Mike and Debbi (Brown) Provost of Kemah Farm in Alexandria are proud to carry on the tradition of berry farming, begun by Debbi's father Harry Brown nearly four decades ago. They are joined in the operation by her brother Stephen Brown (not shown in the photo). (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
July 30, 2020ALEXANDRIA – Views of Mt. Cardigan, Firescrew Mountain and other landmarks are a peaceful backdrop to berry picking at Kemah Farm in Alexandria, where the public is welcomed to not only gather fruit from any of the 10 varieties of berries they grow, but to relax and enjoy the beauty of rural New Hampshire.
Kemah Farm (an Indian term for "facing the wind") dates back several decades to when Harry Brown of Halifax, Mass. purchased the property and it's 1800's cape-style farmhouse in 1948.
"He considered it a place to sit back and relax," said his daughter Debbi Provost. "My mother was a teacher so my brother and I have been coming here since we were babies."
The family spent all their summers at the farm and in the mid-80's her dad decided to bring the 98-acres of land back into production by planting blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, grapes and vegetables. Harry's crops were sold for many years at local shops in Bristol and also helped feed hikers at the nearby Mt. Cardigan AMC lodge.
When his farmstand across from today's Village Pizza eventually closed, he took on a new approach, son Stephen Brown said, beginning a "pick-your-own" business for their berry crops.
When Mildred and Harry passed away, their children Stephen Brown and Debbi Brown Provost vowed to continue their dad's interest in growing berries while providing a peaceful place for people to enjoy a summer day.
Debbi and her husband Michael retired and moved nearby in Alexandria so they could continue to maintain the property. Brother Stephen continues living in Massachusetts but assists his sister with the business and, since they took ownership of the property, not much has really changed. Enjoying nature and the great outdoors meant a lot to their dad and they share his same values.
"Dad was also very much involved in the Halifax Boy Scouts when we were young and he always invited them up here for a camp out every year," Debbi said. "To this day, the Scouts still come here to camp on Columbus Day weekend. I think that's wonderful!"
Harry Brown started his berry farm operations in 1984 with 24 blueberry bushes. Over the years, the numbers have grown to 400, with 70 new bushes planted by the family in recent years.
"There's everything from the small, sweet blueberries to the larger ones that many people like, too," said Debbi.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, Debbi and Mike routinely spend up to four or five hours at a time in keeping the fields and parking areas mowed, along with an additional few hours of hand trimming around the bushes. Other necessary tasks include regular pruning as well as fertilizing the plants twice a year.
"There's a lot of effort that goes into this," said Debbi. "People think it all just happens naturally but we spend a lot of time caring for our berries."
It's all worth it though, she said, when she sees people smile as they spend time on their property. Offering people the opportunity to enjoy the view, the birds and wildlife, along with the peace and quiet, is just as important to her as the berries themselves.
"There's no rules, no hurry when you come here. We've even set up a place for people to have lunch or relax in the shade for a while. We really want everyone to just enjoy a day in the country when they come here because that's what my father always wanted," Debbi said.
In fact, they are currently busy refurbishing the house with the intention of offering it as a retreat for First Responders and others looking to get away from the stress of everyday life.
Their business is run on the honor system. Once visitors wind there way down the wooded country lane they will find a rustic kiosk where they can grab containers for berry picking, leave a check or cash when they are done, and hopefully even write a comment or two in their guest book.
"Yum!" was all one young berry picker had to say, while others have commented on the scenery, their picking experience and how much they enjoyed their day.
Kemah Farm is located off Mount Cardigan Rd., approximately three miles from Alexandria Village and just a short distance beyond Cardigan Mountain Apple Orchard. "U-Pick" blueberry signs point the way. The price, as it has been for the past 10 years, is $2.50/pint and the fields are open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day for as long as the berry season lasts. More information, directions and even favorite blueberry recipes can be found on their Facebook page or at www.kemahfarm.com.