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Keeping Busy at Agape Homestead Farm

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - June 2, 2014

Agape Farm

Agape Farm offers goat cheese as part of its operation.

There is never a dull moment when you live on a farm. There is always something to do, something to plan for, an animal to tend, a piece of machinery to fix, or a garden to plant or tend.

That is surely a sentiment to which Kevin and Janna Straughan of Agape Homestead Farm can relate. Their farm, located on Route 16-B in the village of Center Ossipee, may seem small in size but Kevin and Janna make good use of the property where they moved after a devastating fire razed their former farm in 2010.

The new location is next door to their former farm and the couple and their children have settled into their new home/farm quite well. “People in the community were so helpful at that time,” recalls Janna. “And some people brought back animals they had purchased from us in the past; they wanted to help us rebuild.”

The present farmhouse was built in the early 1800s and is an attractive, comfortable home where Janna bakes and prepares jams and jellies in a large kitchen. Because they home school their children, the house serves as a classroom as well.

Farming started for the Straughans in the 1990s when they bought a few chickens and sheep and discovered they loved tending the animals. “Then we took on goats,” Kevin said. “We had friends with goats and they got us interested. We realized soon that we had more goat’s milk than we could use, so we started making goat cheese.”

They discovered what an involved process cheese-making is, such as needing a pasteurizing machine and a milking parlor. State regulations must be followed and Janna and Kevin are very strict about adhering to all laws when it comes to preparing cheese and other foods.

Once they started selling goat cheese, they found it to be a good niche market. “There are only a few people licensed in New Hampshire to make goat cheese,” Kevin said. “We have a soft-spread goat cheese and a feta goat cheese. We flavor the soft-spread cheese with garlic, dill, onion, and pepper. The feta is flavored with rosemary, basil, garlic, and extra-virgin light olive oil.”

“We have a commercial kitchen and we are licensed as a cheese producer and homesteader. We also have a farm store on the property and we have wholesale accounts where we deliver cheese to a few stores,” Janna added.

Along with the cheese business, Agape Homestead Farm is the home of chickens, sheep, goats, and two cows. “We raise chickens, pigs, turkeys, and lambs,” Kevin said. Some of the meat is for sale in the farm store, where customers can purchase lamb and pork products.

The Straughans love the farming lifestyle and Janna says, “We like having goats and chickens around. It is really nice to live on a farm.”

The farm truly is a home to the large family and Kevin and Janna agree that the main reason they farm is to feed and support their family. With nine children (seven of whom are home-schooled), operating the farm and producing much of their own food makes complete sense.

Along with their farm work, the Straughns run Agape Ministries with a food pantry in Ossipee. It also is the site of a thrift store: The recent economic recession made the food pantry and access to warm clothing a wonderful thing for the area.

“We started the food pantry in our home in 2000,” Janna recalls. “We moved it to another location (across from the Pizza Barn on Route 16 in Center Ossipee) and it is now open three days a week.”

Parents who are looking for a fun trek with their children can call ahead to schedule a time to visit Agape Homestead Farm. With 12 adult and eight baby goats, eight lambs, five adult sheep, chickens, and two Holstein steers, there is a lot to see on the farm and Kevin and Janna enjoy welcoming people for farm tours.

“We hope to have animals outside this summer,” explains Kevin. “If it is chore time, children can see what it is like to milk and feed the goats.”

Working with children is a passion for Janna and Kevin and their children come first and foremost, whether it is working on home-school projects or encouraging the children to enjoy the animals on the farm. Of course, they dream that someday one or more of the children will become farmers, but their main goal is to raise happy children.

A typical day on the farm means that Janna (in order to have some quiet time to herself) rises at 4 a.m., and Kevin is up by 5 a.m. Kevin oversees the farm chores, which begin at 6:30 a.m. “We make cheese two to three times a week,” says Janna, “and, of course, the farm chores take place daily. We milk twice a day, clean the animal pens, and there is also baking bread and muffins and making jams and jellies for the farm store.”

The farm shop is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and shoppers purchase products on the honor system. The one-room rustic shop has a large meat freezer where shoppers can purchase a variety of meats, and the tables display a variety of baked goods. The special goat cheese produced on the farm is a popular item, as is the homemade granola that Janna says goes fast when it is offered in the shop. Also offered is soap made from goat’s milk and hand-knit items.

In the future, Kevin and Janna hope to expand the farm so their children can become more involved. This will most likely mean more cheese production and, as the children grow, Janna hopes to sell their products at local farmers’ markets.

There is never a dull moment at the Straughan’s homestead. It is all part of life on a busy, working farm and Janna and Kevin wouldn’t trade their lifestyle and work for anything.

To schedule a farm tour, call 603-677-6826 or 677-6254. Agape Homestead Farm (and farm store) is located on Route 16-B in Center Ossipee village.) 

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