I sit at the dining room table of the farm house during Hurricane Sandy as our apprenticeship at Devon Point Farm is quickly coming to a close and life is springing back into turmoil. With the wind and rain howling outside, my mind is racing with excitement and anxiety of what the future has in store. After over a year of no place to call our own (with the exception of the open road), we had some solidarity living on a farm working the soil for the past seven months.
Time in the fields has provided me with ample opportunity to work on an answer to the question, “So, what’s next?” Wow, the answer to that question has changed a lot with the long days weeding carrot beds and chasing cows around the barnyard. It took some serious time, a lot of serious thought, and a few tough decisions to land where we are at the moment.
FoodCyclist Future Timeline
- October 31st: Finish farm apprenticeship
- November 5th-19th : Honeymoon in London and Paris
- November 20th - Winter : Plan, prepare, and create FoodCyclist Farm (find land, do a mountain of paperwork, pay lots of fees, beat head against wall, create website content, market research, etc…)
- Spring – Fall 2013: (with luck) First season of FoodCyclist Farm
Our apprenticeship officially ends on Wednesday October 31st, Halloween. The next day, we are getting breakfast at the Vanilla Bean Cafe (our favorite local breakfast spot) where Kate and I will sit with some bottomless cups of coffee and reflect on a season farming in Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner.”
That weekend starts our slow decent into New York City, visiting family and friends along the way. Monday the 5th of November, we board an airplane destined for London’s Heathrow Airport. We will spend a week in London before taking a train to Paris to spend another week there before flying home around the 19th.
My loving wife, Kate, has put up with life on a bicycle, apprentice housing on a farm, and is looking the reality of not taking a vacation with me for the next couple of years as we start our farm. We have never taken a vacation together that wasn’t either with family, or on a bicycle sleeping in a tent and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I owe her a real vacation, and a real honeymoon.
After we get back from Europe, I start my life as a full time farmer and geek. In between holidays and my sister-in-law’s December wedding, I will be at it 6 days a week, as many hours as I can work and stay sane, planning and creating what will be my version of sustainable farming.
While working on Devon Point Farm, I have been actively searching for land in Western Connecticut/Eastern New York that suites my needs. With the type of farm I hope to start, I am looking at needing a considerable amount of land. Since I am not a millionaire or any kind of “lots-of-money-aire”, a piece of land with a lot of acreage is going to be rather difficult to acquire.
I have been working with several land trusts to find such a piece of land. Land Trusts are organizations that assist land owners who want to see their land preserved as farm land, and not be put in development, if and when they leave it. For instance, if a farmer owns 100 acres that a developer would want to divide into a housing development, the farmer or land owner can sell the development rights to the town to ensure the land stays farm land and does not turn into a housing development. This process is hugely important in preserving farmland for the future. After all, we all have to eat right?
So, I, John-the-farmer with no land, gets in touch with the Land Trust, and hopefully they can make a match with their land and my needs. Hopefully. I was explaining what I needed to so many people that I created a short video on what I was looking for.
So far all the matches made have turned out to be misses. There is always some big limiting factor that shoots the deal right in the face (brutal). The latest piece of land would have been perfect, except the agricultural easement stated that there could be “No bees, swine, or poultry” on the 30 acre(ish) property. Of the 30 acres, only one acre was tillable (good for vegetables), but you cannot use bees to pollinate the vegetables so that hurts the vegetable farmer greatly. You cannot have swine, which is a high dollar meat with a large market. The pastured model for pigs that I would implement manages the waste so there’s no run-off and really no smell, but it’s still not allowed. And no poultry. What small farm has no chickens running around? SO, what the heck are you supposed to do with this piece of land?
That easement was put into place in the 1980′s, and is virtually impossible to change (as are pretty much all easements). Not every land easement has these ridiculous rules, but a lot of them do. My brief rant above is to paint your a picture of just one of my frustrations with the land search.
The search continues and my spirits are still high. Rome was not built in a day after all. You’ll know where we are going to end up as I figure out where we will end up. For now, thanks for sticking by us as we refine what it means to be a FoodCyclist. Hopefully one of my next posts will be all about the perfect piece of land that we found.