Manning Hill Farm is a small hillside farm that we are slowly regenerating back to becoming a productive, self sustaining farm. The farm house and barn were built in the late 1850's and we believe the land had been used for farming since then. There are many remnants of old barbed wire fencing in the trees, extensive stone walls and also enormous piles of field stones at the edges of the pastures. The barn was originally built to milk cows, and then later stalls were built to board horses. From what we have heard, cows hadn't been milked here since the 1950's. We have been working to reclaim all the old over grown pasture land and have converted the old barn back to its original state for the purpose of milking cows. Each year we clear a little more of the over grown woodland with the help from our pigs, plant it into grass and rotational graze the pasture with our animals (dairy cows and chickens) to improve the fertility of the land and produce great pasture based products.
Manning Hill Farm is owned and operated by Sam Canonica and Sarah Costa. The couple
purchased the farm in 2006 and moved from the North Shore, since they were going to need more open land for what they wanted to accomplish. Both Sam and Sarah are first generation farmers but have loved animals their whole lives. They grew up in two adjacent rural towns in Massachusetts, Sam in Boxford, and Sarah in Topsfield, just 25 minutes north of Boston. They met in Junior High at their regional high school, where they shared their passion for animals, the outdoors and farming. Sam's love of animals started on his families small homestead where they raised sheep, turkey's, chickens and pigs. He received his first cow named Elsie when he was 16 years old for Christmas and he started breeding her which began his beef herd. After high school, he owned and operated a timber harvesting and logging company for 8 years, where he enjoyed working in the woods. Sarah's love of animals began at a young age as well, with riding horses being her true passion. She received her first horse at age 12, and her second at 16, and worked at the stable all through high school to help pay for the expenses. She competed extensively with them, even through college, where she actually brought one of them with her! She attended the University of New Hampshire where she received a degree of Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She worked as the sales manager at two well known feed and tack stores after college for a number of years. When they moved to the farm, along with Sam's beef herd, Sarah's horses and their first Great Dane named Diesel, they always had dreamed of having their own farm since high school but never really thought farming full time could make a living for the both of them. After much research and hesitation, in November of 2009, they took a giant leap and dove right in, when they purchased their first 9 Dutch Belted dairy cows. They converted a old stone building that had been the original milk house into their milk processing plant and in August of 2010, both started farming full time when they started milking the cows! And to this day have never looked back, trying to make a go of it, bringing back a small hillside farm into production, by improving the land and direct marketing their pasture based products to customers locally, just like it would have been done 70 years ago!