By Lindsay Courcelle
With Mother’s Day approaching, Harvest Watch takes a look at some of our fabulous local farmer mamas.
What is your favorite thing about being a mom who farms?
Brooke Hughes-Muse, Laughing Child Farm: Spending time with my girls! They are such wonderful people and it’s so exciting to be able to share our love of good and healthy food, along with teaching them about environmental responsibility while they are young. I love that working together gives them say in how our business operates, since they are seeing each step involved in being sweet potato farmers. It’s also great to see their enthusiasm when they talk about ways they can ‘farm’; whether it’s selling raspberries or asparagus in our farm stand or getting a milk goat to make goat cheese, it’s fantastic to watch them work together!
What is the biggest challenge?
Martha Sirjane, Caravan Gardens: It's a huge challenge balancing down time with work, especially when the work is so intense and you are dealing with season and/or weather pressures. A few years back I set a goal of trying to get away once a month with the kids during the summer, not necessarily far and just for the day. They were excited about that. I know it's not something I'd do just for myself, yet is certainly good for one’s health and we all probably should.
What unique experiences have your kids had on the farm?
Chantal Deojay, Macora Farm : My children have slept in sawdust bins, nursed while on a tractor, been in the back pack while I milked, slept in a hay mow, rushed to get hay in before the rain, helped animals give birth, weeded, moved fences, milked animals, taken care of the ill ones. They have done things in their very young lives that most adults have not.
What are some of your favorite farm memories?
Ryan Place, Sourwood Mountain Orchard: A favorite memory involves a late afternoon, and chamomile needing to be harvested. Will and Edie were both hot and tired. I was ready and willing to go inside with them to rest, but instead offered to lay down a blanket for them in between the rows of chamomile. With some snacks and tea by their side, they lay in the shade while I harvested, and told a story.
Caitlin Gildrien, Gildrien Farm: When she was two, my daughter was helping us plant potatoes. She followed along after each potato was hilled in and carefully sprinkled a little extra dirt on top. Eventually she explained that she was "feeding them soup.” She’s five now, and she recently drew a picture of a garden with carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce, all very accurately rendered with the right parts above and below ground.
What skills do your children have that they learned from their farmer mama?
Kris Jacoby-Stevenson, Old Gates Farm: They are all skilled at planting, weeding and harvesting, just by growing up by my side in the fields. But I think a lot of the skills that they learn from me are in the processing of what we grow (which is a big part of our farming). My kids love to help preserve the harvest (picking, prepping, and canning the vegetables and fruits) and they also love to help cook what we grow.
Brooke Hughes-Muse, Laughing Child Farm: I think they are learning female empowerment. Rowan has helped weld, Willow can operate various pieces of machinery, and Cypress and Magnolia have no idea that there are stereotypes between the sexes. Everyone is equal here. All of us contribute in many different ways. Everyone works hard. Everyone plays hard.
Martha Sirjane, Caravan Gardens: Being a farm kid in our household means taking responsibilities very seriously sometimes—for instance keeping the greenhouse watered at this time of year, making sure frost sensitive plants get covered, or that the animals have fresh water has just about no wiggle room. These kinds of responsibilities have given them an understanding of the importance of follow through. I have heard many positive comments over the years as to how competent and dependable they are. I love knowing that I can count on them and am confident that their work ethic will be of benefit to them in whatever direction their lives take them.
Lindsay and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a vegetable farm business in Shrewsbury. Learn more at www.AlchemyGardensVT.com
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.