CONWAY — Like the Lucys, Abbotts, Richardsons, Allards, Marshalls, Thibodeaus, Westons and Shermans, to name a few, the name Hussey has been synonymous with agriculture here for years, with the late veterinarian and farmer Dr. Eugene Hussey (1920-2006) establishing his Eastern Slope Farm on West Side Road in 1965.

Hussey bought the 1815-built farm, originally owned by Thomas Merrill, from George Densmore, who had owned it for nearly a half-century. He also owned the former Hood Smith Farm on West Side Road near Side Track Road.

Carrying on the Hussey family’s farming tradition are Hussey’s grandson, Justin Hussey, 45, and wife Julie Hussey, 44, who bought Doc Hussey’s farm from Justin’s uncle, Brian Hussey, in 2013. Justin grew up at the former Hood Smith Farm, once a dairy farm, which was later owned by his father, the late Stephen Hussey.

“My grandfather, as far as I know, started dairying in 1960 (he was already a vet in town as he had come here in 1952) but in 1960, he decided he would start milking cows on his own. He rented acreage from the Farm by the River from Rick Davis’ grandmother (Edith James),” said Justin.

He recently found a bill of sale when cleaning out a desk at the farm that was dated from 1960, for Doc Hussey’s first 20 cows, which he bought from the late John Weston of Weston’s Farm in Fryeburg, Maine.

“I think about that connection a lot, especially at this time of year, when we spend a lot of time out in the fields working,” said Justin.

“The sense of pride I get partly comes from knowing these are the same fields my grandfather and father worked.” He said it pleases him when people stop by and share their stories of the days gone by at the farm.

“People stop and tell me how they worked for my grandfather back in the ‘60s or ’70s. I love to hear their stories,” said Justin.

Being the only dairy farm in the county, in a region where there once were many, and on a road where there once were five, the Husseys enjoy teaching local residents about what happens on their family’s farm.

“I think in our society people used to have a more direct connection with farming,” said Justin. “It’s kind of sad that today — we rely on agriculture for our food, and people don’t really understand how stuff gets to the grocery store. So part of our responsibility as farmers is to educate people about why we do what we do.”

The name of their dairy farm at first glance is a mouthful: Naughtaveel Farm, which is not some strange ancestral Welsh name but a play on words to explain that no, contrary to a question from a certain local animal rights activist, it is not a veal farm.

Their commercial dairy farm now includes 250 acres of corn and 250 acres of hay crop, with 70 acres of soybeans, with a 185-cow milking herd of mostly Holsteins and 160 head of heifers. The milk is shipped to Agri-Mark co-operative, which is comprised of 600 dairy farmers in the Northeast and helps make Cabot cheese.

Helping the Hussey operation are four employees, along with Justin and Julie, and children Allie, 16, a sophomore and Sawyer, 15, a freshman, both students at Kennett High.

Julie notes that being farmers has allowed Justin and herself to be close to their kids, who, having seen their parents working on the farm while growing up, have a good work ethic in academics and in sports.

“They are well-rounded people,” said Julie. “They are are both involved in varsity sports and don’t have as much time to work on the farm as we might like, but they have seen us work and that has instilled in them a good work ethic for which both are known.”

The hours on a farm depend on the season. They milk their cows twice a day, between 6-11 a.m. and 5-9 p.m. They cut hay. They take care of mechanical equipment issues.

They love the work but say it’s been especially challenging this year dealing with the inflationary factors of high costs for fuel, equipment replacement parts, feed and fertilizer.

“Fertilizer and feed are about double what they cost last year,” said Julie. “So, right now, we are in the process of putting in the first crop of haylage in the silo, where it becomes pickled so it preserves. It is a huge part of what we feed the cattle.

“Luckily, we are having a bumper first crop. But fertilizer is so expensive we won’t be buying as much for our third or fourth crop as we have in the past, so we may not get as much feed as we are not going to pay $700 for a ton of fertilizer,” she said.

“Milk prices have gone up, but not as much as our costs have,” said Justin, with both concurring that prices for consumers for food will no doubt continue to increase nationwide, given all the inflationary factors.

