My wife MaryAnn and I grew up in the 1970s, both of us watching a television show called Green Acres not knowing we would be living a very similar life to the characters in the program. Eddie Albert played a New York City attorney who brought his cosmopolitan wife, Eva Gabor, to the countryside where they bought a dilapidated farm in search of a simpler life. They had countless comic adventures trying to adjust to their new life - many of which we would parallel.
Both of us were born and raised in the city of Chicago to blue collar families and were the first to go to college. We went on to academic and professional careers but had the same desire for simplifying our life. Neither of us knew anything about rural life or farming. MaryAnn, despite having an attraction to country life was still the socialite and was initially as reluctant as Eva Gabor to embrace the idea.
Our story starts with our childhood and our Italian heritage. However, that is a book in itself and a story for another time. We start our adventure with our professional lives and the search for the perfect land in the countryside. The land we found was what we thought an ideal place for our dream home. With professional income and years ahead of us, we built our custom home. Five acres of land allowed us to plant a modest garden, several fruit trees and a small vineyard. Marc became interested in wine making and built a small wine cellar in the basement. This was the start of too many hobbies.
The amount of produce from our garden was too much for our small family. We wanted to become part of the community and thought selling extra vegetables at the local farmer's market in Mount Horeb would be a fun thing to do. We met other local producers who ran Community Supported Agriculture farms and offered weekly vegetable shares to their customers. We found this intriguing and decided to give it a try but on a much smaller scale.
Gardening, community involvement and a professional academic career provided a great balance. After a few years at a rewarding job, things changed. Unfortunately, our lives were soon to change after the loss of several close friends in a work-related tragic accident. These events made us reconsider our priorities in life for the better.
Set on becoming real farmers, we searched for the perfect farm and more land. A month after we placed our custom built home on the market the housing crisis hit and the recession soon followed. We had already found our ideal farm and had an accepted offer on the property while still owning our first home. We thought the sale of our home would be easy but the recession made that very difficult for several years.
Our new farm was rented to an acquaintance, another local farmer, while we continued to try to sell our home. We began to work the land while our acquaintance rented the farmhouse and raised cattle and horses on part of our pastures. Having two properties was emotionally and financially difficult. Our friend was a great resource on all things related to farming and rural life. He was a tremendous help in getting started. There were many incidents with his animals such as escaped goats, horses munching on our vegetable fields and cattle getting loose but this made the transition to rural life interesting.
Our home eventually sold which allowed us to spend more time and effort on our small Community Supported Agriculture vegetable farm. Animals were slowly added and a vineyard planted. Broken fences where replaced and small updates to the barn and farmhouse were made. I enjoyed working on the land and MaryAnn loved spending time with customers delivering vegetables each week and socializing at the farmer's market. Our weekly newsletter with recipes accompanied our vegetable shares. Some of our customers enjoyed the recipes more than the vegetables and asked us, jokingly, to do the cooking for them.
We took this suggestion seriously and decided to bring in a little more income by hosting farm-to-table dinners at our local church and a restaurant in town. The dinners were hosted once a season and became more and more popular. My enjoyment and skill at winemaking grew over the years and we had the idea of building a small commercial winery and a place to host our dinners directly on our farm.
The winery was born after more than two years of planning. Customers came and enjoyed the farm, countryside, food and wine. Running a CSA and a winery was too difficult and we decided to continue growing vegetables and raising animals for ourselves and the Farm-to-Table dinners but give up the CSA life.
This is only an glimpse of our life in the last few years. This book will share stories of our adventures. The last half of this book is a collection of a few of our favorite recipes and tips on cooking techniques. Some of the recipes are Italian but most are rustic French. Our Italian heritage and cuisine is another long story we hope to share with you in the future.