Text by Tovah Martin
Anne and Pooh Sprague met when they both joined the 4-H Club at age 15, but the relationship didn’t get romantic until college. The moment after they graduated, they wasted no time getting married. But beyond knowing that they wanted to spend their lives together, they had no game plan. Anne taught school while Pooh drove a truck and played in a bluegrass band until the newlyweds caught wind of the 28-acre farm for sale in Plainfield, New Hampshire. “We were probably crazy,” Anne admits. Back in 1974, buying Edgewater Farm felt like the right way to go.
When someone mentioned that strawberries would be a fast track to Easy Street , they took the plunge and planted half an acre. When someone else suggested that selling their own freshly picked corn from the back of their Jeep would pay for the kids’ college tuition, they bagged up 100 bushels a day and started tailgating. Then the intrepid young farmers with inexhaustible energy marketed vegetables from a rickety red barn before they built a bona fide farm stand in 1984. “It didn’t have a cooler,” Anne says, “so we hauled all the perishables home every night.”
Gradually, word of their off-the-beaten-track crops spread. And simultaneously, Anne and Pooh planted more fields. Today, the Spragues pioneer items that cannot be found in a supermarket to lure customers from near and far. If a customer wants heirloom tomatoes, they can choose from Cherokee Purple, Pink Accordion, Green Zebra, Orange Blossom, Japanese Black Trifele, Striped Russian, and many others with a past that will change their BLTs forever. If they’re looking for pumpkins, they might have a difficult time choosing between the Long Island Cheese, Knuckle Head, Lumina, and Jarrahdale.
With the help of Mike Harrington, who has been by their side for 35 years since he applied for an afterschool job at age 12, Anne and Pooh put in raspberries, blueberries, and black raspberries as well as innumerable annual crops. They rebuilt the farm stand in 2010 and had long since installed ample refrigeration, but this time around, they added a commercial kitchen that whips up everything from scones to carrot cake to pickles and casseroles. The Nutella cookies are scarfed up when they are still warm from the oven.
When the autumn air is crisp and the leaves turn to amber, the farm stand becomes a destination for anyone searching for that special pumpkin. Local clients come weekly to pick up their CSA shares. But people journey from a whole lot farther than just the neighboring towns. Edgewater Farm draws from all over New England. In fact, the farm lured Anne and Pooh’s kids back home. “This was just our dream; we never dared to hope they’d join us in it,” Anne says. But Sarah Sprague and her brother, Raymond, returned to the farm after graduation.
Raymond sells the farm’s produce wholesale (plus they donate excess three times a week to Willing Hands, a local charity to feed people in need). Sarah keeps the farm stand on the cutting edge, displaying the produce stacked in terra-cotta pots or overflowing from picnic baskets. Thanks to Sarah, spires of Brussels sprouts still on the stalk stand tall, zinnias are clustered with clouds of curly parsley, and braided onions are strung beside bushel baskets of potatoes in rainbow colors. Bins overflow with eggplants of all stripes, rare radishes, and cauliflower in colors far beyond plain white. Outside the stand, angel’s trumpets shower the entryway with hundreds of oversize blossoms, while cosmos and salvias keep pumping out flowers until frost nips them in the bud. No wonder traffic pulls off the road when the weather starts to chill. The produce is so fresh you can almost taste the field in every morsel, and the variety of crops is second to none. But still, there’s something extra special about Edgewater Farm that draws you in as autumn temperatures plummet—quite possibly, it’s the warmth of the love put into every aspect of this fruitful farm.
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