EVAN & LULOO
New York City to Ancram, New York
Evan and Luloo were working in the service industry in New York City, when their boss, restaurateur Antonio Gomez, asked them if they would be interested in running his new farm in Upstate New York. Midwinter Farms now supplies most of the produce and meat for his seven New York City and Brooklyn restaurants (Gruppo, Posto, Vezzo, Spunto, Tappo, Mezcla and Brado). The newlyweds knew literally nothing about farming or raising animals but after living and working in the restaurant business for almost a decade, they yearned for a fresh start. They knew with their powers combined, they could face any obstacle put in their way. After only a few months of planning, they embarked on their journey as farmers. They devoured farming books, read online forums and sought the assistance of kind neighbors to build Midwinter Farms. They were also tasked with renovating the historic farmhouse and cleaning out the barn that had been packed with the hoardings of the previous owner. Despite discovering that most of the farmland's soil wasn't viable, their first growing season was an incredible success. Eventually, they took on raising pigs and chickens for meat and eggs. Luloo and Evan hold their animals in the highest regard and Luloo tends to get teary-eyed when she talks about having to send them to slaughter, as she also happens to be a vegetarian. In their first year farming, they haven’t had a moment's rest to fully appreciate all they have accomplished, but an outsider can see immediately how much work has gone into reviving an old homestead and farm. From lugging all of the giant rocks (uncovered by frost) from the growing fields, to erecting a seven-foot fence to keep out the deer, they have completely transformed the land into a productive farm. Evan and Luloo are the perfect example of people who were able to set their minds to something and figure it out. Their journey to the country proves that you don’t have to have a background in farming in order to run a farm, you just need the energy, enthusiasm and patience to build it from the ground up.(Click here to jump to their interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
Evan: We were approached by our boss of ten years to help him start and manage a farm to raise the food that would go to the restaurants at which we had both been working. It had long been a fantasy to live the country life, but without a job prospect it couldn't happen. At this point we were both actively pursuing a major change in order to move past the service positions we were stuck in, and so we jumped on the offer.
Luloo: Adventure! I’ve asked myself for the past couple of years “how can we live upstate, make money, and enjoy the bounty of this beautiful place?” Then came along this wonderful opportunity from our boss to live upstate AND make money by becoming his farmers! The universe answered. Although I always thought we’d still have one foot in the New York City door. I never thought we’d actually live full time in the country.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move?
Evan: As I mentioned, we were both trying to move ahead in different directions, having been in a slump at the restaurant. Easy money is hard to leave. We were both making progress in our dreams, actually both at a real turning point, and really excited to take a leap in a new direction that could still afford us our lifestyle in the city. So that was a huge test. Do we stay here and keep up the momentum towards a new career, or do we take this new and totally out there challenge and get to try out life in the country?
Luloo: Well, things really got moving in the winter. The worst winter we’ve had in years. Evan and I continued to work in the restaurants (we did pare down our shifts a bit) while coming up to here to intern on a farm, while looking for properties, then acquiring one and working on the house, and cleaning out the mess of a barn the previous owners left behind. We had to get out of lease early and then schlep all of our stuff from our 6th floor walk up, in multiple truckloads to and from the city. We’d come back Friday afternoon, work our shifts all weekend (and yes, we would still partake in after work beers with friends). We had to read endless amounts of books about farming, learn how to become homeowners (we spent weeks on end painting and managing contractors) and we did all of this for about 3-4 months before taking that final leap into that dark, quiet, endless land of beauty. The hardest part out of all of this was leaving family, friends, and our sweet little apartment.
What challenges came later?
Evan: Well the challenges are forever mounting. From moving to an 18th century house in the beginning of one of the longest and coldest winters in decades, to clearing out a home and property that was kept as a hoarder's paradise for half of a century, learning how to build the infrastructure for a farm while starting our herds and garden at the same time, and trying to get our bearings in this foreign world all at once.
Luloo: Everything! It was brutally cold and snowy. We have a brand new tractor that we have to use to plow and we have NO clue how to use this amazingly expensive piece of equipment. Building and planning, and really waking up everyday knowing that there is so so much stuff to do, yet most of the time you just don’t know what it is, and maybe more importantly, how to do it. Fortunately, our good friend who also happens to manage the pizza restaurants, recommended her cousin to come work with us...or rather for us. That made me even more nervous because now we have to be someone’s boss, and we have no idea what we are doing ourselves. But, he turned out to be amazing; full of knowledge, patience, and crass as all hell. He was great to work with and a lot of fun. Oh, and coming up with a farm name took us about 6 full months of brainstorming, debating, and chucking them to the curb. Mid Winter Farms really got us though.
What surprised you most about country living? Did it meet your expectations?
Evan: I have been pleased by the kindness and weirdness of our neighbors, though I did expect both. I am still taken aback by the wealth, both in culture and property that exists out here. The city of Hudson and its neighbors both on the east and west side of the river offer what we miss about the city, so it puts us at ease.
Luloo: I’m not sure. Maybe how much we’ve really taken to it, or maybe how much my husband has. I grew up in a country bumpkin area in NJ, I don’t think I ever doubted that I would acclimate. I wasn’t sure about Evan, but he makes my heart swell every day with his ease and grace. There’s this whole other side that I didn’t know about. I suppose too, that everywhere we go around here we meet people our age who are starting farms or doing interesting things. I think most the younger farmers we’ve met have a ton more experience than we do, but I guess that just make us more unique. I’m actually not too surprised to be meeting so many like minded people since there has been this huge push to move back to the land, it’s just so amazing to see it and meet the folks who are doing it. We’ve also met lots of locals (farmers and non-farmers) who are really cool and proud of what we’re doing, but there’s always a few who will take one look at us and expect us to be, in their term, a citidiot. Thats ok though. We don’t mind it.
We had no idea what to expect honestly. Sure, we knew there would be lots of hard labor, lifting, sore muscles, tons of animal shit. I suppose I expected that we would have some very hard days not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, with each other and myself. There are days where I experience frustration like I never had before, maybe because I because I believe in what we’re doing so much, but don’t always feel like we have the knowledge to get things done. We are learning a whole new way of living, combined with learning a ton about mother nature. But when I get to look at this beautiful mountain everyday when we walk back to the house from the field, and I see my husband and our pup running around in our vast, beautiful surroundings, it makes it all ok. That was unexpected.