We left a suburban lifestyle in 1972 to become back-to-the-landers. This was an era of change for many young Americans like ourselves. We had been reading the “Mother Earth News,” learning about healthy food, clean air, alternative energy and a peaceful existence. Today you hear many of the same issues being discussed among young people. We needed the change, sold our house, packed up the kids who were 5 and 6 at the time and moved to Plainfield, VT.
We bought a small homestead, old house and 25 acres. That first summer, we pretty much just gardened, but were planning our future. The second year we built a barn, bought a dozen chickens and a rooster, two pigs and our first family milk cow, Stephanie. Thus began our love affair with Jersey cows. We were also pioneers in the cultivation of organic pick-your-own strawberries. That farm was historically known as Little Wood Farm. In 1977 our desire to milk more cows got the best of us and we built a bigger stable and milked 30 Jerseys and were licensed to sell raw milk which we eventually gave up and started shipping our milk to Cabot Creamery. Little Wood Farm was a wonderful place and very manageable for the two of us but in 1983 our son was graduating from high school and expressed a strong desire to farm with us. Little Wood was too small to support him and an eventual family. We had learned a lot and felt we were ready to move on to a bigger farm.
That year the very beautiful Hollister Hill Farm, in Marshfield, came on the market. We were able to purchase the farm through the Vermont Land Trust. Its 205 acres cannot be sub-divided or developed, which reduced its market value to a price that was affordable to farm. The farmhouse was built in 1825 by Josiah H. Hollister, who had been a wealthy businessman from Hartford, CT. It is a Federal style brick house and is almost as solid as the day it was built. The house has 4 working fireplaces and a new outside wood furnace that heats our house and hot water. We keep plenty warm in winter and the bricks keep the house cool in summer.
Josiah H. Hollister house, circa 1865
At one point, we milked 80 registered Jerseys here and had over 140 animals on the farm. We also rented an additional 200 acres to make feed for them. We loved milking the cows! We loved the work and the routine.
By the early 90’s, the dairy business was changing, farms were consolidating and getting bigger, milk prices were dropping and we weren’t able to afford to milk any longer. We sadly sold the cows in 1997. Our son and his family would move on to a new life but we all survived.
Not ready to retire or give up on farming, we needed to reinvent ourselves. Our 12 room farmhouse was too big for just the two of us so in 1999 we converted the front part of our house so that we could accommodate guests.
Convinced that we would never milk again, we removed the cow stalls from the barn, sold all of the dairy equipment, and moved in pigs, chickens, and ducks and raised a herd of Beefalo. We converted our milk house into a retail meat farm store which was successful from the start. Localvores were coming from all over the area to purchase our naturally raised meats. In 2009, we had the opportunity to expand the farm store and lo and behold, the demand for raw milk encouraged us to start milking again. Today we milk four lovely Jersey cows, bottle their milk and sell it to locals, who love it. We also added organically grown berries and vegetables from Lee’s garden to our offerings. So we have come full circle, we are content milking our little herd, supplying our community with healthy food, and welcoming guests from all over to visit our farm.
We feel pretty lucky!