Paul Chamberlin – Chamberlin’s Garden & Farm Market: EP12 | Show Notes
Andy Chamberlin (00:00:10):
Today’s episode comes to you from Underhill, Vermont, where I interview Paul Chamberlain of Chamberlain’s Garden and Farm Market. This episode hits close to home because it is home. This summer I took a rainy Saturday morning and sat down to interview my grandpa and capture a few of his favorite farm stories and some of the history of our farm. Grandpa and my grandma Joan purchased the property in 1976 and were planning to have a garden and raise their family. Over the years, it slowly grew into quite the farm business, producing sweet corn, pumpkins, hay, strawberries, and a mixed vegetable garden to supply a roadside farm store. Farming for them was a way to have a healthier lifestyle and provide an activity to stay active during retirement after working a full career at IBM. So far, the Farmers Share has mostly interviewed full-time farmers who grows produce for their career.
However, that’s not the case for most farm operations. The majority of farm families have off-farm income contributing to the household, which is a fine model as well, and what’s worked for our family too. I grew up here on my grandparents’ farm, and that’s when the bug bit me and hooked my interest in agriculture. The farm has slowed down a little bit in recent years as they’ve chosen to lean into retirement a little bit more. This year, however, is the first year working through a transition plan where myself and my wife, Kiley, are managing the business and breathing a little bit of new life into the farm. I’ll share more about the future of our farm and where we’d like to take it at another time as plans get more established and the ball gets a little bit more momentum behind it. But today, I hope you enjoy this episode where I interview grandpa, Paul Chamberlain of Chamberlain’s Garden and Farm Market.
Paul Chamberlin (00:02:07):
Yeah, this is Paul Chamberlain. We came to this farm in 1976. I grew up in northwest Ohio, grandson of a farmer, so we lived on a farm all our life till I went to college. And then I came to Vermont in 1970, started to work for IBM, and then after a few years was looking for a property in the country. And we found this place in 1976, and we fell in love with it right away, even though it was much larger than what I had planned on. But we started out knowing that I had a job at IBM, that I wasn’t really looking at the farm to be my sole source of income, bought a good part-time business and also a job that I enjoyed being at outdoors, working on my own. So initially we came and we started raising dairy heifers. We had a dairy barn. I didn’t want to go into milking, but we would buy calves from a neighbor and raise the calves until we got them artificially inseminated, and we’d sell them when they’re right, a freshen. So we did that for about seven years, I guess.
But eventually we stopped doing that because it became allergic to the cows. That dander was affecting my breathing and stuff so we decided to get rid of them. But while we’re doing that, we had a garden for ourselves, and then we also sold some extra hay. And about 1982 when we got rid of all the cows, we decided then to start growing some vegetables. Because we came from Ohio, we’d always had vegetables and sweet corn all our lives. So we started growing sweet corn initially, and put in a little bit, and then we started selling it at the roadside in a wheelbarrow with a Cresco can for money. And that was the initial start. Well, it did well, and then I realized I needed to have a better way to do it. So we built a little eight by 12 farm stand on skids that we could tow around with the tractor and we could tow it out to the roadside, and I could put my corn on a table and a shade and put the can on the table.
And that worked good too. And that allowed more people to see it and more people stopped. And so as it went well, and we went through several iterations of how we do corn, but I’ll talk about that later. And after a couple of years of doing that, we had friends who also wanted to have a garden out here because where they live, they weren’t able to have a garden. So we let them put in a garden next to ours. Well, it wasn’t long before that lady and my wife, Joan, said, “We’ve got some extra vegetables. Can we put them on the corn stand?” And I said, yeah, I don’t care. So they put their vegetables out, and of course, they sold whatever they brought out, and that was fine, except that they kept wanting to bring more vegetables. And pretty soon I didn’t have enough room for my corn and all their vegetables.
And so I built wings on the outside of the building to hold more stuff, and we filled it all up. And also at the same time, we realized after we were doing this for a few years, that we needed a better place for cleaning vegetables because all we had was the milk room in the barn and really didn’t have a good washroom. And so we built the new Morton Building, which we built and put a store in the front of it in 1993 so that we could have a washroom, keep things sanitary and cool, it was cooler. We did that. From there on, then we expanded the rest of the vegetable growing to, at one point, I think we probably had 20 acres of vegetables because we included a couple acres of pick your own strawberries. We grew an acre of mixed vegetables on black plastic. We started growing pumpkins, and we even had cut flowers, and we sold honey and syrup and all this stuff. And so we had seasonal workers then for a number of years, probably about 10 years to help us, but it was still a part-time job for us.
