The Wrong Mountain: How selling the home farm makes Maple Wind Farm better!

The Wrong Mountain: How selling the home farm makes Maple Wind Farm better!

The Wrong Mountain

In a previous life I spent a lot of time in the mountains skiing, climbing, guiding clients and leading youth groups into the peaks.  It remains a passion, even as my joints begin to fail from long years of use.  

A number of years back, I was on a backcountry ski trip in the Tetons of WY.  The game out there is to avoid the crowds and cost of ski areas by heading out into the backcountry to climb peaks and ski down them.  

My sister, brother-in-law and I had picked a more remote area in order to ski lines that were untouched, and therefore deeply satisfying to folks who find pleasure in pristine powder.  Normally finding your way out there is easy - very few trees and lots of recognizable landmarks to keep you oriented. But that morning there was cloud cover, and as we started a steady snow began to fall, eliminating any possibility of a view toward our goal of Columbia Ridge. Veterans of many days out skiing in this area, we chugged along, following contours and ridges, crossing gullies and bowls until we finally ran out of “up” and came out on top.  We congratulated each other, stripped the climbing skins off our skis and prepared for the deep descent we knew was coming.  

Yet something didn’t seem right.  Even though we’d been there before, the terrain didn’t look familiar. As we looked down the slope we intended to ski the clouds lifted and out before us, about 2 miles away, stood the unmistakable features of Columbia Ridge in the distance….

You can be very good at heading in the wrong direction

Since our barn fire in 2014, we have been focused on rebuilding and recovering and bouncing forward at our properties in Richmond and Bolton (just a few miles apart). We’ve added processing space and many new field shelters for animals, along with the New Barn where we bring it all together, process, package and send it on to our partners, friends and neighbors. 

We’ve also been chugging along at the Home Farm in Huntington, grazing cattle, pasturing pigs, and even doing some of our egg and turkey production up there.  After all, that’s where we started, where we figured out many of our methods and systems, and where we learned to build soil and grow grass! And it’s also been our home and where we raised our two children. 

We’re pretty good at producing at the Home Farm, and most days it doesn’t take a lot of time.   But ever since we made the decision to build our center of operations in Richmond, our focus has been on building our farm into the new facility with all the new ideas and opportunities that presents.  Each day we drive the thirteen miles to our other farm properties, work and learn with our staff and community, leaving the home farm behind. Almost by necessity the Home Farm has become an afterthought in our work as we engage with all we have built to overcome our challenges, build our team and reach out to all of you. We realize now that the Home Farm has become the wrong mountain for us and for the farm!

How Selling the Home Farm Makes Us Better

Taking an honest look at how we’re interacting with the Home Farm has led to some surprising realizations. Rather than moving forward, the distance and split focus keeps us from effectively realizing our vision for the farm as a whole  Here are some of the things we’ve learned

  • We’re more effective creating healthy pasture-raised products on less acreage.
  • As a result we are not fully utilizing the acres we currently have.
  • Our family drives a minimum of 78 miles a day, constituting several hours of lost time each day
  • To operate on farms that far apart we need two of everything: 2 tractors, 2 trucks, 2 of every expensive tool we need to keep it all together…
  • Losing the Home Farm will not represent a loss in production
  • Selling will provide a new farmer with an opportunity to get started
  • The additional time and resources we gain by simplifying and consolidating, will allow us to:
  • Do an even better job producing our products
  • Focus on further simplifying so we do less, but accomplish more
  • Make needed investments to streamline and perfect our work
  • Be on site in case of emergency
  • Spend more time being of service to you!

There are, of course, downsides to any big decision - one made over a full year of wrestling with our options.  We love the Huntington community and will miss it dearly (though we’ll still be close!). The Home Farm is a special natural place - the meadows, hedgerows, forests, waterways and wildlife are simply spectacular. The most difficult aspect of this has been our emotional connection to this secluded, hilltop landscape.

Yet we know that we’ll always be able to check in as time allows.  And the benefits of focus and simplicity far outweigh the sadness we feel making the decision to move. But just as movement is at the core of our farm life on pasture, so we should be willing to move forward as well.

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