Originally published in Four Legs & A Tail
I love shining a light on all the farmers and producers who provide a bounty of local food and other locally made products to our community. In this article, however, I move the spotlight over and down, from the business person to their four-legged friends — the working dogs, cats, and other animals who also make these local products possible.
Our next Four-Legged Farm Friend article highlights the feline workers at Walpole Valley Farms in Walpole, NH. Farmers Caitlin and Chris Caserta operate a multi-generational, family-owned farm raising 100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, pigs, and eggs. Also, their family owns neighboring Inn at Valley Farms and The Hungry Diner, a farm-to-table restaurant about five miles from the farm.
Now, more about their cats! Their feline family currently includes six adult cats and two litters of kittens. The cats sport a diversity of names, including Anonymous, Fluffy, Moses, Em, Jasper, and Peter. “We have two sons, so the names have all come from them,” explains Caitlin. “As for the kittens, our kids and their friends have named a few of them, Noah, Nutmeg, and Meowza.”
While it may look like their number one job is being adorable, these cats have work to do! “Barn cats are important on a farm as there is grain stored in the barns, and rodents can take a toll on supply and taint the feed,” explained Caitlin. “Rodents also carry disease, so keeping them at bay is a huge job which the cats do well.”
Caitlin adopted two barn cats from Malnati Farm in Walpole nearly ten years ago. While those cats are no longer at the farm, their offspring are. “We’re pretty sure there’s some Maine Coon in there, and that makes them great hunters and adaptable to our cold winters,” said Caitlin. “We love this mix because they are all so friendly and lovable.”
People don’t often think of barn cats as friendly – but Caitlin goes on to explain, “Our boys love finding newly born kittens in our barn and taming them to the point where they’ll be good pets for people. One mama came into the house one day to visit and ended up having her kittens on our son’s bed!”
Many farm visitors get a greeting from their cats. And sometimes the cats are a little too friendly. “A few of our barn cats, when they were small, would hop into cars with inn guests or farm store customers,” said Caitlin. “One cat even took a ride to the airport with a guest, unfortunately in the engine. Luckily, she made it and the folks brought her back. Happy ending.”
Learn more about Walpole Valley Farms. Also, be sure to pick up a package of Walpole Valley Farms’ beef the next time you visit the co-op.
Interested in having a barn cat at your farm? The Monadnock Humane Society and other animal shelters offer Barn Cat programs. “We call them ‘barn cats’ but they can be happy living and working in a wide variety of buildings—a warehouse, a workshop, or a garage can all provide a great life for a cat,” states the Monadnock Humane Society’s website. “As long as the cat(s) will be safe from vehicles, machines, and chemicals, we are willing to consider creative locations!”
Know of a farm animal I should highlight in a future article? I’d love to hear from you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.