So that’s the history of how it got going. Now as far as picking sweet corn, originally we did it, we picked the corn in a wheelbarrow, and sometimes the fields are farther away than you want to push a wheelbarrow to get them up here. So initially we took a trailer mounted on the back of our little four eight end tractor with a ramp. You could run a wheelbarrow up in a ramp and then tow it up here. So we were picking corn and putting it in a wheelbarrow, rolling it up a ramp, transferring it down here and putting it on a stand. Well, that worked for a while, but a wheelbarrow full of corn is heavy, and sometimes it tips over, so that’s not really nice.
And so we tried to figure out a better way to pick corn. So I had a two wheel BCS rotor tiller, which I took the tiller head off and built a stiff hitch, took a Sears lawn cart, put an extended tongue on it, put a seat on front of the box, and it would hitch it to the back of that two wheeled rototiller, which I could then drive. And I planted my corn so that I had a 30-inch planter with two rows, 30 inches, and then I’d have a 42-inch aisle because my tractor had 72-inch centers on the wheel. So that way I had a 42-inch aisle. I could take a 36-inch lawn cart behind the little rotor tiller and go up and down the aisles and sit on the trailer and pick the corn or walk behind it and pick and have someone drive the tractor. So that worked very well because now we had a motorized way.
You didn’t have to carry it, you could bring it up here and just unload it right on the tables. We did that for many, many years until we realized that driving a two wheel tractor was a little more difficult. My wife couldn’t do it very well. It had a hand clutch. And so we opted to buy a little nursery tractor. It’s a little four wheel drive diesel articulated tractor. It’s only 32 inches wide. And so now we can tow that trailer, same trailer we’ve always used with that tractor and my wife or my grandkids, anybody can drive it. And that’s how we’ve proceeded now to harvest our sweet corn. I think at one point we maybe had 10 or 12 acres of sweet corn. Now we raised about seven because once we got to the age where we lost a lot of our workers, our health and our age became a factor. So we’ve cut way back now.
We closed a store about seven years ago. We stopped growing strawberries and we cut back to where we just grew pumpkins and sweet corn at the corn stand. So that’s the history of how it got to where it is. So, in my model, this was never made to be a sole source of income for us. I had my IBM job, which helped me buy equipment and do the things I wanted to do on the farm, enjoy it, and still make some money at it. So that was what we did. Is that enough for now?
Andy Chamberlin (00:09:00):
Yeah, that’s a real good summary there. Yeah. You weren’t relying on it for income, but how much were you taking home from the farm in its, well, let’s say heyday?
Paul Chamberlin (00:09:12):
In the heyday we were grossing gross would probably be around a hundred thousand dollars a year, that was for everything, vegetables and hay. And I think at one point we figured we were probably netting in our pocket about 40% roughly.
Andy Chamberlin (00:09:28):
That’s a pretty good margin.
Paul Chamberlin (00:09:30):
So even today now with just corn and pumpkins and hay, I still figured my net was about 50% of our sales because I’ve only done everything retail, very limited wholesale. I’ve wholesale some sweet corn and maybe wholesaled a few pumpkins over the years, but 99% or 95% of it is all retail. So that’s another way to keep the profit margin up.
Andy Chamberlin (00:09:55):
Yep. You said you were doing over 10 acres of corn, now you’re doing seven. Is that just because the demand dropped off when we closed the store?
Paul Chamberlin (00:10:04):
Yeah, right. I think the fact that we don’t have other stuff here for people to buy, the corn market is still good, but we just don’t have the traffic that we had when we had the whole store open.
Andy Chamberlin (00:10:14):
Right, right. You mentioned how you bought this farm, not even with the intent to turn it into a big business. What was your motivation for wanting to have a house in the country?
Paul Chamberlin (00:10:30):
Well, we grew up in northwest Ohio in a country next to my grandfather’s farm. So, as a kid, we always worked in a big garden with my parents and my grandparents. Even in high school, my sister and my brothers and I, at some point one year, we grew a half an acre of cucumbers, which we picked by hand and sold to a pickle factory where they put them in brine and turned them in pickles. So we picked a half an acre of cucumbers many, many times and shipped them off to do that. So that was one thing we did as children. And also my parents and grandparents ran a restaurant at the fair back when I was a child, and so we were always growing extra vegetables, which we took to the fairgrounds to use to process into the meals that they sold at the fair.
