For the past (nearly) 2 years the farm has been run by Mike, myself, and my Mom, Suzee, who moved to Virginia to help us in the farm store and has been invaluable - we couldn't have tackled that part alone. Countless people have noted their surprise when we say this whole ship is run by just the 3 of us. All 550+ acres. All 400 +/- animals. All Marketing. All Bookkeeping. All Deliveries. 7 Days a Week. Rain, Shine, Sleet, or Snow. We certainly have a supportive community and that helps, of course.
And when it's your life, you just do it. Sure. You have days when you're tired. Sure, there are days when you really just want to lay on the couch and do nothing. (I, personally, have dreams of an entirely white room with pretty flowers, light music, soft pillows and plush blankets, with no animal hair or dirt - a girl can dream...!) With animals to care for, customers to respond to and a business to run, we often lose sight of taking care of "us". We've tried to make an effort to peel away here and there for a day or few with the huge help of a neighbor who can handle the chores while we're gone and sometimes it means just peeling away for an afternoon to refresh and check back in with ourselves. Too many have said to us, "When will you all get some help? I'm so worried about you". Well, some of that was trust: this is our baby and it's not a job for everyone. Animal welfare was incredibly high on the priority list, too. Someone has to genuinely understand these animals on a deeper level and the patience to handle those really tough moments. Some of that was financial. With a young business, we had to be careful with that additional expense. A wise friend once told us, "The best way to grow a business is to free up your manager to grow the business. That means you need someone to work with him." Sort of a what came first scenario built on faith that the universe would rise up to catch you if you take the leap.
About a year and a half ago at a family wedding Mike's cousin, Matt, came up to us and stated,
"I sort of don't like you guys right now. Well, I do, but you're doing what I want to do."
To which we responded, "So come work with us."
He replied, "Are you serious? Really serious?"
And we did mean it. Sealed with a handshake.
Several visits to the farm from their home in Wisconsin over the next year and a bit led to Matt, Jodi, and Liam making the official move to Virginia to start with us on the farm late this summer.
We so look forward to the farm growing and the farm growing to include them. Mike is thrilled to be able to work side-by-side with his cousin and I'm thrilled because it frees me up to work on other parts of the business and to continue to tend to my (also) thriving photography business. Don't get me wrong: I love working side-by-side with my husband and will probably miss some things in the field but the farm is growing at a pace that we need more help and we're really excited we can share this with family and share this with someone who so badly has wanted to farm since he was a toddler. I remember Mike's Grandma saying years ago (they had a family dairy in Illinois), "Of all of the grandkids, I never thought it would be Michael who'd be the one farming." (Michael was surprised to find himself farming, too!) Their Grandpa farmed, their uncles farm, and now Mike and Matt can, too. So. There you have it: the next generation of farmers - two boys from the Midwest - hardworking and genuine-of-heart - living their dreams on the fields of Heritage Hollow and a young family able to raise their son where he can pet little lambs, play on tractors, and visit Dad at work.
We hope you embrace Matt, Jodi, and Liam, too, the way you all have of the two of us (I really have no doubts you will). Get to know them a little more below and I'm sure you'll see them out and around Rappahannock County. Thank you, Reader & Customer, for being a part of our extended farm family, too.
PS: The only problem I see is that football season is here and Mike - the Chicago Bears fan that he is - hired a Green Bay Packers fan. I think only family gets that sort of pass. I foresee me taking up pottery or a knitting class on Sundays so I don't have to be around on game day. ;)
Meet Matt & Jodi:
Matt and Jodi met 8 years ago while Matt was attending college on a baseball scholarship and Jodi had just graduated high school. They have been together ever since. Two and a half years ago they welcomed a beautiful baby boy, Liam, into their little family.
Matt had a love and passion for animals and the outdoors ever since he can remember. His childhood consisted of playing with his toy farm sets before he was old enough to help on his grandpa's dairy farm. Once he was older some of his fondest memories are helping his uncles and grandpa taking are of the dairy cows and the daily chores on the farm. His passion for the outdoors led him to major in entrepreneurship in college to start his own landscape company. After seven years in business he felt as if something was missing, he needed to get back to working with animals.
Jodi grew up loving animals. Her family had a small dog they rescued when she was very young. After he had passed they filled that void by adopting two kittens. Once Jodi was old enough she began volunteering at a local animal shelter and helped on a horse farm in exchange for riding lessons. College took her into the city where she majored in Organizational Administration. After Liam was born she decided to take some time off and focus on raising their son.
Both being born and raised in Southeastern Wisconsin they are awed at the beauty that the Shenandoah Vally has to offer. They have been very welcomed by everyone they have met so far in Rappahannock county and are very excited for this new adventure.