How we got started at Earthwise Farm & Forest
I approach my cow, Mocha, for the morning milking and we start a quiet, telepathic conversation. “What should I talk about for my second blog entry?” I ask her. “Tell them about yourself, your farm, why you farm, and why this is important”, she responds, while diving into her pile of second cut hay.
She is so young, yet so wise. Mocha had her first calf just 5 months ago at the ripe old age of 2 and is a new addition to our two-cow milking string. She was born on this farm; the third generation from a lineage that started as a wedding gift (a heifer calf) from our friends Jack and Anne of Butterworks Farm.
As I milk, I reminisce about the days when we were building our house and living in a small cabin with no toilet and no running water. It was an icy winter; I was pregnant with our third child while the other two were under the age of 6. I had a part time job that I fit into my schedule, and my husband, Carl, was spending long days building the house. I am not sure how we did it. Then I flash forward to the joys of moving into our (still) unfinished house and running to the kitchen sink to turn the water on and off, on and off… grateful for the magical flow coming from the slightest effort (oh the things I take for granted sometimes). Surrounding the house was about 1/3 acre of open land with little topsoil as this space had been wooded just months before. Gardens would have to be built, and top soil would evolve over time thanks to the composted manure and bedding lovingly provided by our animals.
Today, the open space surrounding our octagonal log home has tripled in size with a chicken coop, a turkey yard, apple trees, blueberry bushes, asparagus and rhubarb beds, 4 large gardens, and a greenhouse. Wow, things have truly evolved over the last 18 years.
When my husband and I first met, we noticed each other immediately in the crowd and quickly found that we had a lot in common: we were both in love with farming, wanted to live and raise children in an environment where we could grow and preserve our own food (meat and vegetables), and we wanted to have a deep connection with the land that we would be stewarding. We decided to build a log home using timber from forest land that Carl had been managing on his family property for decades. We knew that this dream would not happen overnight, but we were invested in the vision, and excited about the opportunity to live in a home that was designed to complement the lifestyle we wanted to live; complete with a root cellar, composting toilets, a gravity fed water system, wood heat, solar panels, a long driveway, and a beautiful view from every direction. We both hungered for a lifestyle where we could develop and maintain an intimate relationship with the land and animals and to slow down - to move with the natural rhythms surrounding us and be able to enjoy ‘the process’ from day to day.
Our vision, our dream, is precipitating into form. Today we have an ever-evolving, small, diversified farmstead, raising about an acre of vegetables and flowers, a small flock of laying hens, heritage turkeys, a couple milk cows, a couple beef animals, a few pigs, 200 meat birds, a team of oxen, and a team of draft horses used for logging and field work – all on our 158 acre property. Our 3 children, 15, 16 and 21, are the products of this lifestyle and we could not be prouder of the humans that they are becoming. As our dream continues to unfold, there will be a place for them to put down roots and work and play beside us – if they so choose.
Life is a school and this farm is our classroom. We named our farm ‘Earthwise Farm and Forest’ and gave it the following tagline: From the Earth, For the Mind, By the Hand, With the Heart. The emphasis of our farming enterprise is to create healthy, vibrant, food and forest products applying ecological and regenerative practices, and the wisdom of Holistic Management ©, Biodynamics©, Organic Farming, and Dowsing. Our land is a farm organism, of which we are a part. As much as we appreciate the products of our labor, we recognize that the process is also very important. We learn constantly from the land and the animals each day. Once could say that it is the farm that has created us not the other way around.
We make a living from our farm by selling products we have grown/crafted, teaching on-farm classes, and working as consultants for producers and land owners. This diversity of income streams allows us to stay as a small homestead farm, and affords us a lifestyle where we eat what we grow, making the time to preserve what we can so that our food continues to sustain us during the winter months. We appreciate what it takes to have such high quality, consciously grown food at our fingertips, nurturing our mind, body and soul. When we need to purchase products to complement our diet of homegrown foods, we do not hesitate to purchase local, organic fare, and do not balk at the price, because we understand the true costs of creating healthy food and what we put in our bodies becomes our bodies.
We add value to the products that we market by telling our story and face to face interactions with our customers (our community). We invite people to come to the farm and they are able to see how the food is produced, the quality of life that we provide our livestock, and the humane way in which they are slaughtered. Our on-farm workshops teach people how to make delicious butter, yogurt and cheese from farm fresh milk; share spiritual approaches to gardening and communing with nature; and we even teach some practical animal husbandry classes for those interested in developing a farmstead of their own. Through marketing our products and information this way, we connect with people; we talk about things that are important to us, we eat together, we laugh together…food becomes a vehicle for building relationships. As Wendell Berry so eloquently imparts “Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” (Wendell Berry, The Pleasures of Eating)
As I complete this story of our farm, my milking time with Mocha has also come to an end. I thank her for her nourishment and wisdom, pet her forehead for a while, and lead her back to the pasture where she joins her herd (milk cow, Joy, and two steers, Neo and Oracle). She is happy to return to her community of bovines and I am ready to start my day with appreciation and gratitude. Until tomorrow, my dear Mocha.