They are now growing soy beans as a way to help feed their cattle, along with high moisture shell corn, which also has high carbohydrate content for cattle.

Despite all the uncertainties, the Husseys say it’s rewarding to carry on the family tradition. They were recognized for that commitment in 2020, when they were named “dairy farmers of the year” by the New England Dairy Association.

In a story penned for the association in recognition of their receiving that honor, Julie laughingly said, “Most of the time, we’re very grateful to be where we are — and sometimes, I think we’re crazy for not doing something a lot easier!”

Interviewed this week, Julie and Justin shared that their farm is the culmination of a dream the couple shared as undergraduates at the University of New Hampshire.

She was an unhappy marine biology major, he was a frustrated engineering major, and both made the switch to dairy sciences. They met in a lecture hall and have been together ever since, working toward the dream of owning their own farm.

They were married in August 2004, fittingly enough in one of the fields across from the farm, catered by the Thompson House Eatery.

The Husseys’ journey to farm ownership also had more than a few twists and turns. They moved to Vermont after graduation, with Julie — who was raised in Milford — working with her brother on his farm, and

Justin working for Northeast Agricultural Sales and becoming a certified pesticide spray applicator.

After a custom heifer raiser closed, the couple started raising heifers at one of Doc Hussey’s farms in North Conway, later buying Al Sherman’s dairy herd from Sherman Farm in East Conway in 2007.

“Al approached us, and Julie and I had the bright idea that maybe we would buy them,” laughed Justin.

“We bought their cows and rented their facility beginning that year, selling the milk to them at their farm stand. After we bought my grandfather’s farm in 2013, we did renovations through the winter and brought the cows over in spring 2014.”

In addition to the dairy operation, the family has 21 Percheron show horses, with three foals born this year. “We had one born on Easter Sunday; another the week after that and one this week on Memorial Day,” said Julie.

In 2017, their six-horse hitch team earned the national championship at the Iowa State Fair, with another win at the Indiana State Fair. They have competed in shows from Maine to Colorado, and this year plan to compete at five or six fairs, including at the New York State Fair and the Big E Expo in West Springfield, Mass. — and of course, the Fryeburg Fair.

Before that, they plan to once again appear in the town of Conway’s Fourth of July Parade this year — carrying on a tradition that began when Doc Hussey was handling the reins, with Doc Hussey buying his first hitch of six Percherons the year that Justin was born in 1977. Justin recalls riding with his grandfarther and helping his father with the horses as a kid. The tradition continues now with Julie and Justin’s children helping them out with the team.

“Allie was national champion last year for under age 18 for Percheron team judging at the Indiana State Fair and Sawyer helps with the horses, too.,” said Justin. “So it’s family thing — we said at the beginning that if we’re going to do it we will do it as a family together or not at all.”

For passersby on West Side Road, it's a beautiful sight to behold the valley's agricultural heritage, still intact.

(2) comments

corky mcdonald

Back somewhere in the early 80's my wife and I saw Doc's Percheron Hitch at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Having grown up in the valley and knowing your Dad it was above and beyond special to see Eastern Slope Farms represented there with the other teams and hitches from across the nation. We even got Doc to let Steven have a day off and ski with us at Copper Mt. Our best to you and your family. Corky and Sherry McDonald

BEVEGAN

250 acres of land and those poor cows never set foot on grass! THINK of all the real human FOOD that could be grown instead of animal hay! I understand this is a "tradition" however it is not a humane, healthy, necessary, or wise tradition that produces a product known to cause multiple diseases, premature puberty in children, and 50 years of data confirms that the nations consuming the most bovine infant calf food , filled with natural estrogens, IGF.1 , puc cells allowable by USDA, have the highest rates of breast and prostate cancer and diet related type 2 diabetes. If the mantra of the SUN is "Seeking The Truth and Printing It." interview Dr. Neal Barnard and many other lifestyle doctors regarding the truth about human ingestion of cows milk. And ask the Hussey's whatr they do with all the male calves born to mother cows. Ask them also how long they keep their cows and whgat happens to them as their production drops.

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