We were Not Farmers
Looking back we can tell you we really didn’t know what it would mean to own and run a small family farm. Eric, a graduate of The University of Chicago, worked in the corporate world for fifteen years and Molly, a graduate of Pratt Institute, was a designer and a stay-at-home mom.
We had always been foodies - before the word foodie existed. That’s right - we're not as young as you might think. Eric helped pay his way through college by cooking in restaurants and baking baguettes starting at three am for a bread delivery service. I was always baking up a storm in our kitchen. Our first foray into growing our own food together was when we planted a small lettuce and herb garden in Connecticut. Our son, who was just two years old at the time would stand outside munching on these fresh veggies like never before. Handfuls of dill with smashed up lettuce went down along with plenty of good ol’ dirt.
it made us stop & think
About our food and where it came from for the first time. Not just about food that tasted good but about where the actual food came from. Soon after, we found our family in London where the "local food movement" is deeply embedded in the public consciousness. Growing your own did not come as a surprise or revelation to them. Everyone, in their back garden, has a little plot of veggies. We too inherited a little veggie garden in London and began to wonder about our future.
We'd find some land, start a farm and maybe raise animals. Sounds great, right? But where? We had visited Martha’s Vineyard several times in the summer months and we knew the island had a rich agricultural history. The vibrant core of small family farms was very apparent at the farmer’s market and our kids had been to The Farm Institute for a summer program. We always enjoyed visiting the island because it is beautiful, has an outstanding arts community and a great local food scene.
We visited the island in the winter of 2008 to see a farm that was for sale. We fell in love. Our realtor told us we were crazy. We were sold. We had found it. The place where our two boys could roam free, we could grow and raise our own food and create a place where the community could reap the benefits of real food.
1 year later
It took about a year to develop a plan for the farm. It had not been a working dairy since 1961 but we knew we could bring that back. And the best part is that Better yet, milk means cheese which was a great way for us to preserve the bounty of the farm for all the summer folk to share. Our learning curve was beyond steep but it was challenging and exciting to dive head long into our future. Milking parlors, rotational grazing, chicken houses, foliar feeding, cheese school; the list went on and on.
In the Summer of 2009 we moved permanently to Martha’s Vineyard and began The Grey Barn. The research continued and re-building the infrastructure needed for a dairy started in the spring of 2010. Before we knew it, our first three heritage breed cows arrived, Thelma, Helen and Mary Nell (who is still with us to this day). It was from that moment forward that there has been no time to look back.
Lots to learn
From cringing when learning how to castrate piglets on YouTube to laughing hysterically when being drenched with milk because of a broken gasket to crying and almost giving up when our creamery burned down, other farmers are right, there IS NEVER a dull moment. Calves are born, piglets scurry in the woods and chickens scratch around in the pasture creating a wonderful place to raise our family and share with the community. Our farm continues to amaze us. Most days are still learning days. Learning about farming, learning about the effects of snow, learning about weird mold in the cheese cave - the list goes on and on. Is it worth it? Did we make the right decision? Are we still crazy? Yes, Yes and Yes.