Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 32

(left) Si Robertson (left middle) Heather Robertson (right middle) Jamie Robertson (right) Nate Robertson (missing) Bram Robertson

THE CONTOOCOOK CREAMERY AT BOHANAN FARM
By Molly Shaw

The Contoocook River runs 71 miles across southern New Hampshire,
from Pool Pond and Contoocook Lake to Penacook, where it empties into
the Merrimack River. For five generations, the Bohanan family has been
farming beside the banks of the Contoocook River, producing fresh milk,
butter, and cheese.
In 1907, Lester Bohanan bought 100 acres in the Contoocook River
Valley in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. He grew just enough to feed his
livestock and family, with a little left over to barter or sell, but he still
managed to keep the farm in the family. With each passing generation, the
Bohanan Farm added more land and cattle, eventually swelling to more
than 440 acres and 400 head of cattle.
In 2008, Glenn and Adele Bohanan turned the reins over to their
daughter, Heather Bohanan Robertson and her husband Jamie Robertson.
Today, as fourth generation owner-operators, Heather and Jamie oversee
the daily ins and outs of the Bohanan Farm.
"The farm has been in the family for five generations. Heather's
grandparents and great aunt and uncle were the second generation and her
parents were the third," says Jamie, who grew up on his family's poultry
farm in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. "When Heather and I came
back to the farm in 1990 we had about 100 cows, but we needed more
land."
Preserving a Family Legacy

Even after multiple generations and roots that run deep in Contoocook,
industry consolidation and modern day business pressures have put
tension on the farm. Despite greater challenges, smaller margins, and the
inability to acquire more farm land, Heather and Jamie promised each
other one thing when they assumed ownership: "We weren't going to let
the family lose ties to the farm-not on our watch," says Jamie.
The Robertsons decided the most important thing was that the land
remained undeveloped. In September 2008, Jamie contacted the Hopkinton
Open Space Committee to see if the group would purchase a conservation
easement. "They welcomed the opportunity with great enthusiasm,"
recounts Jamie. "The town brought in Five Rivers Conservation Trust to

32

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help with the project."
A coalition was formed, including the town of Hopkinton, Fiver
Rivers Conservation Trust, private donors, and the Natural Resource
Conservation Service. In December 2009, a special town meeting was
held-the largest in the town's history-and more than two-thirds of
voters were in favor of the easement. Thanks to these efforts, the Bohanan
Farm will be preserved as an open space, protected from commercial
development forever. "We felt the land should always stay as farm land
and this was the only way to ensure that," says Jamie.
If You Can't Intensify, Diversify

The farmland was now protected, but Jamie still saw a major hurdle in
maintaining enough production with now 200 cows and limited land. "It
came down to the fact that we needed more land and since that wasn't
going to happen we had to look at other options to position the business
for the future. I never realized this before but for the first time I thought,
'well, if you can't intensify, diversify,'" he says.
Selling the development rights to the farm in 2009 provided the assets
the family needed to help get the farm's first try at bottling milk in glass
bottles. "We saw demand growing for quality local products, spurred by
the 'Eat Local' movement and thought it was a way to offer an opportunity
to the fifth generation," explains Jamie.
With sons Si, Nate, and Bram Robertson quickly becoming young men,
Jamie and Heather launched The Contoocook Creamery at Bohanan
Farm in 2011 to sell fresh, wholesome milk in returnable glass bottles
to the Hopkinton/Concord area. "Si and Nate have already gone through
college at the University of New Hampshire Thompson School of Applied
Science and Bram is still in high school, but they all want to come back to
work on the farm," says Jamie.
Bohanan Farm turned to Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, Maine, to
bottle the fluid milk in signature glass bottles. Changing the philosophy
from intensification to diversification, Bohanan Farm just completed its
fifth year of successful bottling.
As with any new business venture, Jamie says there have been plenty of
challenges. "When we were just getting our product off the ground, we
realized an area competitor was doing the same exact thing," he shares.
"But it's turned out to be friendly competition; sometimes we even swap


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Perspectives - Winter 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Perspectives - Winter 2016

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Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Contents
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