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Homestead Act: A Family Trades City Life for a Farm on Martha’s Vineyard

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Homestead Act: A Family Trades City Life for a Farm on Martha’s Vineyard

September 21, 2018

A family of four escapes the city to live off the land on a homestead complete with cows, chickens, ducks, pigs, and an overflowing edible garden. This is a familiar fantasy—you may have imagined it, and I do often, lying awake at night to name my fictive cows.

But few of us turn the dream into reality by decamping to the country with children in tow and a vague idea that it would be nice to “find some land, start a farm, and maybe raise animals.”

Molly and Eric Glasgow did. After buying property on Martha’s Vineyard in 2008, they built a house, resurrected a defunct dairy farm, went to cheesemaking school, and started selling their organic tomatoes at a farm stand. We visited them recently at Grey Barn farm.

Photography by Matthew Williams for Gardenista, except where noted.

On the 80-acre property seven outbuildings, including cheese caves beneath the main barn, house the farm&#8
Above: On the 80-acre property seven outbuildings, including cheese caves beneath the main barn, house the farm’s dairy, livestock, and seed-starting operations.
Drainage done right; a French drain system sloughs water away from the building&#8
Above: Drainage done right; a French drain system sloughs water away from the building’s foundation.
Herbs in progress. A drip irrigation system delivers water efficiently to the lavender crop&#8
Above: Herbs in progress. A drip irrigation system delivers water efficiently to the lavender crop’s root systems.
Near the main barn, the Glasgows grow food and flowers in a raised-bed garden. Seasonal produce, including the tomatoes and peppers shown here, is for sale at a farm stand (where customers leave money in an honor box).
Above: Near the main barn, the Glasgows grow food and flowers in a raised-bed garden. Seasonal produce, including the tomatoes and peppers shown here, is for sale at a farm stand (where customers leave money in an honor box).
Cosmos thrive in a hot, sunny spot.
Above: Cosmos thrive in a hot, sunny spot.
The Glasgows sell fruit, including peaches and sour cherries, grown on the trees at Grey Barn orchard.
Above: The Glasgows sell fruit, including peaches and sour cherries, grown on the trees at Grey Barn orchard.

The Glasgows offer seasonal classes, including a Two-Part Orchard Pruning Class, at Grey Barn farm.

 Espaliered fruit trees are trained against a wire support system attached to a poured-concrete retaining wall.
Above: Espaliered fruit trees are trained against a wire support system attached to a poured-concrete retaining wall.
A low, stacked stone wall creates a sense of enclosure around the main house.
Above: A low, stacked stone wall creates a sense of enclosure around the main house.
 About 300 chickens live on the farm, free to roam in the pastures and woods.
Above: About 300 chickens live on the farm, free to roam in the pastures and woods.
Along with the cows, the chickens are moved every day, giving them &#8
Above: Along with the cows, the chickens are moved every day, giving them “fresh cow patties to play in and they do a great job of spreading the manure across the farm,” the Glasgows say.
The flock&#8
Above: The flock’s breeds include Araucanas, New Hampshire Reds, Buff Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks.
Everything produced at Grey Barn farm is organic: no synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, herbicides, or pesticides are used.
Above: Everything produced at Grey Barn farm is organic: no synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, herbicides, or pesticides are used.
The first three cows to arrive at Grey Barn farm were Thelma, Helen, and Mary Nell. Photograph via Grey Barn.
Above: The first three cows to arrive at Grey Barn farm were Thelma, Helen, and Mary Nell. Photograph via Grey Barn.

A herd of 25 Dutch Belted cows each produces about 4.5 gallons of milk a day, say the Glasgows: “Our lovely cows are able to produce delicious milk on grass alone and many of them continue producing into their teens.

“It may sound simple just to feed grass to your cows, but our pastures change with the seasons and presenting the right food at the right time of year becomes tricky,” say the Glasgows, who in wintertime feed the herd microgreens from barley seed sprouted in a greenhouse.

Cheeses, including Eidolon as shown, are sold throughout New England and in France. For more information, see Stockists. Photograph via Grey Barn.
Above: Cheeses, including Eidolon as shown, are sold throughout New England and in France. For more information, see Stockists. Photograph via Grey Barn.
Photograph via Grey Barn.
Above: Photograph via Grey Barn.

The self-service farm stand at Grey Barn is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year. For directions, see Grey Barn Farm Stand.

More rural homestead fantasies, turned into reality:

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