ANDREW & RITA
DESIGNER & FLOWER FARMER
Seattle, WA to Bethel, VT
It was late March when Urban Exodus visited Lane and Meryl Nevin’s Prospect Farm. The winter had been particularly brutal in their corner of the world, with constant ice storms, heavy snowfall and sub zero temperatures. It was Sunday, Prospect Farms CSA pick up day, and Lane had already used his tractor to pull three customer’s stuck vehicles out of the deep mud and snow melt that blanketed their road. Lane and Meryl laughed and shrugged off the stresses of farming through a cruel winter, “Just part of job description.” Lane and Meryl left their city life in Portland, Oregon in 2008 and set out to start their own farm. In Portland, Meryl was studying photography and Lane was studying and writing screenplays. Although they loved Portland, they decided they couldn’t see themselves as professional artists or staying in an urban environment. Every weekend and free moment they had in Portland they found themselves heading to the mountains to hike and camp, eventually they realized they needed to make a lifestyle and location change. Lane shared “The Dream” with Meryl - the dream of farming, as a couple, and building a life in the country. With that dream in their minds, the couple left Portland and homesteaded in Maine for two years before moving to Vermont in 2011 to start farming. Once they arrived in Vermont, they dove in head first and started Prospect Farm straight away, living in a small uninsulated trailer, without running water or a working bathroom, and renting land to farm from a family member. They lived in their trailer in Vermont for over a year and the winter months were rough, soothed only by an electric blanket Meryl’s mom had bought them. In the winter they would have to thaw their dog’s water bowl each morning and arrange the occasional shower at friend’s house. In the summer, they would hook up a hose for a little sink and outdoor shower. When they were offered a home and farmland to rent, at a reduced cost, by a program encouraging young farmers to plant roots in New Hampshire they decided to leave Vermont and move their business to the neighboring state. It took several years to build their CSA and scale their business. They dropped vegetable production because that market was saturated and focused their efforts on producing pasture-based meat. Now, three years in, they have established a loyal CSA customer base and sell their meat products at local grocery stores and area farmers markets. This year they are focusing on expanding their CSA membership. Lane and Meryl aren’t ones to sugarcoat the hardships of running a small farm, but they love this life they are building together. As they continue to streamline their operation Meryl is finding time to pick up her camera again. Meryl has had a few shows of her images taken on and around their property and also uses her photography on their farm blog. Through hard work, determination and unwavering support of one another, this couple continues to build “The Dream,” of their Prospect Farm. (Click here to jump to their interview)
Initially, why did you decide to leave the city?
I felt lonely, isolated and unfulfilled. Had a deep curiosity about food production and sufficient lifestyles.
Why did you choose to leave Washington state and move to Bethel, Vermont?
To be closer to Andrew’s family on the east coast, and Vermont is the greatest place in the world. There is abundant water, seasonality, strong support and precedent for small business & agricultural enterprise.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the transition from city to small town?
I was used to spending a lot of time away from my home. It took a while to calibrate to a situation where my purpose is principally located in the same place that I live.
What challenges came later?
The challenges we face are human challenges, not rural challenges. How to be a good citizen, a good parent, contribute positively to our community, build strong friendships and be good to each other and ourselves.
How have your professional lives changed since moving away from the city?
Farmrun has grown so slowly and evolved so consistently that there was little change from urban to rural and from Washington to Vermont. I’ve always worked with remote clients so the transitions have been pretty smooth.
Do you feel like you have more creative opportunities in the country or less?
We can and must be creative every minute of the day. We live close to the source. We have the opportunity and often demand to build new skills regularly. Our creativity is borne of utility. The farm is our canvas. We are artists because this is where we express ourselves and we are designers because we have discrete goals that we both hope to and must accomplish. There is no more creative lifestyle.
What do you appreciate most about the life you’ve created here?
There is purpose every day. We work hard and eat and drink like the peasants we all idolize in tuscany or provence.
Is there anything you miss about living in a more urban area?
Ethnic diversity & riding bicycles.
Would you ever consider moving back to a city?
What advice do you have for people who want to leave the city but don’t know how to start planning their exit strategy?
Just fucking do it.
Did you have any experience growing food or flowers prior to moving here?
Yes we both had intern experiences and ran our own vegetable farm for 2 years in Washington.
How has welcoming your son into the world changed the way you work, farm, balance your life here in the country?
It’s complete mayhem. We rarely see each other anymore. We squeeze every ounce of work out of our time in between baby shifts. We have some childcare support from Andrew’s mom, but we spend a lot of time with Francis. We love the crap out of him but it’s really not that dreamy.
What advice would you give to someone interested in growing their own food?
Just fucking do it.
Do you notice a trend of young people wanting to leave city life behind? If yes, why do you think that is?
Big time. No idea why others are doing it but cities mostly suck. There’s some good bits and all but it’s expensive, isolating and you are largely divorced from your means and the people that are able to provide them.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country?
That it’s boring.
What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
It’s no different that being part of a community in any other setting. You give respect, listen and contribute.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
Keep working towards the 100 year plan.