DERRY — On May 31, 1952, Vincent Ferdinando found his soulmate.
That first meeting at a Canadian restaurant introduced him to a young waitress, Miriam, who ended up becoming his wife.
"He looked pretty good," Miriam, 82, recalled. "And I grew up on a farm and knew how to milk cows by hand."
Knowing her way around a farm would prove very helpful.
The couple married and became the force behind J&F Farms in Derry, raising six children together and helping oversee the fields that produce strawberries, corn, and various other fruits and vegetables.
The Ferdinandos are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary May 31. They reflected on their history and family connections one recent afternoon at their Old Auburn Road farmhouse.
"He's put up with me," Miriam said. "We just have lived a simple life, have gone to church together."
Vincent's parents, Minnie Jones and Louis Ferdinando, began their Derry farm in 1906, naming it after their own initials — J&F.
The farm was typical of the day, one of many in the area that helped keep money in a small-town farmer's pocket and helped provide for a family in rural Southern New Hampshire.
Vincent, 87, grew up an only child and learned the ins and outs of the family farming operation, what needed to be done to keep a profitable farm going.
It was a small operation at first.
"We had a couple of cows and a flock of chickens," he recalled. "Before I'd go to school in the morning, I'd do some milking."
The farm then moved into selling hatching chickens and "boilers."
Years passed and the business added a hay and straw business, still a successful venture for the family.
The foray into hay kept Vincent on the road a lot, taking him to Canada and back for hay and making sales calls all over New England.
Daughter Jamie Ferdinando Brisson said while her dad traveled, her mother kept the Derry home fires burning and worked very hard.
"It was up to Mom to do everything, and with six of us and a family business to take care of, that was more than everything," she said.
Miriam was good at multi-tasking.
"I was answering the phone and taking orders with a baby on my lap," she said.
As time went on, son Phil Ferdinando became the principal farmer, now known in these parts as "Fa'ma Phil," tending to the 130 acres or so of planted land scattered around the region.
Both Vincent and Miriam are taking life a bit easier these days, enjoying children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren whenever they can.
"My parents are both very loyal, hard working, and have a very strong conviction for family morals and values," Brisson said. "My mother has stood by my dad's side, no matter what, for 60 years."
Vincent said the J&F Farms story has been a good one for the family, providing well and keeping him and Miriam at the helm of it all.
"It's been a long history of hard work and yet, it's gone by so fast, it's unbelievable," he said.
The secret to six decades of wedded bliss? Vincent said it took a lot of patience — on his wife's part.
"She took care of six children, kept the house clean, answered the phone, basically worked like a dog as I was on the road most of the time," he said.
The couple has a special vanity plate to show for their marriage milestone — "May-52."
"We thought of that together," Miriam said. "It's nice to have."
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