Jeremy has been a vegetable farmer for 15 years, and a farmer at heart since childhood. When he was 10 years old, his parents followed their “back-to-the-land” leanings, moving him and his sister to a homestead in central New York state. They warned that the kids would have to get up early to milk the goat, and that life would be hard but rewarding out in the country. Although the family never did get a goat, Jeremy recalls waking up in the middle of the night because he was so excited about all he could sell at the farmers’ market.
In his first farming job as a college student, Jeremy was quickly hooked on the thrill of working together with a great group of people and then seeing his city customers’ pleasure with the tangible fruits of the team’s labor. He continued farm work after graduating with a B.A. in 1993, and interned at The Land Institute in Kansas the following year. It was there that he met both his wife Audrey and his farming partner Dave, and studied ecological farming and land use.
After marrying Audrey, Jeremy earned his M.S. in Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Maine, then founded Simple Gifts Farm at the New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown in 1999. Over the next 7 years, he grew the farm tenfold, from ½ an acre to 5 acres. Ready to grow it more, in 2006 he moved his operation to the 37.8-acre North Amherst Community Farm and brought Dave in to join him. Jeremy has won several USDA SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grants for on-farm research projects. He works devotedly to manage the farm as an ecological system and still feels excited to witness how much his CSA members enjoy the farm’s wide variety of quality, organic produce.
Audrey works as a full-time forest ecologist, and also helps manage the CSA and write newsletters. They have two children, Jesse (born 2001) and Tim (born 2004), who love growing up on a farm.
Dave grew up on a family farm in Minnesota, raising crops, cows, and pigs with his 3 sisters, father, uncle, and 2 cousins. He had his own pigs and beef cattle by the age of 15 and felt immensely satisfied by the work.
Dave earned a degree in Animal Science from South Dakota University in 1985, then worked for a series of large swine breeding operations with 50 to 100 sows. Without the personal touch and warmth of a small family farm, he found himself thinking of the animals as mere commodities and became disillusioned with livestock farming, so he quit his job and went back to school. The farm crisis of the 1980s was in full swing, with farms failing and farmer suicide rates mounting across the Midwest, so Dave studied agricultural economics at Colorado State University, seeking to comprehend the problems with conventional farming and to explore the alternatives. He left the university without the answers he sought, but with his future wife, Marci Lowy.
Dave finally found his answers in the next place he tried, The Land Institute in Kansas, where he also met Jeremy. There, he learned to look at the farm as an ecosystem in which crops and animals work together symbiotically. After 3 years there, he moved to Massachusetts with Marci in 1996. While she became a vet, he drove a tractor at Verrill Farm and raised livestock at Brookfield Farm. He also did contract carpentry, allowing him to be a mostly stay-at-home dad as their children were born. They had Ethan in 2000, Sarah in 2001, and Rachel in 2004.
In 2006, Dave happily accepted Jeremy’s invitation to farm together. Now Marci runs the South Amherst Veterinary Hospital and helps out with the livestock. The two families live in side-by-side houses and are so close that the kids from both eat in whichever kitchen is currently serving the food they like best, which of course includes wholesome, home-grown meat and veggies.