is one of many New Hampshire food system players who makes an effort to get his products out locally, but runs into barriers. ELODIE REED

  • Vegetable Ranch farmer Larry Pletcher is one of many New Hampshire food system players who makes an effort to get his products out locally, but runs into barriers. ELODIE REED

  • Vegetable Ranch farmer Larry Pletcher is one of many New Hampshire food system players who makes an effort to get his products out locally, but runs into barriers. ELODIE REED

Monitor columnist
Published: 6/8/2021 5:11:04 PM

A hailstorm about 30 years ago killed five rows of lettuce – each head an inch or more above the soil – at the Vegetable Ranch in Warner.

That translated into wasted work and wasted money, and that hurt, especially in the farming business. “I went into a corner and cried,” Carol Pletcher remembered.

Her late husband, Larry Pletcher, cool like James Bond, followed her in and took charge.

“Well, pull it all out and put it in the compost pile,” Carol remembers Larry telling her, remaining calm, on an even keel. “And then we can start over.”

Carol is not starting over. She’s resuming Larry’s work on the 125-acre fruit and vegetable farm, adding to his legacy, keeping his story alive. He died from a heart attack last month. He would have turned 75 last week.

Carol knows she’d be wise to adopt some of her husband’s demeanor. He opened the farm in 1988 and made it work.

“You need that kind of perseverance,” Carol said. “He started a small garden and he thought organic was organic before there was organic. He got interested. We went to a conference to learn.”

That's what Pletcher did. He learned new things, and he brought Carol along for the ride, before they had met at a party in San Francisco a while back.  

Asked if she was attracted to Larry immediately, Carol told me, “Yes, I was. I think it was a good match.”

She loved the new worlds Larry introduced to her. She loved the fact that he tried things. 

Like law. Larry grew up in New Jersey and went to nearby Princeton and then UCLA. He became a real estate lawyer. 

Next, he wanted to be a trial attorney. Carol said he was a natural. She said he showed the traits then that she'd admire later, when that hailstorm ambushed his garden. Focused. Vision. Act.

“He decided to take a course in trial work,” Carol said. “He had the voice. He had a great voice and he had the ability to think quickly on his feet, and he did not get flustered.”

She tried to show one of the aspects of his personality, saying, “If the world was coming to an end in two minutes, he would ask how you would like to spend it.”

The couple researched New England and chose to live in New Hampshire in the 1980s. Larry spent time reading and enjoying the arts with Carol. They loved seeing the Boston Symphony. That gave Larry an idea.

“He wanted to play the cello,” Carol said. “He took lessons, until a chainsaw damaged two of his fingers.”

He wanted to write books. Write about his experiences raising his daughter, Jennifer. A publisher noticed he could write, but spiked the dad angle. The publisher wanted a book on hiking some of the great New Hampshire mountains.

Larry’s method of research and reporting? Hike the Granite State’s 4,000 footers, of course. All 48. He had fenced in college, but was hardly in prime condition to do it.

“He did every one of them and hiked all by himself,” Carol said. “He was off and on in shape. Sometimes he would start jogging and lose 20 pounds. He was a member of the Y. He was pretty healthy. He always had just a little bit of extra weight.”

He spent his last three decades building the Vegetable Ranch in Warner. He pushed the organic angle, meaning, Carol said, “No agent orange or DuPont.”

Business was great last spring, even with the coronavirus greatly damaging, even ruining, other businesses. Larry said then that he was selling twice as much as normal at the Winter Farmers’ Market in Concord.

 Other products also had record sales as the public remained leery to be near others, inside a grocery store. Twenty pounds of potatoes, 10 pounds of carrots, five chickens.

Carol hopes recent changes to the consumer landscape stay put. She hopes people will drive over, be outside, go organic, visit the cows that Larry kept as pets.

She’s fully staffed and says the employees have been terrific to her since Larry died.

No one saw his death coming. He’d been fine, feeling good, but he suffered a stroke last month. Then, not surprisingly, Larry showed a fighting spirit. In fact, Carol and their daughter, Jennifer, thought he lay on the verge of a complete recovery. 

But a heart attack that no one saw coming, in the middle of the night, soon followed. “We thought he was recovering,” Carol said. 

Late last year, while still in good health, Pletcher was able to secure a conservation easement for the farm with the Five Rivers Conservation Trust.

The easement, which Five Rivers said Pletcher offered at a “generous discount,” will go into effect after the land has been surveyed and protect it from future development.

“We knew this is what he wanted,” Carol said. “It’s part of his legacy.”

Carol is taking care of everything else. She must deal with those pesky bears and deer, stop them from munching her veggies. She knew what her husband wanted.

“We’ll do our damnedest to keep the farm going,”  Carol said. “We’ll keep it going for this year and maybe for years to come.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing in the future, but at least we know the farmland will still be there.”




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