I learned quickly that Ben and Hana Yoder’s decision to buy 100 acres of land and a red barn was one thing, but to live the dream of owning their own farm was something else altogether. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but it was already clear to me how much work was involved to get it going and Terry and I would do everything we could–short of farming the land ourselves!!–to make it possible for these hardworking young people to make a success of this new farm of theirs. My main job in all this was to cheer them on from my porch!
Within two months of signing the contract, Ben and his friends had built a cabin behind the barn, where his farmer friends could live. Together, they’d laid the foundation for the new house on the other side of the barn from us. This gave us both privacy, while it was still close enough to tractor shed and co-op pick up to make it an easy trip to and from the house. By spring, Ben and his friends had raised the roof. They spent the summer traveling back and forth between farms — harvesting vegetables and managing co-op pickup in Garrett County, building high tunnels, planting raspberries, and fruit trees, electrifying, plumbing, insulating and sheet rocking their new house here.
By August they’d moved all the cows, sheep, pigs and chickens over from Garrett County. In July, the Yoders and their new baby Rosie moved to our little guest cottage, where Hana made dinner for the farm crew every night. How she did this I haven’t a clue. But Hana is remarkable in many ways.
By October 2017—almost a year to the day we signed the contract with the Yoders and signed the contract and shook hands on the deal– they were in. One hundred acres of our farm land was now theirs We’d found a way to make it affordable enough for them to buy. We’d continue to live there. We’d be their most devoted co-op members, and their closest neighbors.
A couple of retired people, lucky enough to have a lot of land they didn’t need, can now stroll to a red barn just a stone’s throw from their house for food and conversation at the co-op. Family visits and birthday parties for Rosie, and her little brother, Henry. Walk the property with Ben, drink smoothies at Clatter with Hana and the kids.
On a Wednesday in August 2021, what do I see through my windows? From the kitchen – the cows and sheep. From the living room, a field of potatoes and three dozen gobblers making a racket. From the front door, sunflowers, and sweet corn. An orchard of young fruit trees and berry bushes. And from my study window. The Red Barn. The buzz of all that activity . The tractors coming and going, the co-op full of people, laughing kids, barking dogs.
In two weeks we’ll be back in Portugal, having left our house, cottage and two pups in the care of our friends on Savage Mountain, knowing that the farm we’ve loved for 13 years is producing a ton of healthy, delicious food for families in three counties. Knowing, too, that our decision to get Cory Twigg and his crew back on the job in 2015 was one of the best decisions we ever made.
To modify the famous line from the baseball movie “Field of Dreams”:
We rebuilt it . . . and they came.