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Our Vision: Bringing Food to People and People to Food

farmer-zach-5900

“What are you going to to when you go home?” is a question we hear with some frequency. It usually follows “are you ever going home?” Don’t worry, moms and dads, the answer is “yes.”

We do plan to return to the US, and our plans for when that time comes are still taking shape. Now we call on you, fair readers, to poke and prod and hopefully, make helpful suggestions to our plan.

A few months ago we publicly announced that we’re interested in starting a farm, but that’s pretty vague. Farms vary wildly in size and purpose; there’s everything from the small self-sufficiency holding to the massive corporate behemoth. Where do we want to fall on that spectrum? What do we want to grow?

We certainly want to be larger than the very small guys. We want to be as self-sufficient as possible, but we also want to live off this endeavor and buy things that we can’t produce: coffee, chocolate, entertainment. Maybe we’ll make our own honey and beer, but we want the flexibility to buy stuff: gadgets, books, or The Meaning of Life (with free shipping!) on eBay. We haven’t gone completely off the deep end.

And we definitely want to be smaller than the big guys. We don’t want row crops or a concentrated feeding operation. We don’t want to poison the earth with herbicides and suck the nutrients completely out of the ground.

So now that you’ve got a pretty good idea what we don’t want, maybe what we do want will make more sense. We want a diversity of vegetables, fruit trees, and animals. We love pork so pigs are pretty much guaranteed. Their ability to consume a lot of farm by-products is also a plus. These kiwis have taught me a lot about the value and ease of sheep, though they are “dumb as,” in the vernacular. The farm-raised lamb chops, which are probably the juiciest cut of meat I’ve ever tasted, didn’t hurt. Goats are smart and efficient at turning grass into milk, but cows cut down on the labor involved in harvesting that milk. So we’re still up in the air in the dairy department. Chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl are also very likely in our future. Geese and their midnight honking are definitely not. So we’re going to produce a lot of different stuff. What are we going to do with it all?

At first, we’ll sell at markets and add value with prepared foods: spreads, sauces, etc. We’ll need a licensed commercial kitchen to keep Johnny Law off our backs, but we’re hoping to rent a space for food preparation until we can build our own.

Ultimately, we want to open a full service restaurant on the property. We’ll operate as a casual cafe for breakfast and lunch, with wifi access and delicious coffee, baked goods, and a small menu of simple food. For the dinner service we’ll move up market to a slightly fancier version of the same. Our dining room will be a place you wouldn’t mind taking your kids at 6 o’clock or a date at 8. Prices will be accessible and again, the menu would be limited. And of course, we’ll supply as much of the food served as possible from the farm. We’ll welcome patrons to take a walk around and see where the pork chop that they’re about to eat rooted for nuts, or pick an apple off that tree with heavily laden branches for a snack before their meal. We’ll bring food to people and bring people to food. Our vision is for a welcoming place that inspires the community and makes people excited to spend time there, be it on a date or just to swing by for some eggs.

Further down the line, we’ll incorporate education. We’ll host a small army of WWOOFers, welcome school groups, and offer courses to the public. We’ll have an internship/apprentice program and bring our products to underserved markets.

Finding the right place for this will be difficult. We think that a 20-30 acre plot of land will be small enough to be manageable at first, while giving us room to grow as we get better at this farming thing. Climate and length of growing season are factors to consider, but we’re prepared to use greenhouses and tall tunnels to artificially lengthen the season. Annual precipitation and access to water are huge factors, and we’d rather consistent rain than committing to constantly moving irrigation around.

We need a community that would be excited about supporting a farm-to-table restaurant, but doesn’t already have lots of great options in that category. We need a location that’s accessible for the walk-up cafe crowd, but also a significant chunk of land to do our growing. For our own sanity, we need outdoor recreation close by; we’re avid rock climbers, hikers, and cyclists. We’d like to be within a few hours of an international airport, so we can get out and welcome visitors without too much hassle. We want the perfect spot, and, I think, this will be the most difficult part of this endeavor. Or at least the first most difficult part.

I hope you can see that we’ve thought about this a lot, and also that we’ve got a long way to go. We have a solid idea of what we want, but really don’t know anything at all about achieving it. So we need your help. Comment, email, text, Facebook, smoke signal, or carrier pigeon us your thoughts, advice, reservations, whatever.

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    1. Orange hat says:

      Im just curious is there room for some Su hoop action in this farming equation!?!

      • Zach says:

        Asheville, NC happens to be on our list of potential places and isn’t terribly far from some future SU opponents. Like I said, we haven’t gone completely crazy! SU hoops will ALWAYS be a part of the equation. In Boeheim we trust!

        • Orange hat says:

          I vote for the north carolina area. At least you will get a number of road games a season AND the ACC tournament often.

      • ajeetlotus says:

        I’m with ya, how about a yoga motel? I’m already hosting on airbnb and now wanting to find other humans who love the outdoors and sustaining our lovely earth together, forever, eating good pie

    2. Joey Lucas says:

      Well first off, as I’ve said before I’m obsessed with this idea. I think it’s fantastic. Obviously I vote for California. Now I promise it’s not for selfish reasons. I think it has what you want. Specifically I recommend looking at Central Cali, Paso Robles area, up and coming wine area. About 2 hours from San Fran and all that. The CA trains go thru. It’s beautiful and up and coming with descrimminating tastes but also wanting this type of things. Also since its a lesser developed area it’s prob more affordable. Next option is Oxnard area in So Cal (already farm area between LA and Santa Barbara) but unlikely to get the LA crowd to go all the way there for it.