So my background had always been in farming and doing that. And in high school, I guess about age 12 or 13, I started working for a neighbor who happened to be my Sunday school teacher, and that’s where I really learned how to drive equipment. My grandfather had an old F12, Farmall H but it was 1930s vintage, and we used it a little bit, but when I became a teenager, then worked for my neighbor, I learned how to run bigger farm equipment and combines and drive trucks and do all the other farm type of work. So I really fell in love with the farming as a teenager. I enjoyed seeing how things grow, how God provides. All we do is plant the seed and he makes the weather and the soil grows. So I really got a satisfaction out of doing that, even as a teenager, and it never left.
So even though when we bought this farm, our intention was to have five or 10 acres so I could have a garden for myself. Once we got here and we saw, we now have, I think in total now like 170 acres, of which a hundred or more is wooded, but we still have a lot of tillable land. It’s relatively flat by Vermont standards, and so it is productive, and so I could farm it. And so that’s how it started expanding. Once we got rid of the dairy and we started going with vegetables.
Andy Chamberlin (00:12:38):
Just have a little garden.
Paul Chamberlin (00:12:39):
Just have a little garden. We did and we still do.
Andy Chamberlin (00:12:43):
Did you like the animals?
Paul Chamberlin (00:12:46):
I love horses. Taking care of the animals was okay. I loved the horses, but because of my allergy to them, it’s really hard to be close to them and not have to deal with it. And I wasn’t unhappy that we got rid of the cows because I realized the cows were 24/7, 365 a day year project, whether it’s in the summer and you got to keep them in the pasture, whether it’s in the winter and you got to keep the water from freezing in the barn. So there’s always issues with animals. It takes a lot more care, and so that’s why I didn’t feel too bad when they left.
Andy Chamberlin (00:13:19):
Right. Corn isn’t escaping the fence.
Paul Chamberlin (00:13:24):
And also the fact that I was looking at farming as a part-time enterprise because I had my full-time job, I didn’t have to depend on this and my primary source of income, so it made it more enjoyable because it wasn’t like if I had a bad year on the farm, we’re in a serious financial hit, I could absorb that where many full-time farmers, they depend on it entirely. So that’s how it goes.
Andy Chamberlin (00:13:52):
What made you decide to go the corporate route as opposed to trying to figure out how to be a full-time farmer?
Paul Chamberlin (00:13:58):
Oh, well, I actually went to school to be trained in an engineer, and I enjoyed working at IBM being in engineering, so I had a science background. I loved doing that other stuff, and so that’s why I went that way. I realized too, that farming for one thing, because of land is very difficult for a young guy to get into it, to purchase the land or to be able to rent the land and get the equipment to run it. Because growing up in the Midwest, having many relatives with farms, I realized that most of them, their farms were inherited, so they had the property to work with. They’re not indebted to somebody to buy it. And so that’s one reason why at a young age, I didn’t really look at farming as a full-time thing.
Andy Chamberlin (00:14:45):
Do you remember what your parents’ farm looked like?
Paul Chamberlin (00:14:49):
Yeah. Well, actually it was my grandparents’ farm. He had 40 acres. His house was on the corner at two crossroads in the country, and my folks’ house was just down one road about, I don’t know, three, 400 yards I guess, or 300 feet or so at the other end of the big garden. So it was fairly flat sandy soil, very productive. My grandfather, even at his age, he rented the farm out. He didn’t really farm it anymore. He rented it to the neighbors who did the farming, and they put in corn and soybeans and wheat and that stuff. So that’s what I recall from being on it. But it was a small farm, not large like they are today.
Andy Chamberlin (00:15:30):
Right. Yeah, 40 acres there. Yeah.
Paul Chamberlin (00:15:32):
Andy Chamberlin (00:15:33):
Paul Chamberlin (00:15:34):
Andy Chamberlin (00:15:38):
I know you’ve mentioned the story about you remember filling trucks full of tomatoes. Can you elaborate on that?
