The Back Story
Back in 1988, Martin had just returned to the states after a year in the Philippines with the Peace Corps, followed by a trip around the world (the long way home!) and Christa was again in the country after a tour through South Germany with an international opera company, singing in Mozart’s opera, Die Zauberflöte. One of our first dates was digging in the soil planting 3 acres of bare root blueberry bushes! In fact, right before we met, Martin’s plan was to start a pick your own operation and it was only because blueberries need 3-5 years to mature, that we started planting vegetables, for want of something to do in the mean time!
It was then that we cultivated the dream of creating a farm that could support both of us (and our future family) without any need for off farm income. The fact that we chose to work the land organically/sustainably was simply a part of the values with which we were both raised, but we had our work cut out for us to become a viable operation. Luckily our market seemed ready made as we are located in the Berkshires, home to many fine restaurants, and a discerning population, and we were well received in our first sales attempts. But to earn our living we needed to increase our production capabilities and quickly focused on mechanization – we wanted to be in control of the whole picture and not have to rely on hired labor while we ourselves were still learning the ropes. We tried to work smart, not just hard, so we purchased equipment that supported efficient systems of production for the #1 crops in demand, clearly (then and now), ‘greens!’ – big greens, baby greens – mesclun greens, braising greens, mustard greens, chard, spinach, kale, etc.; anything that’s likely to suffer the rigors of a long shipment. As a local grower we got everyone’s attention where freshness was concerned! So every year we mechanized where we could, from seeders to cultivators, from transplanters to a giant commercial greens washer, and before too long we were getting a lot done fast! …which of course left us with all this extra time to grow everything else, like tons of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, beets, carrots, fennel, green beans (7 acres of them!....yes, we have a mechanical harvester) eggplants, turnips, winter squash, culinary herbs, etc., etc, after all, we wanted to eat everything, so we had to grow it. However, quality of life crept into the decision of just how much we could sanely do and so we’ve prioritized; the crops we grow most efficiently (in terms of time and labor cost) get sold in great quantity to all our customers, whereas those crops that take the most time to do, we reserve for our farmers' market customers.
In keeping with our interest in a local food system and a healthy environment we are long time board members of the non profit organization, Berkshire Grown, whose efforts include the direct support of farmers and their markets as well as educating the public towards more informed food choices. As a successful small farm operation we have experienced first hand the positive effects of Berkshire Grown’s efforts.
Christa produces gorgeous specialty cut flowers in the field and in the greenhouse which we market through our on site design studio BridleWoodBlooms, for weddings & special events, as well as at our farmers’ markets, by the stem and in bouquets.
In the year 2000 we started growing bedding plants in earnest to try and better utilize our greenhouse space (then, 30x48) in the early months (Feb. through June) and even out the bell curve in our sales season. We had of course previously always grown our own vegetable and cut flower starts for our own use on the farm, and at first simply grew a lot more of them in pack sizes to offer to our neighboring nurseries and other likely accounts. We were met with resounding interest. Our plants were desirable because they are certified organic and with the growing consciousness for the environment and food source, nurseries were happy to carry a line of them. We soon erected a 2nd greenhouse (30x96) and expanded our availability to include over 500 types of plants, from vegetables and herbs to cutting flowers and low growing border plants, to a full line of ornamentals used primarily in container gardens – a growing trend everywhere! We also grow a succession of colorful hanging baskets for Mothers’ Day and beyond (to fill the overhead space is the greenhouses). The 12" baskets accommodate a large quantity of organic compost for the plants to grow in and make an impressive, colorful display.
Of course, as our children matured, their interests expanded, and thus horses found their way into our hearts and onto our farm. Both girls are now capable dressage riders, and have developed a vocational interest in training and showing, as well as the therapeutic aspects of horsemanship.
In 2014, we purchased the rundown, but idyllic horse-farm, BridleWood, just around the corner from us, and so together with our children, we now have plenty to do in the winter as well, renovating the property and creating an oasis in support of the human/equine connection.
Farming is certainly not just a job to us, it is a way of life- inextricably entwined in our personal and family values and we are ever grateful to be cultivating these 'seeds’; the rewards are many fold!