Tell me a little bit about your farm.
The operational story of Diamond Hills Farm could fit on the back of a napkin as it has only been a physical entity for about a month. The real story of the farm lies in its conception and realization in the hearts and minds of the farmers Lori and Jason. The idea for the farm was conceived on camping trip to in Brooklyn, New York (Yes, there is one campsite in Brooklyn.) This annual vacation served as family reunion for members of a multi-city bicycle club. Over beers with friends our conversation turned to the fact that we were both tired of our work, our lives, our situation and towards the dream that we could have all that we wanted from the land for ourselves and for our families. We quickly realized that we were both looking for something that provided new challenges, while at the same time giving back to the those around us. Inherently dynamic, innovative, and integral to communities, farming seemed like the perfect ﬁt.
Looking back, our nascent plans sound ridiculous. Lori wanted a ﬁber farm, I wanted to farm vegetables like my Polish grandparents, but as we did our research and began to loosen our grips on our former lives, we realized that we couldnʼt plan the farm as much as the farm would plan for us. In addition to not knowing what to farm, we didnʼt know how to farm. After our brief vacation we both began seriously researching farming and I began the process of securing a succession of strange and wonderful apprenticeships. Around the same, time Lori was relocated by her employer to Hudson, New York and the search for land began.
We were very fortunate in that it only took six months for us to secure 80 acres of fenced pasture with a ten year lease in Claverack, New York. The land was a partnership between the land owners and a previous farmer tenant who, because of personal reasons, had decided to stop farming the land. This winter, I quit my job of eight years and moved to Hudson. Now every morning, after feeding and listening to the chickens gossip, I start out my day with a long walk to the back forty to speak with the pigs and to dream and listen to what the land wants to be.
What difﬁculties have you had, or are you overcoming, and how?
Honestly, we are so new to the game that everyday is exciting and fun, no matter how difﬁcult or trying it may be. We encounter problems and have to make difﬁcult decisions just like any other business, but for us getting to this stage was the real struggle. Early on we began to focus on livestock farming. We found ourselves drawn to the added challenges that caring for and learning from what other critters offered. I did my apprenticeships with farmers who were practicing unconventional farming in Virginia. Since the move to New York we have struggled to meet like minded farmers who are farming on the scale that we aspire to, while still practicing holistic management practices. It can be intimidating to be the new guy at the farm store or auction explaining to a bunch of old school dudes how we only plan to feed our cattle grass and refuse to ween our cattle at two weeks. As of recently we have been meeting more and more farmers that are practicing similar techniques. The possibility of integrating into a like-minded farming community is really exciting and the potential for assistance and guidance is already apparent.
What are your goals in the next 5-10 years?
We want to grow healthy humanly-raised plants and animals. We also realize that we are growing a business and would like to be able to make our living farming full time. At the moment I am on the farm full time while Lori is still working forty-hour weeks at her job. We want to develop healthy and diverse breeding stock that compliments our space in the hopes of providing others with stock. From the beginning we decided to include education in our plan. A portion of our mission statement addresses providing unique and functional educational opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds, and to grow a family of resources with other farmers and consumers. Although these goals are important, the longer term goals are not the ones that keep me up at night. Today my goals include ﬁnishing the rabbit pens, moving the pigs to start tilling out our new garden, keeping the chickens off the top of the hover, and planning the corral.
How (if at all) do you see your work as a farmer ﬁtting into the larger movement for social change from the ground up?
As a necessity, and a commodity, food has sweeping effects on many different parts of society, the economy, and the environment. Careful consideration of its production and impact is required to ensure the planetʼs well being. It is no longer about feeding the most people but how to get the people to feed themselves. The pendulum has swung back and we are realizing that we, as a global entity, need to be more responsible for our food production and less reliant on large scale and chemical driven farming. There are many ways that we as farmers can effect social change. We get to set a clear example through the operation of our farm. Speaking honestly and respectfully with people who do not share your views or philosophies can go a long way in opening up a dialogue and making friends. Hosting and attending educational events can provide information for others that would not normally be accessible to them. Basically, we work from the ground up by working in the ground, not being afraid to be ourselves, and respecting all the creatures we encounter on a daily basis.