Paul Chamberlin (00:15:44):
Yeah. In high school, as I said, I was working for my neighbor, farming and growing corn, soybeans and wheat, but he also grew upwards of a hundred acres of tomatoes because where we lived, there was a Campbell Soup Company, and it was a Heinz factory, and I think another company within a reasonable distance. So there was, at that time, they were growing a lot of fresh vegetables, tomatoes, and carrots and peppers, which were harvested by migrant workers, he had migrant workers come from Texas or Mexico every year to harvest the tomatoes. They were then loaded on the trucks and we delivered them to the factories.
And so in high school, in my senior year, I bought an old 48 Dodge straight truck with an antique fin, and we modified it, we shortened it and put a fifth wheel on it, turned it into a tractor, bought a 24-foot trailer, a 10 ton trailer, and made a tractor trailer out of it, and then I could haul 10 tons of tomatoes in boxes, they were boxed and banded on the trailer to the factory each day. So that’s what I did for summer to earn my first year’s college money, was taking tomatoes to the Campbell Soup Company.
Andy Chamberlin (00:16:59):
Just a little project to modify a truck, make your own tractor trailer sense. Geez. Did you do all the welding and stuff to shorten the tractor?
Paul Chamberlin (00:17:12):
No, my Sunday school teacher that I worked for, yeah, he welded and cut it and mounted a wheel on it.
Andy Chamberlin (00:17:17):
He set you up.
Paul Chamberlin (00:17:19):
I helped him do it, but he was the guy that put it all together for me. He told me what we could do. He said, yeah, just get an old truck, we’ll modify it and go buy a trailer and put it on. And so what we did was I made my first year’s college money hauling that truck or that trailer, and at the end of the season, I sold it to him and he used it for a trailer to haul water or something on after I left.
Andy Chamberlin (00:17:42):
What time was that? That was the-
Paul Chamberlin (00:17:44):
Well, I graduated in ’64, 1964.
Andy Chamberlin (00:17:47):
Early ’60s, late ’50s era timeframe?
Paul Chamberlin (00:17:50):
Yeah. I should say also, besides hauling tomatoes, of course, I worked for my neighbor. He did a lot of harvesting of grain. So he had first the self-propelled combines, and they got to realize that the combines we had in the ’60s aren’t what you see today in modern day. Ours was an open platform, there was no cab. You sat in front of the grain box on an open cab on a seat with a steering wheel, and the grain head was right in front of you so you could see everything, but you got all the dust and debris from the field. So it was a very dirty job, but we felt it was great because these were the newest thing, and we harvested a lot of grain that way.
Andy Chamberlin (00:18:34):
How wide was the head on that?
Paul Chamberlin (00:18:35):
I think the header for grain was probably 10 foot, and it probably picked, I don’t know if it picked four Roars of corn or just two, I can’t remember now, but they were very small compared to today’s.
Andy Chamberlin (00:18:50):
Some early equipment.
Paul Chamberlin (00:18:51):
Andy Chamberlin (00:18:54):
What do you think your greatest achievement was for farming? Yeah.
Paul Chamberlin (00:19:04):
[inaudible 00:19:04]. I guess for me the greatest achievement was the personal satisfaction that I got from being able to plant things, watch them grow and see them harvested. When I go into a field, let’s say a field of hay, and I mow a field of hay to work it, and then eventually you dry the hay and then you rake the hay to it. To me, it is like being outdoors and looking the artwork, I see the designs in the field, plus you can look at nature while you’re doing it, and to me, it’s just the satisfaction I get of seeing that outdoor art in nature, to me, that’s what I see.
Andy Chamberlin (00:19:42):
Paul Chamberlin (00:19:43):
That’s probably the biggest thing. It’s not the financial thing, which is nice, but it’s just the self-satisfaction of being in nature and seeing the art design.
Andy Chamberlin (00:19:53):
Especially in Vermont, it’s so beautiful.
Paul Chamberlin (00:19:56):
Andy Chamberlin (00:19:59):
What was the time that you almost quit and why didn’t you?
Paul Chamberlin (00:20:04):
I almost quit. Well, I think the whole issue with losing our daughter, that happened before I really got started farming, so that’s a before issue. Time I almost quit. I don’t know if it was a time that I thought I should give it up. I never did. I don’t think I ever saw that. I was able to keep going, modernize the equipment. The market kept growing. And I think also, as you realize, if we started our market here back in the early ’80s, and so I saw the potential then because I saw this road, and even though then the traffic was not nearly what it is today, I could see the potential that people are going by here all the time.
