Claddagh Hill Farm was established in 2012 by two family names brought together through marriage. The New Hampshire Gleeson family comes from a tradition of Irish sheep and cattle farming and, as far back as the times of Cromwellian England, the clan was famed for its unrivaled horses. Now, with three generations of Gleesons born on American soil, they still remain an enthusiastic part of that history with visits to those family farms still operating in Ireland today.
Springing up from a different tradition, the Ayer side of Claddagh Hill Farm is a part of the rich texture of old American homesteading, with childhood summers filled with visits to family farms in Missouri focused on grain production. The Gleeson and Ayer union have brought together two distinctly different farming heritages, but a shared vision for contemporary, homegrown, and sustainable American farming.
Seeing an opportunity to combine a love of animals with a passion for healthy lifestyles, Claddagh Hill Farm was established with a vision to cultivate local meat and produce of the highest quality. Applying their educational backgrounds in pre-med science from Williams College, the founders have taken up an unconventional approach to farming and are consistently researching and adopting some of the most advanced and innovative farming techniques and practices being used today.
Appreciate the pigginess of the pig.
Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm
Our philosophy at Claddagh Hill Farm is simple: Permit an animal to be what they are and do what they do, naturally. By having our livestock live symbiotically with one another and the land through rotational grazing, we are able to integrate natural pest management and reduce the use of chemicals, resulting in healthier crops and animals, and thus healthier produce and meats. Meanwhile, this natural approach drastically reduces our carbon footprint. In all that we do, we aim for complete transparency and to educate the same local community for which we provide wholesome and nutritious foods.
Rotational Grazing at Claddagh Hill Farm
Rotational grazing maximizes the use of available land to produce as much food (and nutrition) as possible. Animals are allowed to use their natural instincts without unnatural interference to improve soil and grass coverage. In turn, they help to control parasites for each other in a cyclical motion.
Claddagh Hill Farm operates out of two historical properties. The first straddles the state line in the southwest corner of Nashua, NH, spilling over into Dunstable, MA. The second lies on the foothills of Mount Monadnock in New Ipswich, NH. The two locations provide for different aspects of our production and education models.
Our pastures in Nashua and Dunstable are on The Nature of Things campus, home to Nature’s Pathways (early childhood) and 2nd Nature Academy (preschool through eighth grade). This campus plays host to our Humane Education Program. Joseph Swallow founded the land as a farm in the 18th century. Swallow was the grandson of Ambrose Swallow, one of the original founders of Dunstable, MA (present-day Nashua, NH). The younger Swallow built the original farmhouse in 1749, which still stands today on a separate, private property on Gregg Road. The corresponding barn was built the following year, but unfortunately burned down in a fire in the 19th century. The barn was rebuilt in 1890 on the original granite stone foundation and this structure still stands today on The Nature of Things campus as a historical landmark.
By the 20th century, the Swallow farm had ceased to be operational and, during this era, had a few prominent owners, including Dr. Paul deNicola (namesake of the deNicola Breast Health Center at Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center) and Hugh Gregg, one-time mayor of Nashua and Governor of New Hampshire, and his family. The property was purchased by the Gleesons in the spring of 2006 and, for the first time since Swallow possession, became utilized once again as an operational farm.
Roughly 10 acres of the 40-acre campus are used to graze young cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. It is also home to two alpacas, two riding horses, and a miniature donkey. In addition to the historical barn, there are two contemporary animal barns on the property.
New Ipswich Pastures
The bulk of Claddagh Hill Farm meat and crop production occurs on our New Ipswich pastures and fields and is home to mature cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. The farming operation dates back to the dawn of the 20th century with the current farmhouse built in 1912 and the barn predating that. Of the 73-acre property, 35 acres are currently in pasture with 15 acres of pasture being reclaimed and the remaining 23 acres are wetland and woodlot.
At Claddagh Hill Farm, we believe the average American has lost touch with where and how their food has been produced and wish to disrupt this disturbing trend by instilling this knowledge in a new generation. By working with The Nature of Things’ Humane Education Program, students at Nature’s Pathways (early childhood) and 2nd Nature Academy (preschool through eighth grade) in Nashua, NH have the privileged opportunity of witnessing “farm to fork” firsthand.
Claddagh Hill Farm teaches students by instilling the values of hard work and sharing in those benefits and rewards. Children of all ages are taught about responsibility through caring for another living being and learn that by providing for our animals and taking care of our natural surroundings, our community benefits in exchange.
Additional educational opportunities include learning the fundamentals of nutrition for both consumers and animals, understanding the environmental benefits of local, grass-based agriculture, and additional hands-on experiences are provided via field trips, seminars, classes, and more.
Beginning in summer of 2017, Claddagh Hill will also play host to the 2nd Nature Farm Camp.