Gentile Family Homestead was recently named one of 12 grant recipients of the 2022 New Hampshire Conservation Districts Climate Resilience Grant.

The grants are awarded to support and empower local farmers to build climate resilience. Particular focus is on reducing the impact of agriculture on climate change through greenhouse gas emissions reduction and carbon sequestration and increasing the resiliency of New Hampshire farms in a changing climate.

Founded in 2014 and located in Fitzwilliam, NH, Gentile Family homestead is owned by Amy and Brian Gentile.

“Our farm is on 24 acres of mostly open pasture and hayfields,” said Amy. “Primarily, we focus on raising heritage breed livestock. We’ve found these traditional breeds to be hardy and well-adapted to both our farming practices and the sometimes harsh New England weather. We are passionate about the animals we raise and thus the majority of our breeding stock are registered with their respective breed associations, so that we can also contribute to the preservation of these important breeds.”

The Gentiles’ flock of Delaware hens supplies a regular stock of eggs, roasting birds and future breeders. Amy also keeps Bourbon Red turkeys, a herd of 18 – 25 British White cattle for beef and breeding stock and a drift of Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs. A threatened heritage breed, the Gentiles’ Gloucestershire Old Spots have made many public appearances over the years; most recently, the pigs traveled to the Strawbery Banke Outdoor History Museum in Portsmouth. The drove made up part of the museum’s display “Baby Animals: Heritage Breeds.”

Amy continued, “We grow and bale most of our own hay, rotationally graze our cattle and capture and spread manure onto our hay fields. All fruit, vegetable and raw milk leftovers are fed to the pigs and chickens or composted to minimize food waste. And we aim to implement regenerative farming practices as much as possible.”

A true family homestead, there are only four “employees” – Amy, her husband and their two sons, ages 10 and 13. “Our sons are a big part of the farm. They’re the reason we first began homesteading and now they’re also hands-on, helping us in a really big way with almost every project we tackle here,” Amy said. “It’s been heartwarming to see them develop into enthusiastic stewards of our livestock.”

Growing up on the Gentile Family Homestead

Elias (10) and Sawyer (13) farm with their parents, Amy and Brian Gentile, in Fitzwilliam, NH. In addition to the poultry, pigs and beef cattle they raise, the boys also train and show 4-H working steers. Photo courtesy of Amy Gentile

In addition to the poultry, pigs and beef cattle they raise, the boys also train and show 4-H working steers, so there’s always a team or two of oxen, or oxen-in-training, on the farm, which Amy thinks is “pretty neat!”

Spring is an exceptionally busy time of year for the Gentiles, as it “brings lots of new life on the farm.” At the same time, Amy quickly added, “there’s no off season when you raise livestock.”

The Gentile Family Homestead direct markets their meat and offers registered breeding stock as well as quality feeder piglets and steers to local folks interested in raising their own freezer animals. Their customer base is all within 50 miles of the farm, but Amy noted that the majority of them are considerably closer than that.

Amy expounded on her farm’s involvement in the climate resilience grant program. “Like most folks in our area, our farm has been impacted by climate change,” she said. “In recent years, our property has been challenged by increased instances of drought and we have had to prioritize our water usage. The grant was a perfect fit to help our farm implement a new system to save water. With the awarded grant funds we will be installing an automatic livestock watering system. We plan to situate the new waterer in the common area of our rotational grazing pastures, which will efficiently and effectively provide fresh water to our herd of cattle.

“The installation of this new system will help conserve the water we do have available by minimizing spillage and the need to frequently empty stock tanks for cleaning and freshening. Aside from conserving the amount of water used, the automatic waterer will have the added benefit of reducing time spent making frequent trips to transport water to stock tanks.”

While Gentile Family Homestead does not have an online sales option yet, Amy said that getting a farm website up and running is one of their top goals for 2023.

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by Enrico Villamaino