They’re either going up to the mountain or they’re going up to Cambridge or someplace. And so I said, there’s a lot of traffic goes by here, we have a good location to put in a store or to put in our vegetables because I figured if people are going to be going by, we might as well give them a reason to stop. And so that was why I thought it was a good idea to start the vegetable stand. Yeah, so I guess, I don’t know.
Andy Chamberlin (00:21:18):
Yeah. You mentioned it didn’t really affect your farming, but the loss of your daughter, how did that affect your life at that time?
Paul Chamberlin (00:21:25):
Well, that happened initially, we had only been on this farm for three weeks when she fell into Brook, and it was severely brain damage because of loss of oxygen. And so when that happened, we’d only been here a few weeks, the folks we bought the farm from, they felt terrible also, they were as devastated as we were. And they told us at that time that if we wanted to leave, they wouldn’t hold us to anything that we had signed legally we could be free to go. And I said, no, you can’t run away from that tragedy. That can happen anywhere. Car accidents happen every time, all the time, and you just can’t run away from that. And so we decided to stay, and then after that, that was okay.
Andy Chamberlin (00:22:10):
Yeah, you can’t run away from that stuff. Right. I can imagine the thoughts running through your brain. You just moved in.
Paul Chamberlin (00:22:16):
Yeah, I know.
Andy Chamberlin (00:22:17):
What are we doing here?
Paul Chamberlin (00:22:18):
Andy Chamberlin (00:22:23):
You mentioned the traffic, how has the marketplace changed or the customer base changed throughout?
Paul Chamberlin (00:22:29):
Well, I think our customer base continued to grow until we stopped doing the berries and shut down the store. And I think the customer base is still there. We were never impacted by… I think the other farm stands were far enough away. We never felt competition from people up the valley or over in Jericho. We each had our own little area market, but the traffic has gotten… When we came here, you could walk across this road anytime of day and not have to look at traffic. Today, I sometimes stand at the road and watch eight or 10 cars go by before I get an opening to cross to go to the barn. So that’s the difference in the traffic flow. And another thing I think I should mention, we’ve always been conventional, I’ve never gone organic. I did it for a number of reasons.
One was there’s a lot more documentation, there’s a lot more paperwork. There’s some constraints on things I can do that I couldn’t do if I went organic. So if stay with conventional, that doesn’t mean that we’re coating everything with chemicals because I don’t use any pesticides as far as spraying for insects and bugs. I do put some herbicides on corn and pumpkins when I plant them, but we’re not putting anything on them that’s going to affect the crop once it matures. And so that’s why I stay conventional, but it’s never really impacted our sales. I tell people if they ask me about it and I say, yeah, I’m conventional, but I don’t put any pesticides on the chemical or on the plants. So that’s not really been a factor, I think.
Andy Chamberlin (00:24:09):
Did you felt much pressure to do that to go organic? Yeah.
Paul Chamberlin (00:24:13):
No. Never did. No, I never felt like there was a need to.
Andy Chamberlin (00:24:21):
Yeah. I work with a lot of organic farmers and I’d say a lot more organic than not, honestly, in the fruit and vegetable world in the Northeast, which is interesting. But there are definite advantages to not being organic, for sure. I mean, not just chemical use, but some of the materials you can use like the bioplastics or the fertilizers, just being not so stringent on what’s available.
Paul Chamberlin (00:24:50):
Yeah. I just use regular mineral-based fertilizers, not the organic stuff. Still gets my nitrogen phosphorus and potassium.
Andy Chamberlin (00:25:01):
The main things that grow the crops.
Paul Chamberlin (00:25:03):
Andy Chamberlin (00:25:03):
Yep. What do you think has been the key thing to kept the farm business going?
Paul Chamberlin (00:25:12):
Well, I know because I had always planned that when I retired from IBM, I wanted to have something to do, and I loved farming as much as anything, so I figured at least I’d have this to do after I retired from IBM. And I’ve been able to do that since then because I’ve been retired over 20 years from IBM. So that’s one of the advantages it gave me after retirement income and after retirement vocation to keep me active. And plus it is an active thing. You’re physically active doing stuff all the time, and it’s outdoors a lot, which is good.
