It started with identifying the biggest farming communities in the Northeast, and then it involved road trips, lots of them, through all New England states. The challenge question: where could we find a farm that could meet the following criteria?
- 20+ acres
- of land that is cultivatable for crop production
- is scenic and inspiring
- with a home suitable for me, and my parents
- within a 1 – 2 hour orbit of Boston and Providence
- affordable, and within budget
- and not in Trump country, or at least have some diversity and LGBTQ presence
And then with my sister’s family involved in the venture, the property also had to meet these other requirements:
- potentially zoned for multiple- residencies
- near high quality elementary schools, middle schools and day care centers
- near hospitals
- near job opportunities
And then there were the other economic and geopolitical currents running against us – searching in a region that maintains the highest farm real estate prices in the nation, a bad market year for home buyers, and the ever increasing encroachment of development and the disappearance of farm life and farmland in the Northeast. We even checked out properties as far out as southern Vermont!
We first put in an offer for a property near Petersborough, New Hampshire. It was going to be a long stretch away from Providence, but it was so beautiful and I figured it could still be a great place for people from Boston and Providence to come retreat. We were outbid and lost that property! Then, we were almost ready to put in an offer in Woodstock, Connecticut. Only an hour away from both Providence and Boston.
Two years of searching, two years of not knowing your future, and two years of living on the edge. My 70-year-old parents sold their house and moved in with me at the Berkley property. It made sense because they were living all alone in northern California.
One of my favorite places is the south coast of Massachusetts, where Westport and Dartmouth brush up against the towns of Tiverton and Little Compton, RI. A place where red barns and rolling fields stretch out into the deep blue waters of the Atlantic ocean. Before it was an important farming area for the colonists, it was a sacred home and valued farming area for the Pocassett Indians. Part of the busy Boston-Providence metropolitan area, it’s almost incredible to see so many open fields and farms still in existence on the south coast. Still, after doing a bit of research, I concluded that farmland in this area was just going to be too expensive for us.
And then a few things happened that changed everything.
My mom had a frightening health scare. This made me start thinking about my ability as a single farmer to both be a caretaker and manager of a farm. It made me stop looking at properties with old or neglected houses – as I started recognizing how important it was to find a warm, comfortable, move-in ready home for my parents. It made me warm up to the idea of a smaller, more manageable farm. It also made me think about how important it was to be closer to good hospitals, to people I know, and to community!
Meanwhile, I stumbled upon a small, BEAUUUUUUUTIFUL, 7 acre property on the south coast! The house was new, and sat on top of a hill that sloped gently into a lake. A three minute drive to two public beaches. A half an hour to Providence and only about an hour to Boston. While small in size, it lay adjacent to other farm properties on three sides – making the idea of leasing extra land very promising. Zoom out, and there’s farmland all around. But after running the numbers – it was just too expensive. I’d be one stressed out farmer trying to sell tomatoes at the market just to pay the monthly mortgage and the high property taxes.
Then a second thing happened. After speaking with other family farms, non-profit farms, and for-profit farms, I brainstormed the idea of holding the land through an LLC, and selling shares in the ownership of the property, just like I have already been selling CSA vegetable shares. I emailed friends, family, and CSA members asking if they would invest in this property. And helped poured in! I worked with a lawyer to set up an LLC, set up a bank account, and the money came in! Once we had all our Pekin ducks in line, we put in an all-cash offer for the property, and then we waited.
We are still in the waiting game, as it’s a complicated real estate venture. But with pro-bono legal assistance from the Conservation Law Foundation, a good realtor, and a solid support team of friends and family – we have a winning strategy. And on a parallel track, we also asked to sign a 12-month renewable lease agreement so we could move in right away. And this happened just in time – one week before my sister’s family was moving here from California. And only three weeks before my Berkley lease was up!
I was going to wait until the place was 100% ours and the sale complete. But figured I might as well share the joy I feel inside to have finally found a home, a farm, and a place where this vision can truly photosynthesize. For now, I’ll keep the location private. Well, suspense is fun! And it doesn’t quite feel right to make the announcement before it’s all confirmed. But here’s a hint:
- I’m an hour and ten minutes drive to Boston, and 37 minutes to Providence
- I’m sandwiched between a fresh water pond and a salt water bay
- And I’m a 9-minute drive to the MA/RI border
Stay tuned for an announcement when the sale is complete, and stay tuned in general for a lifetime of adventure, community, social justice, and of course, amazing food.
Thank you to my dearest friends, and a big shout out to the friends and family members who invested their money to make this happen!
Keep your fingers crossed and wish us luck!