Visiting with our Vermont cousins is an enormous highlight of our road trips, mostly because it isn’t often feasible. What I mean is, this lovely farm is so much easier to visit when it looks like this:
…instead of this (4 years ago):
True, spring means mud season here…
…and the trails in the upper hills all had that flattened, emergent feeling.
But Vermont is easy to love in any season–possibly the most calendar-ready state of the entire 50. On our bike ride along the Battenkill River in Arlington (just down the mountain and up the road from our cousins), I kept stopping to take pictures. (Pretty good workout, actually, as I have to ride twice as hard to catch up with The Mate.)
Vermont houses and towns are so Norman Rockwell that Norman Rockwell himself actually lived and worked there.
This was Norman’s front porch view:
As for Vermont’s farmlands, their age is impossible to ignore, as a ramble in any woods reveals the mossy criss-crossings of ancient stone walls.
But something new is happening in these old hills. See, this beautiful farm…
…once just a “gentleman farm” owned by our cousins’ New York grandparents, who patronized the arts…
…does not actually belong to our cousins, but to the family trust of which they are part. In fact, for decades it was a horse farm catering to, let’s face it, the upper crust. But when the younger generation took over the work, they decided to make it a REAL, working sheep farm, and in the past 10 years since we’ve been visiting regularly, their passion is making itself felt.
First, they’ve made their focus regenerative agriculture. What does that mean? Let’s hear from Jesse & Cally’s Studio Hill Farm website:
On our farm, we practice holistic management. This ensures that our farming practices strengthen and enrich the environments in which they’re employed. Therefore, as we raise animals on our land, our fields grow more fertile and abundant—which then allows us to raise more even animals on the land…which then makes the fields even more fertile and abundant…and so on. With simple management changes supported by basic biological principles, all agriculture around the globe could achieve this ecological and economic positive-feedback loop. We hope Studio Hill will serve as one example among many.
Second, in order to fund their ambitions to restore the land, they’ve been farming a whole new crop: Air BnB clients, happy to pay to nestle themselves into the calendar picture for a few days at a time. Since our last visit, our cousins even bought the very non-traditional-farmhousey house their former neighbors inflicted upon the upper hill, and turned THAT into an Air BnB house.
They were going to house us there, as a matter of fact, but it was booked instead by a group of travel nurses—a win for everyone! Yay nurses! Instead we stayed in the old brick house pictured previously, which the Big House looks out on.
They even put together a yurt, and a treehouse is still under construction.
All this property expansion was made possible by supporters of sustainable farming who invested in our cousins’ dream literally, thanks to a company called Steward, whose mission I’m copying here…just in case you want to pursue investment in a farmer’s dream yourself 🙂
Our mission is to promote environmental and economic stewardship through regenerative agriculture. We do this by providing flexible loans to human-scale farms, ranches, fisheries, and food producers looking to propel their operations forward.
But we don’t do it alone—Steward gives qualified lenders the opportunity to purchase loan participations, advancing our mission by helping to fund the growth of regenerative agriculture in their community or across the country.
Hence the title of this post: our cousins, through borrowing from Steward, are able to make something new out of something old.
Oh, and that Carolina Blue part? I just had to throw in a shout-out to our Tarheels, who were busy taking down #1 seed/defending champs Baylor in overtime on our radio as we approached the farm. We had to stop the car and sit an agonizingly tense ten minutes out at the bottom of Trumbull Hill Rd, afraid we’d lose our signal if we drove any further. (I didn’t say the game was pretty—but they did win. Heels in the Sweet 16!)
Thanks for riding with us. See you down the road!