Our Green Acres Syndrome – A Look Back

January 1, 2012 
Happy New Year! Welcome to the Collopy Family Farm blog. Although this blog is just coming to life, the opening entry provides some background as to how our dream began. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing our farm and family grow and that you’ll stop by and visit us. We look forward to sharing this wonderful chapter of our lives with you.

Have you heard the phrase “he/she is a typical Vermonter”? To me, this meant that they’re creative, resourceful, or thrifty. What it really means is that they’re a workaholic.  Yup, they’re not satisfied having a demanding full-time career, raising their family and being involved in their communities. Nope, they need a side job. And, they don’t always need it for money, although that’s part of it; they need it because they don’t know how to relax. You probaby know someone who logs on the side, sugars, farms, or does crafts. My husband Bruce and I are “typical Vermonters”. Here’s our story.

Twelve years ago when our daughter graduated from high school the “Green Acres” syndrome hit us. That’s right; we were getting out of the big City of Winooski and moving to the country. We were going to own a little land, get away from all that hustle and bustle and take a break from community commitments. The second honeymoon of our lives and careers was going into cruise control, at least for the first year. We enjoyed the lake, went boating and fishing, took long walks and relaxed by campfires at night. By year two, we were heavily involved in the lake association and thinking “we’ve got this big field of about 9 acres; we SHOULD be doing something with it”. Yes, the honeymoon was over!

Bruce’s dream as a little boy was to be a farmer. After 20 years of marriage he finally convinced me it was a good idea. Actually we had started a Christmas tree farm in Winooski and we were a year or two away from selling when the 1998 ice storm hit and completely devastated our entire acre of trees. As you age, your short term memory is not as good. So, we thought we should try it again. After all, there were no trees to clear, no stumps to remove, no giant boulders. The field had been farmed for years, how hard could it be? In 2003 we planted 1,000 trees. The goal was to plant 1,000 trees a year for 6 years.  Guess what, planting 1,000 trees by hand in heavy clay soil is hard work. I was used to sitting at a computer, in a classroom or in the car for 10-12 hours a day. The second year, we planted about 800 and the majority of our first year trees died. We didn’t study and document the lay of the land enough and planted in the worst possible spot in the whole field. By the fourth year we were secretly, although sometimes out loud, praying that everything would die and it would be over – what were we thinking?

The demands of life intervened and we gained some distance. Our daughter Amber was getting married, our jobs were more demanding and two beloved family members passed on, Bruce’s father, Robert “Bob” Collopy and then my grandmother, Eleanor Perrotte. The break was necessary and provided some perspective. With that time we noticed the trees were growing and our desire to farm was rekindled. It was time to get serious.

Fast forward to spring of 2008. The field is wet and the soil poor. We spent the summer ditching and laid out our future plans. We mapped out the field and how many more trees we could plant and our timeline. Our farm plan was more of a Christmas tree farm with supplemental homesteading, live off the land items, such as, eggs, meat birds, vegetable garden, and small orchard. A blessing named Jacoby Collopy Soter arrived on July 4, 2008. Spending time with our first grandson was the #1 priority!

In 2009 we kicked our new career into high gear. We planted 800 more Christmas trees. We researched laying hens, meat birds and berry growing. There was so much to learn, because, we knew nothing. Our first disagreement came right away. I was adamant that if I was going into this “farming thing”, I was going to have laying hens and fresh eggs. Bruce wasn’t so keen on the idea. He thought they’d be too much work for their payoff. After raising the “ladies” for a year; turns out he was right, kind of. We figure with the plush pad and run we built for them, we’ll have payoff in about 6 years. Fortunately, the real payoff was seeing the excited children feed the hens while their parents loaded up their Christmas tree.

In 2010 we built our barn and chicken coop and started on a raised bed garden. We also prepped some land to plant 100 more raspberry plants in the Spring of 2011. It was a busy year! We want to add a couple hundred blueberry plants and raise meat birds. Serious discussion began about one of us changing careers to become a full-time farmer. The demands of doing both was taking a toll. Blessing #2, Garrett Bruce Soter, arrived on October 18, 2010. We were so excited!

In the Spring of 2011 I gave my notice to retire from my 25 year career at Vermont Local Roads. I was excited, relieved and frankly, a little terrified. That “what are we thinking?” phrase kept reguritating in my mind. Fortunately, our spring and summer of 2011 was so busy building a housing structure and raising 50 meat birds, planting 100 raspberry plants and maintaining the Christmas trees, laying hens, garden, and orchard that I was counting the days until I could devote myself full-time to our growing farm. In the Fall of 2011 we prepped raised beds to plant 145 blueberry plants this Spring and I began my new career.

I absolutely LOVE my new life and my office is fantastic! So, that’s our story. We hope you’ll follow along and that you’ll visit our farm soon!

Cheers 🙂

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