This is the story of two 20-somethings on the North Shore of Massachusetts, running a farm in Georgetown. The farm is Wheeler Brook Farm, and the 20-somethings are farmers Abi Langsner and Andrew Murray.
Their story is made possible by the owners of the lush land, farmers Bob and Barb Morehouse. Longtime operators of Wheeler Brook Farm, age and its associated health issues have taken a toll and they have been leasing their land to Abi and Andrew for the past few years. Bob and Barb’s home is situated at the top of the property, and they are often seen working around the land despite no longer being officially in charge.
Abi is the Morehouse’s granddaughter, and both she and Andrew have grown up working summers on the farm.
The morning of my visit, Bob is out early and stops to discuss beekeeping with Abi. Nearly every ounce of Abi and Andrew’s farming knowledge has come from Bob and Barb, and this morning there is more information being passed along from grandfather to granddaughter.
I arrive at 7 a.m. and immediately feel like I’m in the way — Not because of anything Abi and Andrew say or do, just simply due to the sheer amount of work that needs to be accomplished each day when two people are running a farm all on their own. It is clear that these two have a system and every minute sandwiched between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. counts.
Abi and Andrew are, in a word, awesome. They are genuine, intelligent, humble, optimistic, hardworking, and compassionate. Despite their busy days, they are always willing to take time out to greet visitors, or to explain farming techniques to nosy photographers such as myself.
Andrew invites me to tag along while he feeds the pigs. We hop on a golf cart, the vehicle of choice for getting around the farm, and drive around to the far end of the property.
As I’m clicking away, admiring the pigs, cow, and goats, Andrew tells me that the animals are not the farm’s primary focus. I soon learn this for myself as I follow him and Abi through rich, chocolatey soil dotted with bushy emerald leaves. The farm stand by the road’s edge is, indeed, stocked with vegetables and flowers, not animal products of any kind. Dark leafy lettuce varieties, green beans, summer zucchini and squash, eggplant, seasonal berries, ears upon ears of corn, colorful shades of tomatoes and a rainbow of floral stems are just some of the stand’s daily offerings. Eggs are a goal for the future, Andrew tells me. Still, the farm animals are a welcome attraction for visiting families and pick-your-own customers.
Barb drives by in another golf cart, giving her visiting friend a tour of the farm. They are all smiles as they drive by, coffee in hand.
The morning’s chores bring us into a sea of green and brown…
…with a routine spattering of orange and the occasional splash of purple.
Abi and Andrew’s conversation is a seamless blend of farm talk and social speak. My interruptive questioning informs me that the two are not dating, do not intend to date, and that it is very hard to be a farmer and have a successful dating relationship given the long hours necessary at the farm.
Further questioning informs me that Abi and Andrew are trying to be as pesticide-free as possible. This is expensive and difficult, but it is important to them. They attend farm workshops and seminars where they continue to hone their farming skills and learn best practices as well as new farming techniques.
The farm stand is their main source of income and this year they started a CSA. Additionally, they occasionally sell to local restaurants and attend farmers’ markets. However, the latter is often so much work for very little return, and it requires one of them to be away from the farm, making it not worth the venture at times.
After picking their own strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, children enjoy the swing-set, sandbox and slide, as well as saying hello to the farm animals.
How many 20-somethings do you know who can change the blades on an old Farmall tractor?
Abi does it with a smile.
Speaking of smiles, these two are rarely not smiling.
During my morning with Abi and Andrew, a family wanders down the lane, inquiring about pick-your-own blueberries. The blueberries aren’t ready for picking, but Abi and Andrew happily take some time to interact with the kids, allowing them to feed the goats and the cow.
The morning is getting hotter, and I am in awe at how much bending over and hauling the two have been doing. There is not one complaint from either of them, however. In response to my comments about the heat: “Oh, it’s not so bad.”
I leave the farm around 10 a.m. and return around 6 p.m.
Upon return I find Abi and Andrew inside the stand. Andrew is building some new shelving while Abi is creating signs in her signature handwriting (did I mention she’s an elementary school teacher as well?) The two are so busy with the day-to-day tasks of the farm that projects such as signage, stand maintenance, and marketing get pushed to the end of the to-do list.
It’s nearing 7 p.m. and yet the farm work is not complete. Andrew drives me out to the fields once again where he shows me an invasive bug they need to stay on top of in order to keep the crops healthy without the use of pesticides.
This. ^^^^^ This right here.
It might not look like much to the average consumer, and it surely does not excite me as a photographer. But as I listen to Andrew talk about the bugs and the crops, I quickly learn that this is what matters. This is such an important piece to the farming puzzle, and for that reason, it is an important piece to this photo essay.
And these, below. Little nuggets of the farming puzzle that I find on this day. Handwritten notes about crops, coffee in insulated travel mugs, empty smoothie bottles, bug spray.
These free standing washing stations dot the landscape.
The last task of this day is cutting flowers. The conversation is mostly about what they will eat for dinner and how they plan to spend the remainder of the evening, but the next day’s farm duties are not far from their minds. The farm knows no weekends and the magic number is seven. Seven a.m. to seven p.m., seven days a week.
That last photo up there, right hand corner? That’s what they so nicely make for me. Perfection.
Thank you, Abi and Andrew, for allowing me to get in your way for a day. I am so lucky to be able to share your story and I hope everyone visits you and sees how special Wheeler Brook Farm truly is.
Wheeler Brook Farm is located in Georgetown, Massachusetts. When you visit them, tell them Kelly sent you. 🙂
The above photographs were taken with a Yashica Mat 124G, Nikon F100, and Canonet 28, using Portra 400 and ECN-2 film stocks.
Inquiries about photo essays can be sent to: Kelly@KellyChadwickPhotography.com.