It has been quite a growing experience at best and in the first many years of our marriage we did not really even see each other as we worked full time jobs to support ourselves and pay the mortgage.
Glenn’s parents farm was adjacent to our farm property. We had about 15 acres of land and his Mom and Dad had about 120. They were set to retire here and when Glenn and I dated, we planted some apple trees and even had a huge vegetable garden atop the hillside where the peach orchard is today.
Glenn had managed another apple orchard 55 miles away for 9 years in Groton, ran our farm, helped his Dad on his, had a commercial pruning business in winter time and we also had a poultry contract with a company called Cobb Vantress. We raised poultry commercially for them, caring for day old chicks bringing them up to 21 to 23 weeks of age and they were then taken to breeding farms and those chicks were shipped all over the world. Glenn and I would fill up feed buckets after having worked our full time jobs during the day. I had worked at a local Gould Insurance Agency for 5 1/2 years and during lunch, I would have less than one hour to lower feed buckets to feed 7,000 chickens, take a quick shower, inhale food and go back to work. Only then to come home to Glenn who would be exhausted from his work (the first year, he was a teacher at Essex Aggie and then worked in Groton, MA). We did this for 5 years when I became pregnant with our first child.
We had just built another poultry building, taking out another loan with FMHA, (Farmers Home Admin.) & the Cobb Co. At that time the building was in operation (thus we were caring for 17,000 chickens at a time) and we were making just enough money to both leave our full time jobs and come home to farm. I did not mention, we had planted our 900 apple trees during our honeymoon which took 5 years for them to bear fruit, so we were ready for our pick your own farm to begin. We had years prior been selling strawberries and some vegetables from a picnic table then moved into a little shed.
Glenn had just left his job in Groton, MA when one week later the poultry company decided to tell us “goodbye”. They were no longer going to have us raise poultry for them, as they had merged with Tyson Foods. We were now left without the income and while we were planning on merging with his parents farm during this time, we had a baby coming and had to pay our mortgage. Glenn’s folks were in retirement mode while we were needing to move a little quicker to make the income to provide for our new addition to the family. We made a business decision it was time to open our own farm store. We went to the local bank who lended us on faith $30,000 to begin renovation of our old chicken barn and within 6 weeks we opened the doors with a full commercial kitchen/bakery, had stocked it full with gift and our first donut machine.
Of course we needed help in the fields so we had our very first International Agricultural Exchange Student, Jan Van Essen from Uitgeest Netherlands living with us and helping us begin our dream together. He, along with 2 other interns who joined us later that year was the beginning of Glenn and I. Having another son 2 years later, and still having University Exchange students living with us was something, that’s for sure. We managed to somehow, build our farm business, all the while Glenn was still running the apple orchard in Groton, MA. We also had acquired another poultry company to raise meat birds for Chinatown in Boston. We had a chaotic life, to say the least. 3 Interns living in our home, with 2 babies and Glenn working long hours in Groton. It was what we had to do to survive our beginnings. At the 5 year mark we began to max out on our growth as Glenn’s parents orchard slowly began to pick up. So we decided to merge businesses in 1992 as we had equal equity at that time to do so and began the CTO/CHF partnership.
Carriagetown Orchard, Cider Hill Farm partnership was formed, Glenn and I now are proprietors of the farm after having worked with his Mom, Eleanor and Dad, Ed. His Mom passed away a few years ago and she’s missed terribly. I’ll share perhaps a little more of what we’ve done in the early days, how we’ve grown and what our sons are doing now later.
All I know, is that we’ve begun this farm with our Faith. God has blessed us tremendously and we now employ 60 people from what we did with just 2 in the beginning, then 3, then 5. We’ve had over 100 International Agriculture interns from 26 countries grace our lives and we are very blessed indeed.
Some 35 years later, two sons, Gregg and Chadd ~ yes, we still have chickens.. just laying hens now… we don’t miss the 17,000 chickens, (some 60,000 a year) we raised for over 13 years…
But we do love each other very much and we were two kids, ages 22 and 25 with a dream and vision of farming. Perhaps, not this big of what we thought we’d become… however, we really do love what we do and regard it as our Ministry.
I’ll share more later! It has gone very quickly… two kids, with their Faith, prayers and a picnic table to start selling their vegetables and fruits on…. it’s our love that has gotten us through and the love of our family and customers like you who’ve made this all possible, and of course, our Faith and Gods blessings.
till next time, we’ll see you soon!
warm hugs and love, Karen