NICK & SARAH
CHEF & RESTAURATEURS
New York City to Germantown, New York
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)
Previous city/cities: Brooklyn, NY
Current home: Germantown, NY
What inspired you to move upstate?
We wanted to open our own business somewhere we could own property and have a more balanced life. Running a restaurant is such intense, draining, physical work. We wanted to find a place where we would have the time and space to build a life with our restaurant, but also away from it.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?
It was hard to leave NYC, say goodbye to the friendships and routines we'd developed after years of living there. I was really sad to leave the restaurant community there, which was a big part of my life and identity when I worked for Andrew Tarlow and his Brooklyn restaurants, Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman's, et al. But we've adjusted and friends come to visit often. And trips to the city feel special, although less frequent now that we have a baby. We were definitely looking for a slower pace and more room to breath. The biggest challenges where mostly the stresses of renovating our building, living above and getting to know a new place at the same time. It was chaotic, but fun.
What surprised you most about living rurally? Did it meet your expectations?
This might sound silly, but the threat of ticks and Lyme disease are no joke. I love being outdoors and in nature, but you definitely have to take precautions and do daily tick checks! But in the scheme of things, we mostly knew what we were getting into. We picked a place where we saw there would be a community of people we could be a part of, and in that way it has exceeded our expectations both personally and professionally.
What were the hardest things to get used to? What do you miss the most about living in the city?
I would say the lack of diversity is the hardest thing for me, although that seems to be slowly changing. I miss the energy and chaos of life in a big city. I also miss the anonymity and ability to just disappear into the sea of people every once and a while.
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
I would consider it later in life, but maybe a small city. My husband says no way.
What do you appreciate the most about the life you’ve created here?
The friendships and relationships we've built and the space we've created at Gaskins.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city?
Spend as much time as you can in the place you're considering. Especially in the winter.
What inspired you to start Gaskins?
We wanted to create a gathering place where we could do what we love, feed and take care of people.
What has been the most rewarding part of running your own business? What has been the most challenging?
Having the freedom to live our lives the way we want to, make our own choices, use our voices and rest when we need it. The most challenging part has been finding ways to stay true to our vision and values, but also be respectful of the community we've become a part of.
Have you noticed a change in yourself and/or your work since moving away from the city?
I'm much better about 'turning off' when I am away from work. It's still hard, but I'm much better at it now.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving here?
Walking around the backyard naked.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
We try to travel as often as we can. Going to new places, trying new cuisines and restaurants keeps us inspired. We close every year in January and travel. Half the trip is relaxing somewhere and the other is eating everything we can get our hands on.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
It's all about the people. Get to know the community and the people who you live beside, it will be the best gift. I think many people want their quiet country escape, and end up feeling isolated. We've found our happiest moments and greatest successes when we've opened up our life to the people around us.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
We have an amazing crew at the restaurant, so our goal is to spend as much time as we can away from work with our young son Milo and to make the work we do while we are there as efficient as we can.