      I don’t know enough about the areas but I hear Oregon is amazing! so check it out! Can’t wait to hear more. xoxo

    3. Mom M says:

      Hi,
      Of course Vermont is fabulous! I think the winter months cam be spent canning and preserving as well as brewing beer! Seriously, the idea of self sufficiency and a farm to plate dining experience would go over very well here. We’ll have fun talking about this when we visit.
      Love,
      Mom

    4. Zach says:

      another concern that isn’t addressed here: zoning. what kind of zoning area do we need to be in to have 1) a farm, 2) a residence, and 3) a restaurant? does this even exist?

    5. Chad says:

      Zach & Stina,

      I do believe you have been reading Lizzy’s and my business dream diary! You have quite an ambitious goal set out in front of you. And it is comforting to know you have at least thought a good portion of this through. Zoning is a big thing. Some places if you are zoned agriculture will only allow 1 residence, a set number of outbuildings, and that’s that. Some other things you guys want to keep in mind, things I was chatting with Stina’s parents about, are water usage rights. Some states are completely ridiculous about water rights. California for example.
      Also, keep in mind that being so diversified is going to be a boon, and an issue. You are not betting everything on one or two crops, or one or two animal products for that manner. If something fails, you won’t be screwed. But, you are increasing the work for yourself tenfold. If you plan on having Wwoofers that’s one thing. Interns or apprentices are better. Employees with a vested interest are the best, but eat into the overall cost.
      Location as you stated is going to be huge. I know you two are patient, so I don’t have to tell you to NOT rush in. Plus, as awesome as us friends are, we are not you. Our opinions are just that. Do not be swayed. Make your decision based on what is going to be best for you!
      Lastly, best of luck you two! Remember, if you ever need any advice, an opinion, or a hand, all you have to do is ask. Lizzy and and will always be there to tell you, “You’re doing it wrong…” Ha! You know you’re doing it right. There is no wrong in farming. Unless you kill everything. Then it’s a do-over.

      -Cheers!

    6. Megan says:

      Go to Pasafarming.org and check out the classifieds section

    7. Jerrod says:

      I agree with Mom M., VT would be awesome. I love your vision and there is a huge push for the farm to table idea all over the country now. Primo gets the job done in Rockland, ME, but they close for the winter. You guys will rock wherever you end up. I look forward to your future posts and developments.

    8. BELEN says:

      Estimado Zach:
      Te respondo en tu blog porque me ha encantado vuestra gran idea y sobre todo la ilusion que teneis, lo primero me presento soy Belén la pareja de Tomás el lugar de Segovia (Spain) donde habéis pedido hospedaje o host por 2 semanas, comentarte que Tomás posee una finca de 45 Ha, el comercializa con grandes clientes de productos ecológicos aunque también hace venta con grupos de consumo y pequeñas tiendas, pero de forma secundaria, al menos es como funciona en España desconozco como funcionais en los Estados Unidos.
      Desconocemos el inglés es una pena pero tenemos que aprender en un futuro.
      Si aun estais dispuesto Cristina y tu a venir y ver como funcionamos para nosotros sería un placer acogeros a partir de la segunda quincena de Enero, esperamos una contestación vuestra.
      Un cordial saludo y que la paz llene vuestro hogar de luz y harmonia en las navidades y durante todo el año.
      Belén y Tomás

    9. Belen says:

      Te escribo porque se ha producido en error en el mensaje que te he enviado, y creo que sera por el virus del ordenador perdona pero donde pone estafa es vende no entiendo el error, seran los duendes. Un cordial saludo

    10. Molly Ahearn says:

      Chrstina! You look amazing. I have said before but will sai it again, I am so jealous of your travels. I just wanted to throw my two cents in and say that you should consider Maryland, Northern Virginia and Virginia in general. The DMV area is BOOMING when it comes to people wanting and demanding not only GOOD food, but to know where that food comes from, how it is grown, and if those small business owners give back to the community they live in. I think MD has only 1 officially organic farm. Southern MD property is very cheap. And if you are on the West side of the bay you are only an hour drive from D.C., Baltimore, Richmond, etc. Additionally, the soil in the Shenandoah Valley is superb. As is evident in the many wineries that have opened in Northern VA in the last decade. Shenandoah is also an amazing hiking, camping and biking area. Its truly beautiful and I try to get out there as much as I can. I know you probably don’t want to come to the region where you spent the first 18 years of your life, but I am telling you that things have changed a lot around here and your farm would be the perfect fit for us :)
      Xoxo, Molly

      • Stina says:

        Molly, I’ve been thinking about your comment for the past week and it warms my heart to know that you’re enjoying our blog and also thinking about us. Thank you :) We will be based at my parent’s house and will for sure get down to Southern MD/DV/NVa area. Cheap land, eager markets and good recreation are totally the name of the game at this point! Thanks a ton for the tip! We’ll be back home in a few months and should totally grab drinks!

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