Three couples — one retired, the other two with small children — are raising much of their own food cooperatively after two of them bought and renovated a 200-year-old farmhouse in Leverett. I had the opportunity to visit the nine acres they call Old Field Farm last weekend.
Michael Dover and Rebecca Reid met Seth and Bethany Seeger when they all lived at Pioneer Valley Cohousing in Amherst. They decided to create a multi-generational community two years ago, and last fall welcomed another couple, Jess Rocheleau and Jason Rennie. Dover and Reid live in the farmhouse with the Seegers and their two children, while Rocheleau and Rennie live across the street with their child and participate in farming and raising livestock.
The goal is to “feed ourselves and have fun while we’re doing it,” said Seth Seeger. The three couples share the same values of living and working cooperatively while minimizing energy use and approaching self-sufficiency in food.
They took an old drafty house and installed cellulose insulation, triple-pane windows, two wood stoves, a heat pump, solar hot water and electricity. They now have monthly electric bills of about $10 in the summer and $40 in the winter and heat almost exclusively with wood, which they buy green and store in an enormous shed. They produce all their vegetables in the summer and do a lot of preserving (more on the gardens and lifestock in tomorrow’s post).
Dover and Reid have a section of the house that’s separate from the Seegers, but they have a common pantry, guest room and porch. This community of nine people, ranging in age from 1 to 70, have meals together most nights.
In the basement, they installed insulation and a vapor barrier in the floor and have two root cellars and four freezers, which contain large amounts of beef and pork that they bought. The main vegetables they buy and store are potatoes, onions and carrots. Also stored in the basement are fermented delicacies such as pickles, beets, sauerkraut, ginger carrots, yogurt, cheese and kambucha (a fermented tea). They have a generator to ensure that the freezers stay cold if there’s a power outage.
“We’re under no illusions about being completely sustainable,” Dover said. “We depend on our generator and we still drive cars. Ideally, we’re looking to get away from that. We’ll see what happens.”
In tomorrow’s post: the gardens and animals at Old Field Farm.