The Eastman Family Farm on Hillside Road in Quechee is about to become both a fun and educational destination spot for both locals and visitors to the area.
Brent and Kate Eastman bought the farm about six years ago as a serious fixer-upper and have been working hard to get the house, barns, and property in top shape ever since. Their small farm has increased from a herd of cows to include pigs, goats, sheep, and, of course, chickens. The Eastman family has grown too with the addition two years ago of their son, Charlie. A future farmer, he has his own seat on the tractor (with a seatbelt of course) and is currently learning how to help do it all.
Now it is time for the Eastman’s to welcome visitors to their farm. They are finishing work on a farm stand and plan to be open this season from July through October, seven days a week. They plan to sell their farm’s meat and produce, along with other local goodies, and there will be a picnic area.
Charlie, Brent, and Kate
“We’ve never really been open to the public, but we’ve seen over the years, that people want to stop, see, and learn more about our animals and farm life. So, we thought, if we are getting all this interest we might as well try to open to the public,” says Kate.
A family farming tradition in Quechee
Brent Eastman is a fifth-generation Vermont farmer, and the third generation to farm in Quechee; although not all on the same property. His grandfather, Harold Eastman, farmed the 425-acre Quechee Fells Farm – with over 200 licensed dairy cows, an orchard, market garden, and more – until selling it to the Quechee Lakes Corporation in 1968. The main barn-style buildings that are part of The Quechee Club are still standing from the original farm. Harold sold the land to help guarantee his children an easier life than that of a farmer, but “he didn’t realize farming was in the blood of his children,” Kate says.
Brent’s father, David Eastman, bought a small piece of land on Hillside near the site of the Theron Boyd House and had dairy cows before switching to beef cows, he farmed and did odd jobs throughout his life. And Brent grew up knowing he, too, would farm.
A dream come true
Kate, on the other hand, grew up in Bennington, Vermont, and not on a farm, but she always dreamt of having one. She went to the University of Vermont, fell in love with her ‘farm boy’ there, and in 2009 after graduating, they moved to Quechee where Kate has been able “to live her dream.”
I always knew I wanted to own a farm, but I also wanted a backup plan with some credentials if the farming didn’t work out,” Kate says of getting her degree in Wildlife Biology. And, she explains, it was important to Brent to carry on his families farming tradition.
The Eastman’s farm is representative of small family farms in Vermont. “We’re not a big 400-cow operation. We have a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Kate says. Kate is very passionate about one area of farming, and that’s preserving heritage breeds of livestock to keep the genetics of those breeds alive. “With my background, I think about the importance of biodiversity in agriculture, not just wildlife. Once these heritage breeds are lost, they are gone forever, and we lose out on the animals that are better suited for our cold climate and long winters,” Kate says.
By opening up their farm to others, the Eastman’s hope to provide an opportunity to experience what it takes to run a small family farm. “We want visitors to see what hard work it takes; how to live off the land; where food comes from,” she says, and adds, “It’s so important for the next generations because they are losing that connection. So many kids from the city think their food comes directly from the grocery store, not knowing or thinking about how it got there.”
And if you come for a visit, you might get a chance to meet the farm mascot, a cow named Miracle. Her mother abandoned her after going off in the woods to give birth. The Eastman’s saw the mother come back with a calf, not realizing that she was carrying twins and had abandoned one of them. A week later, Brent and David were checking on the herd and found Miracle tucked in the brambles. “Brent’s dad gave her her name because it was “miracle” that she was alive, and that they found her in time,” says Kate. Because her mother wanted nothing to do with her, the Eastman’s bottle-fed Miracle, and in turn, she is very friendly.
As Vermont generational-family farming dwindles, many lose that connection to or do not get to experience the rural life that was and is so very important, and we lose some of what makes Vermont special, too. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but still, as a child in a rural part of the Upper Valley, farming was a small part of my life. I grew up knowing how to handle myself on a farm, including how to herd random cows in the road.
Perhaps a visit to the farm will, “Inspire some new farmers in the future,” Kate says. Or maybe it will simply be a fabulous and fun family afternoon, spent visiting animals, checking out the farm stand, sitting on the hill and enjoying the view, either way, it’s sure to be magical.