MONADNOCK PROFILES: Lincoln Geiger is a man of many talents

  • Lincoln Geiger, one of the founders of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, milks cows at the farm. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Lincoln Geiger, one of the founders of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, spends time with some of the sheep at Wild Rose Farm in Wilton. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Lincoln Geiger, one of the founders of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, lets the sheep out of the pen for an afternoon graze at Wild Rose Farm in Wilton. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Lincoln Geiger. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/15/2019 11:02:01 AM

When Lincoln Geiger moved to America, there really wasn’t much in the way of organic farming.

The year was 1979 and Geiger had been farming in his native Sweden for most of his life. In Europe, biodynamic agriculture – similar to organics – was gaining popularity and it was quickly becoming his passion.

But after visiting his parents in the Boston area the year before, Geiger fell in love with the people and the New England area. He knew America was the place he wanted to be – and it would still afford him the opportunity to continue farming. So his aunt, who was a citizen, sponsored his green card and he bought a property in little old Temple, New Hampshire that was at that point known as Echo Farm.

“It wasn’t much of a farm, but it became my little farm. A typical New England kind of farm,” Geiger said.

It was about 18 acres of land and Geiger had a plan. With most of the farms in town geared toward dairy production, the only crop on the farm was hay. But Geiger saw its potential. So he got to work and prepped the land. Much to his surprise, the first field was perfect and he thought about all the possibilities for the farm.

“Little did I know, the next field was saturated with rocks,” Geiger said.

Geiger got involved with the organic farming movement, which at the time was based in Rhode Island for the New England states. And while he enjoyed what he was growing on his own land, he knew there were possibilities for much more.

“I had some friends that wanted to do something together,” Geiger said. “We started talking about doing something where people could be part of the farm in some way.”

So along with Anthony Graham and Trauger Groh, they started farming at both Geiger’s property in Temple and Groh’s land in Wilton. It was the beginning of Temple-Wilton Community Farm, which has evolved immensely since that first year. When it was formed in 1986, the CSA model was few and far between, so it took a little time for people to catch on.

“The goal was to have the broadest diet of food that could be grown in New Hampshire,” Geiger said. “It wasn’t easy to sell the idea, and we didn’t realize it was going to become a movement.”

Despite the slow start, there are now more than 100 families signed on and another 100 or so on the wait list, so the Temple-Wilton Community Farm has proven to be ahead of its time.

“Once you settle into place, the farm becomes a fixture,” Geiger said.

In 1998, the farm was moved to what was known as Four Corners Farm on Abbot Hill in Wilton where they rented 40 acres of land with barns. But it was clear, without a secure lease, they needed to own the land if the idea for a member-owned farm was going to not only succeed, but survive.

“It’s a good location, even though the land is not great,” he said.

With the help of the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, the N.H. LCHIP program, the Town of Wilton, and various other organizations and individuals, Geiger and the rest of those involved with Temple-Wilton Community Farm gradually raised the funds to secure all the vegetable and hay fields and put them into land conservation. And three years ago, with the help of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, the group bought the property to keep it going well into the future.

Farming wasn’t the life path that Geiger’s childhood lent itself to. The son of a filmmaker (father) and fashion designer (mom), Geiger’s house was always filled with the people who lived in those two jet setting lifestyles.

“But I liked the way the farmers worked,” Geiger said. “I liked that old system of farming, just being outside.”

He was well educated, learning three languages, English, German and French, but was always drawn back to the land.

And even when he decided to retire from active farming, Geiger didn’t go far. He had already started the Gaia Education Outreach Institute on the property, which offers both an afterschool and home school program for young students. So when he did decide to take a step back, Geiger had something that keeps him just as busy.

He teaches everything from woodworking to creating and maintaining fire. There are livestock, musical instruments (some built by Geiger) and a cooking area that is not exactly the most modern.

“It’s all the things that were done 200 years ago in any village,” Geiger said. “I wanted to do something with kids – to have this kind of experience on a farm. It’s a powerful thing for them to be a part of that.”

Geiger has always wanted to know how things worked. It dates back to his younger days in Sweden.

“I learned by just standing around and observing, listening,” he said.

But Geiger isn’t the only one in his family that has made a big impact on lives in this area. His wife, Cindy Dunleavy, is a midwife and has been part of more than 2,000 births.

“We have a joke that she brings them in to the world and I feed them,” Geiger said.

He’s an avid reader and plays both the guitar and flute. He was in a Motown-style band in Sweden called Bread, where his mom designed the clothes. (There are videos on YouTube.)

He helped start Hilltop Cafe at the farm, and all the while not knowing if it was the permanent spot for it all.

“We built infrastructure on land we didn’t own,” Geiger said.

There were many moments along the way that made Geiger know he made the right choice in moving to America. There was the Pledge of Allegiance at the 1988 Temple Memorial Day parade that made him want to become a permanent citizen. He has always embraced the Live Free or Die motto and his first Town Meeting was a real eye opener, since there is nothing like that in Sweden.

In the end, the soon-to-be 70-year-old just likes getting his hands dirty and passing on all he’s learned over the years. Because he knows that people are capable of a lot more than they think.

“There are artists in everybody and I was to bring out the artists in these kids,” Geiger said. “For them to understand they can build things themselves and it’s something that’s very powerful.”

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