We didn’t have to wait for very long. Less than an hour later, we received this email:
Thanks for your email. I read it out loud to Brent and both of us are touched by what you shared and your experience and passion for what you are currently doing and hope to do in the near future. We've had significant interest in the farm and decided that the most fair and calmest way to talk with potential buyers is to talk with folks one party at a time. We're showing the farm to one family this coming week and will be evaluating which of the others to show the farm after talking with this first family. Because of that we can't offer to have you stop by for an official tour tomorrow. However, if you're in the area we would encourage you to drive by to take a bit of a look and to see the larger farming community of which we're a part. It's a lovely neighborhood to be a part of.
I'll be in close touch in the next few weeks about what is happening and if this first family doesn't seem like the right fit we'll be back in touch with you. Thanks for being so open about yourself. It made a big impact!
I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t believe we even got a response so quickly but my heart was in my throat that they already had a family in mind for it. Ben and I decided to still go to Vermont. We threw a tent and some clothes in the car, typed “Randolph, VT” into our GPS, and headed North with no plan. As we drove I called campgrounds and checked reservations online. Everything was full. Ben remembered that his dear friend’s brother lived somewhere in Vermont and he called her to ask if we could camp in their yard. It turns out they live 15 minutes from the farm and he was happy to let us camp in their yard. When we arrived it was dark and raining. We had never met these people, and the first words they said to us were, “It’s going to rain all night, we already made up a bed for you.”
Patter, patter, patter on the metal roof. The rain was a soothing melody as I thought of Odin and cried myself to sleep. The next thing I remember is waking up to morning light. And I never sleep through the night.
We wandered out of our bedroom to the scents of sausage and pancakes coming from the kitchen. When I sheepishly said we don’t usually sleep that late, Jeannine gently told me I had been through a lot and probably needed the rest. The rest of our trip followed in similar fashion. Everyone we met was kind. Not nice. But kind. Genuine. Welcoming. We already felt like we were at home. We visited the cute coffee shop 4.8 miles from the farm. The food coop. The bike shop. And then we drove by the farm. The love I have for my family’s land, for the grasses, the trees. For when the light hits spots just so at certain points of the year. For the feeling I got when I walked certain places. For how it responded to my love in a way that I felt it loving me back. It was a living, breathing being that I was in relationship with. And I could never imagine feeling that way about another place again.
Until we drove by this farm. Even from the road, we could sense that it was special. And holy moly, it was beautiful.
I sent Regina one more email. Letting her know that we loved the town, we loved everyone we met. We felt like true community existed there. And that if they felt the family they met first was a good fit we wished them well, but if they didn’t we would truly love to be considered.
And then, I got the happiest and most nerve-wracking email of my life.
“Hi Katie. Hope that your week is going well. Brent and I are starting to show the farm to potential buyers and have decided to start with two families, one being you and Ben. I know that this is a busy time of year and that you were just here in Vermont this past weekend but would you and Ben be willing to come up for a look around and some conversation with me and Brent? I'm traveling for work from Sunday the 8th through Friday the 13th but we can be flexible in arranging our schedules before that time if that works for you. We'll look forward to hearing from you. Have a good day!
I don’t think I need to tell you that we basically got in the car and drove straight there. We stayed with John and Jeanine again, this time making them steak tacos, and having another great breakfast before we headed to the Beidler Farm in the morning.
I was SO nervous. So nervous that first I asked Ben to slow down because I was scared neighbors were going to see us driving fast and tell the Beidlers about the out of state jerks driving too fast. Then I was scared we weren’t going to be perfectly on time so I asked Ben to please drive faster. Ben laughed because he is a saint and then he put on “Green Mountain State” by Trevor Hall.
“I call to the Green Mountain State I call to the silence you make Do you live inside outside me As you speak through ten thousand leaves”
And then I took a breath. And another. Ben took my hand and smiled at me. And my nerves settled down just enough.
We arrived and the first to greet us was Lucky. Their short, sweet, 14 year old pup that was sure to let us know he was in charge, before he happily letting us pet him and carry him around the farm when he got tired. I bent down to admire him and the Beidlers immediately mentioned Odin.
“Your dog is so amazing, we saw him on your Instagram. We love him!” Cue me immediately starting to cry and tearfully telling them that we had to put Odin down last week and that’s actually how we found this farm in the first place.
