71 Cook Hill Road
Alstead, N.H. 03602
On a special parcel of hilly terrain in Alstead, N.H. known as Cook Hill Farm, owners Jean and Michael Balamuth are living their retirement dream surrounded by their own organic vegetables, flowers, herbs, berries, and apples.
Jean Balamuth is becoming more widely known for her way with worms, however. Jean is skilled in the art of vermiculture, or the raising of worms, a skill she stumbled upon when the Balamuths were first starting out in 2011, after retiring in 2010. “That first year, we spent our entire budget on manure,” she said.
Knowing that was not sustainable, Jean began to research for better methods. What she learned is that vermicompost, a composting process where worms break down plant matter, results in worm castings (worm poop), perhaps the richest fertilizer known to humans.
For her next birthday gift, Jean asked for 1,000 worms, the arrival of which caused a sensation down at the local post office. That began “ a wonderful chapter in our lives.”
After learning how to care and feed her new arrivals, Jean began to see progress. The farm has since increased their worm casting production enough to completely supply their own farm. She adds seaweed to the worm castings to perfect her vermicompost mix, making “a wonderful nitrogen-rich fertilizer.”
In addition to selling any leftover vermicompost, as well as her organic produce, the farm has become well known for their quality plant starts. These are small plants that have grown from quality seeds – she swears by Johnny’s Selected Seeds from Maine – that are already thriving and ready to transport in newspaper pots filled with fertilizer. She grows unique varieties of vegetables and flowers that that are well suited for the area, including tomatoes, onions, garlic, squashes, cucumbers, petunias, and sunflowers. She sells them in newspaper pots by the thousands. According to Jean, “many of these plants, especially the sunflowers, they have a much better chance of survival if already started.”
Cook Hill Farm usually attends one market or event a month but sells directly to other farms and neighbors. Follow them on Facebook to find out where they’ll be next or contact the Balamuths at Cook Hill Farm directly and they’ll be happy to help you.