As they expand Ox Hollow Farm at the historic Good Hill Farm Preserve, Mark and Stephanie Maynard have no shortage of work in front of them.
Recently the Roxbury Land Trust chose the Maynards among the numerous applicants looking to lease the historic 467-acre property on the Roxbury-Woodbury town line at Route 317 and Tophet Road.
Approximately 120 acres of the land are tillable and the property will continue to provide a mix of forest, recreation, avian habitat and agriculture, said Susan Payne, executive director of Roxbury Land Trust.
Once a strong dairy operation, the farm in recent years was mostly used for hay and corn. The land trust has owned it since 2003.
“(Mark) truly has a passion for farming. We are very pleased this all worked out for him and us,” Payne said. “We are looking forward to having a more diversified operation at Good Hill Farm.”
“It’s local to where we are,” said Mark Maynard, a native Roxbury farmer who studied animal science at UConn and established Ox Hollow in 1993. “We’ve used land trust land before. They’re very good to us.”
“It’s kind of a pat on the back to have their (the land trust’s) faith behind us,” said Stephanie Maynard, a 10-year veteran of Ox Hollow Farm, who married Mark approximately a year ago. “This location really suits us. There’s a lot of opportunity.”
The location is just across town from Judd’s Bridge Farms, where the Maynards continue to lease land. They also live in Roxbury, in close proximity to both locations.
Stephanie Maynard said one of the advantages of the property, which they’ve initially leased for five years, is the abundance of natural sunlight, an advantage for vegetables and farmers that need to squeeze out every hour of the day.
“It’s exciting,” Stephanie Maynard said. “We’ll have so much more daylight to work with – and more visibility.”
But for the Maynards, there’s much to do at Good Hill prior to even sowing seed, letting cows out to pasture or haying its fields.
On a recent day Mark and Stephanie, with the help of 8-year-old Owen and 10-year-old Mackenzie, were installing fence posts with cabled barriers designed to enclosed a vegetable patch, keep out the cows and least discourage the deer. It’s just one of the many projects to finish before they can begin planting and bring some animals to the new location. Another project will be to establish a system for providing water in the pastures, the one downside the Maynards see at the location.
Ox Hollow, established by Mark Maynard in 1993, is known for its sustainably raised beef, pork, lamb, eggs and poultry. Currently the Maynards care for 150 head of Angus cattle.
In recent years, they’ve bucked a common trend and have worked to carry over a non-genetically modified organism philosophy to its feed operation.
“We realized when we’re planting gardens or growing vegetables, we've followed a non-GMO process. It’s just made sense to feed animals non GMO feed as well,” Stephanie Maynard said. “We like to be sustainable in the sense that we grow our own feed for the animals. If we’re doing everything under the same roof, it may as well all have the same sourcing.”
The farm has also diversified over the past years and gone from offering limited vegetables to growing a full range of produce.
This year, the couple estimates they’ll plant 6 acres of vegetables, another 35 of sweet corn and approximately 75 acres of non-genetically modified corn for livestock.
“Expansion to vegetables has been our biggest thing in the past couple of years,” said Stephanie Maynard. “Now we do a garden that’s plentiful from June to September.”
Ox Hollow markets its products in a variety of ways, including farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture offerings for meat and produce and a popular farm stand. While there is room for it, the couple does not plan to initially offer full retail at Good Hill. However, they will continue with the Ox Hollow farm stand in Bantam – near Mt. Tom State Park – where they sell meat, produce, eggs and more.
“It’s hard to make a farm stand a one-stop shop, but at least we have the essentials,” said Stephanie Maynard, a New Milford native.
Those traditional markets will all be served this summer and the couple, with the help of a handful of employees, will also be busy building a future at Good Hill. In addition to the feeding their own family, the Maynards also employ others and work with students in the agriculture program at Nonnewaug, and assuming it is funded at the state level, eventually work with students in a similar program at Region 12.
For the Maynards, it’s a future filled with potential.
“We’re starting from group zero, but that gives us a lot of new possibilities,” Mark Maynard said.