New Hampshire recognizes Tensen Farms
by Edith Tucker
LYME, NH – Arend Tensen and his son Arend Jacob “AJ” Tensen happily accepted a plaque from U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan that designates Tensen Farms as a “New Hampshire Farm of Distinction.”
Arend readily acknowledged the strong contributions of his wife Paula, who operates its farm store, plus two key employees, Todd Withington and Freddie Luce.
The ceremony took place at the 2020 New Hampshire Farm, Forest and Garden Expo in Manchester.
Arend said he believes that Tensen Farms is the state’s largest beef farm, now with over 350 head of cattle. The farms feature both a cow-calf operation, mostly Black Angus with some cross-bred Herefords, at one location, and a feedlot at another venue where some 300 to 325 cattle are finished for 10 local farmers plus some from New York and Virginia. Tensen Farms markets its natural beef through Black River Meats, a wholesaler in North Springfield, VT, and also sells the high-quality meat at its own farmstead.
“We grow all our feed, and we also market extra dry shelled corn since we have our own grain-drying and storage facilities,” Arend explained. “We grow 300 acres of corn and about 200 acres of hay on land that we own and rent.”
The main Tensen farm is located on a former dairy farm which Arend and Paula bought in 2014. Paula is an eighth-generation member of the Balch family to live in this Connecticut River town, located in the Upper Valley of Grafton County. Although not all have been farmers, their son AJ, 19, has high hopes of being a ninth-generation Balch to live in Lyme and make his living from the land.
AJ is a first-year student studying applied science in agribusiness management at Vermont Technical College. He does all his course work remotely and works on the family farm. AJ likes raising and processing field crops and working with cattle. His favorite extracurricular activity is making YouTube videos as “The Beef Farmer.”
AJ has posted about 40 videos, covering topics that range from what jobs various pieces of equipment perform on the family farm to what crops are raised, and standing up for the beef industry at a time of increased veganism and more foods that are plant-based. You can view AJ’s work at tinyurl.com/yblcfcz4.
The youngest of six adult children in a blended family, AJ is (at least so far) the only one hoping to become a full-time farmer.
Whether it’s possible to make a good living on the family farm depends on whether the cattle head count can be doubled in the near future, his father explained.
“The ability to find sufficient land – along with high operating costs – is a significant limitation to the operation,” said Arend, noting that he typically works an 80-hour workweek, 50% on the farm and 50% as a trial lawyer. Currently, he is part of a legal team working on a very large multistate class action suit against a robotic milking system. (For more information, visit roboticmilkerfailure.com.)
Arend earned his law degree from the Franklin Pierce Law Center and his B.S. in animal science at Michigan State University. He was raised on a 2,000-acre dairy farm in Ravenna, MI. Arend moved to the Granite State in 1990.
The farm store is thriving in these days of social distancing, with only one customer shopping at a time in the small building. In addition to high-quality beef, Paula carries free-range eggs raised at a nearby farm and staples such as potatoes and winter squash. Seasonal vegetables are raised on the family farm and Paula also provides an outlet for farmers who either specialize in particular vegetable or are located less conveniently than in Lyme village.
The annual New Hampshire Farm of Distinction program is run by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food to recognize one or more farms that go the extra mile to keep their busy farmsteads neat and attractive, portraying a positive image of Granite State agriculture.