Redefining Farm-to-Table in Bath

It doesn't get much realer than this
Farm manager Amber Reed puts in some time at the "farm" side of the enterprise

The view from Farm at Woods Hill in Bath is exceptional. The morning haze in the valley below can be seen from the hilltop location. The land is pristine and verdant despite the summer drought. The barn and classic 1849 farmhouse are iconic New Hampshire. It’s easy to see why legendary singer Patti Page was lured to this spot by her third husband, Jerry Filiciotto, about 25 years ago.

Filiciotto built a rustic retreat for his love. She wanted a water view, so he engineered a man-made pond. She wanted a mansion, so he built her a roomy log cabin lodge.

But all good things must come to an end. After Page’s death in 2013, the estate was put up for sale. At the same time, Kristin Canty of Concord, Massachusetts, was looking for farm property. It just so happens that Canty’s maiden name is Clough, and the farm is located on Clough Road — it seemed like destiny. Now, Canty will be adding another verse to the story of this historic place.

Page wasn’t just a vacationer — she and her team tapped more than 250 maple trees onsite to produce a highly respected maple syrup. Canty says the syrup cap played the tune “Old Cape Cod” when removed.

Now, the trees are gone, but Canty has more diverse plans for the property. Her restaurant, Woods Hill Table in Concord, Massachusetts, has a core mission to provide healthy, non-GMO-grown proteins and organic produce. And she is serious about offering real food.

Diners enjoy a meal at the outfit's "table" side

When Canty’s now-teenage son was a tot, he was diagnosed with severe allergies. “He was a bubble boy, allergic to almost all food,” she says. In a chance encounter at Whole Foods, she discovered a path to health for her son. He’s now totally free of his former debilitating food reactions. The first positive note came with raw milk and the wealth of probiotics and nutrition it held.

In the following years, Canty became an activist for the natural food movement. She produced the documentary “Farmageddon,” which showcases farmers’ battles with the FDA along several fronts.

Wanting to help people find healthy food, Canty planned to open a small diner on Walden Street in Concord, Massachusetts. When a larger property became available across the street, she quickly shifted gears. She now runs a full-size restaurant that is a locavore’s dream. Sustainability and pasture-raised animals are key ingredients to the menu for Canty and her executive chef Charlie Foster.

This is where the Bath farm becomes important. Canty was told by Tim Wightman, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation, that sourcing truly pastured animals would be a logistical problem — there aren’t enough animals being raised in the right environment to meet Canty’s guidelines and fill the diners’ plates.

The solution? Get her own farm. Canty is happy to make the three-hour drive up to Bath. The Farm at Woods Hill employs at least seven farmers to run the operation. Amber Reed, farm manager, is in charge of making sure that the flocks of sheep, herd of beef cattle, hundreds of meat and laying chickens, and heritage breed pigs are healthy and happy. Yes, happy. Reed says, “Our animals aren’t bored. They have this lovely pasture to forage, and the pigs live the life in wooded areas. We feel happy animals taste better, and we are happy to be treating them well.” Reed and her crew move hen houses and pasture runs every couple days. Their animals graze in a sustainable manner that won’t strip the land. Pasture areas are rested periodically. It’s not a happy day when it comes time to take the animals for processing, but, says Reed, “We take heart that they had a very good life here.”

It’s not easy work. The team has put up fences, converted the old sugar house to a winter hen house, maintained mushroom logs, planted hops for future plans, and, besides daily farm chores, offered rooms in the farmhouse and the lodge in whole to Airbnb guests.

Right now, a stay at the lodge is an opportunity to see Page’s estate from the inside. The puzzles she and guests pieced and framed hang on the wall, while a puzzle table remains in front of a picture window with view of Page’s beloved pond. An incongruous marlin, caught by a relative in Florida, serves as an unexpected focal point for the North Country log cabin. Upstairs, the master suite has a Jacuzzi tub and a library complete with access ladder. Then there is the chef’s-dream kitchen. The lodge is perfect for family reunions. Canty will eventually be adding her own touch to the space, but, for now, it is a time capsule.

For Canty, the Farm at Woods Hill is just another piece of the puzzle in her quest to deliver the best food possible at Woods Hill Table and educate whoever will listen. She’s also been inspired to delve deeper into the history of the Bath region. It’s possible, given her maiden name and the name of the road, that the property was once farmed by her ancestors. Food for thought, indeed. 

Categories: Features