Who Wants to be a Farmer?

When I was a little kid my favorite book, and I mean obsessively favorite, to the point that my dad started removing pages until it disappeared, was ‘Farmer Grover’.

Man that book was awesome.   Grover got to play with cute animals, heavy machinery and mud.   Oh baby, sign me up!

Farmer Grover, with his farm hat, kerchief, overalls and pitchfork!

Fast forward about 30 years.  I still have a copy of that book (my dad had an epic time trying to track down another Farmer Grover) and last Friday Dana and I officially began our search for a farm.  We went to see a property in Dalton: a house, a barn and a lot of land. It’s been only about a month since I emailed a friend of ours about finding and buying a small farm, close to town. And now we might be putting in an offer this Friday.  Woah.

Farm Buying Lesson One: It’s all about who you know and who your Realtor knows.  So tell everyone you are looking for land and you want to buy/start a farm, then watch people come out of nowhere with all sorts of helpful information. Thanks to everyone who is sending me listings, suggestions and contacts!

So, back to the farm…before we get all hot and bothered about this one place in particular, we have to finish writing our farm plan.  In the mean time we wrote a letter to the seller who is keenly interested in keeping her farm a farm, not another sub-division.  Good news for us, the under funded, highly motivated potential buyers.

The letter turned into a lovely little synopsis of our farm vision.  Bits and pieces of it have ended up in our business plan.  So, if you are interested in how we ended up here, desperately wanting to get our hands dirty, here’s what we wrote:

‘We came to see your property today, and are very excited by the possibilities we see in the house and land.  Our goal is to own and live on a sustainable, organic, year-round market farm.  We both lived in big cities for years, and moved back to the Berkshires this past June to get married.  We want to farm because we strongly desire that our means of income be tied to meaningful work that supports our goals of living lightly on the earth; promoting better health in ourselves and our community; and producing delicious food without the use of sinister chemicals.

We envision growing many exciting varieties of vegetables year round in an unheated greenhouse, as well as chickens, hops, wildflowers and bees.  We currently make our own hard apple cider, apple cider vinegar, herbal tinctures and Fire Cider.  Clearly we are people who love projects!

Dana grew up in the Berkshires and was drafted as farm labor by neighbors and friends of the family on a regular basis. He went on to apprentice as a permaculture gardener for two years, and worked with a friend to convert the house they shared from a cinder block box on a gravel lot to a ¼ acre permaculture mini-farm in Tempe, AZ. He worked for an edible landscaping company for two years, and for a year at a distributor of local, organic food in Phoenix, AZ.   Taken together these experiences lead him to want to produce his own food, on a larger scale.  He has also worked as a wilderness guide, yoga teacher, and social worker.  He is currently employed by an electrical maintenance company, and can fix almost anything.

Amy grew up next to two small family farms in Hinsdale.   Her father, who learned from his father, has a large garden, fruit trees, herbs, berries and grapes. The whole family participated in helping dad maintain the garden, from weeding and picking to crushing the grapes for wine and pickling cucumbers! Eating from the garden year round made a lasting impression.  Amy developed a passion for cooking and baking as a child and now creates her own recipes for her blog.  Amy has also worked as a sailor and landscaper and loves being outdoors doing physical work.  She spent 7 years in New York City as an NYU student, professional nanny, model and caterer.  Currently she works as a holistic health coach.

We want to farm here first and foremost because we love it here, this is where our roots are.  We want to be close to our families and continue the agricultural tradition in the Berkshires. We are interested in your property because it has many of the elements that we are looking for: a manageable sized house in good repair, usable farm outbuildings, location close to potential markets, and cleared land with an agricultural history.  We intend to preserve the land as farmland for future generations.  We will never sub-divide, there are already way too many modular Mc mansions around!  We have been looking for farmland through the New England Small Farm Institute as well as other farm trust organizations, and would be happy to discuss putting your farm in a land trust as a condition of it’s sale to us.

We are working with the local office of the US Department of Agriculture to secure our loan to purchase farmland through the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loans which requires that we have a viable farming business plan in order to qualify.  We would be happy to share the details of our plan with you.’

Apparently our letter was well received, by all 8 of the family members involved in the sale of the family farm.   Whew, there are so many factors involved in starting and purchasing a farm.   Now, back to work on that Farm Business Plan, it’s like writing 10 business plans in one so I’ll be a pro at this by the time we’re done!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dan B
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:37:47

    Very interesting! Good luck with the farm.

    Reply

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