“Wow, ok. Where do we sign the papers?”
From the moment we met the Beidlers, we loved them. So warm, loving, passionate. For the next four hours they walked us around the farm, pointing out features, telling us stories.
“Here is where Regina fell while we were logging and broke her ankle three months after we moved in. That was a dark winter. Giving sleigh rides is what got us through.” I wasn’t sure whether they meant emotionally or financially but it was probably both.
“Here’s the giant silo that Erin climbed up as a small child and nearly scared the life out of us. She was smiling and waving down at us from over 30 feet up.”
“Here are the remnants of Erin’s pottery studio in the barn from when she used to gather clay by the brook and dry it here in the sun.”
We fell as much in love with them as we did with the farm. And oh, did we fall in love with the farm. I’ll be honest that when I left my family’s land I thought I was giving up any chance to ever own farmland. At that I point was unaware of the USDA FSA’s farm ownership loans, and after farming for five years, I knew I wouldn’t qualify for a traditional mortgage. I remember telling Ben at one point that I would settle for even 20 acres of pasture, just enough for a few cows to feed our bodies and feed my soul.
But here we were walking around a farm that I had dreamt many times about building a life on. And walking beside me was a person that was ready to build that life with me. We floated around the farm, laughing, dreaming, and taking turns carrying sweet Lucky through the tall grass.
Brent and Regina bought the farm in 1998 and turned it from a traditional dairy farm with corn growing in the fields to a 100% grass-fed dairy farm. At first they were the crazy neighbors growing grass in the corn fields but over time they became respected and beloved farmers in their neighborhood (just ask anyone around). They always had the intention of selling the farm when their daughter graduated from college, which she did this year. When they were searching for a farm, it was so hard to find a place with housing, they decided right then that when they were ready to move on from the farm, they would do it fully so the next people could really take over. They had spent twenty years improving the place and we were in awe of their work.
When we pulled off our wet boots and walked into the house, I had to keep my mouth from falling open at the sight of the most beautiful kitchen I could ever imagine. When Brent and Regina decided to redo the kitchen about a decade ago, the foundation was so bad that they knocked down the addition and completely rebuild it. Completely rebuilt it into my dream kitchen. Have you ever listened to the song “Crowded Table” by the Highwomen?
It goes like this, “I want a house with a crowded table, and a place by the fire for everyone. Let us on the world while we’re young and able and bring it back together when the day is done.” When I say that this describes my dream life, I fully mean it. Doing work that means something and coming home to a table crowded with the people I love. And here was the kitchen to make that dream happen. They showed us the house and then we sat down to chat some more.
Ben read them our dream farm list.
100 acres of pasture
A couple of cute kids. (Laughs. Well, we can’t help you with that one!)
Magical tree with twinkly lights to eat under
Natural bathing water source
Within 15 minutes of coffee shop
Miles of hiking trails
Small orchard and other fruit and berries
Two airbnb yurts
A blue heron
When Ben read the heron, Brent looked at Regina with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Should I recite the poem?” and then recited from memory these beautiful words:
“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
-The Peace of Wild Things, Wendell Berry
There were other things on the list like a Tesla truck, a sauna, etc. that we can add later, but this list was the heart of it, and the farm has basically everything except the heron (just wait for this story) and the kids.
At some point we all realized we had been there for four hours, and Brent and Regina were moving Erin into law school the next day and had a lot of packing to do.
What next? I thought in my head.
Regina spoke up first, “Well, we know this is a big decision so you can take some time to think about it.”
I looked at Ben and said, “I don’t want to speak for Ben but I don’t think we need to think about it,”
He confirmed, “We don’t need to think about it.”
“So, pick us.” I said and laughed.
Regina smiled. “In case you can’t tell by the look on our faces, it’s yours”
I cried for the second time that day.
As we were walking out of the house Brent said, “I think this isn’t a handshake deal, but a hug deal” and we all gave each other giant hugs and then we started our drive back to RI. Ben and I were so in disbelief and excitement in the car that we drove ten miles past the exit we meant to stop for lunch at before we even noticed. I’m not sure how many times I said, “I can’t believe we get to buy this farm” on the way home but months later, I still can’t believe we get to buy this farm.
One last thing. We are not leaving our Rhode Island community behind, we’ll still be here. More to come on that later!