Andy Chamberlin (00:25:47):
Do you think the physical aspect has been beneficial or do you think it’s worn you out?
Paul Chamberlin (00:25:53):
No, I think it’s been beneficial. I’m sure I would’ve been in a lot worse physical shape if I hadn’t done it in all these years. I know our bodies eventually wear out, and I feel some effects of that, but I still think it’s the better thing to do.
Andy Chamberlin (00:26:09):
Some of these questions are from Mark and Krista. After I interviewed them, I asked, what would you ask grandpa? So what was easy or hard we’ll say back then and is now? What’s easy or hard now?
Paul Chamberlin (00:26:29):
I think when we came here, doing the hay was harder than it is now. When we came here, we started out with a 48-inch tractor and a seven-foot sickle bar mower, an old side delivery rake, a tow behind hay conditioner and a baler with an engine on it. And I had just that one tractor. And so all the hay you had to mow with that little Ford and it will mow hay, but with a sickle bar, it can get bound up and you have to back up. And the Ford did not have a live clutch, so you had to shut off that every time he pushed the clutch in. So it was relatively difficult with that. Then also then putting up the hay meant that we were doing it with baler with an engine. So we had to load all the hay by hand, come out of chute, had to load it all by hand on a wagon.
And then the dairy barn we had was a hundred-year plus old berry barn, and it was very inconvenient as far as getting hay in the loft because you couldn’t drive through the barn. You had to back a wagon in, run an elevator up in the loft, and it was not good circulation for air so it was hot, and it was a hard deal handling hay in that situation. Whereas now with our new, once we put up the Morton building, we can store hay inside, you can drive through one side to the other. We’ve got the new baler with a kicker. We’ve got wagons with racks. I’ve got the new type of mow with discs, which never plug, and so it’s much easier doing more hay than it was back then doing less hay. So to me, that was one thing that was harder and now got easier now what’s harder today than it was easier then.
Andy Chamberlin (00:28:12):
Going back to hay for a second. Now, on a good day, we could do, we pretty easily do five acres of hay and bring in three, 400 bales in a day without too much effort. How much were you doing when you started in a day?
Paul Chamberlin (00:28:32):
I don’t know. It’s hard to say, maybe a couple of hundred, but you saved 350, 400. I should let you know that there have been times when I’ve done a thousand bales a day by myself. I have six wagons, and if I even throw them in loose, you can put 150 on a load. You can get almost a thousand bales on six wagons and not have to have anybody else handling them until you unload. So yeah, a good day would be 500 or 700 bales. But you can do more if you have the weather and the time. Hey, relatively easy. Still trying to think what’s harder today. Oh, one thing that would be harder today, it’s not harder today, today, but it’s harder as we got near the end of our time, having a store open was labor when we started the vegetables and we had a neighbor who wanted to have a garden with us.
She became one of our employees, and we have another neighbor who became an employees, and these were both people of our age group. And so those two ladies were excellent workers. They both loved gardening, and so it was easy. They knew how to weed, they knew how to harvest, they knew how to clean. It was very easy. And over the years, we would hire other, either high school or college aged students, young people to help. Some of them were very good, some had no idea what was expected or what to do. So it got more difficult with labor. And then, of course, as young people got to college age or high school age, school would start in August or September, right at the peak of our harvest. It got to be more difficult as we couldn’t get young help, the other people aged out. It got the labor became a real issue. And then of course, with our ages and my wife’s age and health with arthritis and other factors, it just became more difficult to do it.
Andy Chamberlin (00:30:27):
Yeah. Those key employees, were they great because they had ownership as well? They felt they knew what to do and they wanted to do it?
Paul Chamberlin (00:30:37):
Yeah. And they wanted to do it, and I didn’t have to spend a lot of time with them. They knew how to do stuff. They knew how to weed. I just think back, we had one person, high school student, I guess he worked for us a couple summers and weeding strawberries. Now we grew matted rose strawberries for two acres. They were not on plastic. We had overhead irrigation, sprinklers and weeding other than once the aisles got too narrow to drive a tractor, we had to weeded by hand. And I remember this one young fellow, it was getting near lunchtime, and one of the ladies said to him, “You’re not getting all the weeds out, you got to pull them.” He said, “Oh, you have to take out all the weeds/”
It’s like, yeah, because if you don’t, they’re bigger next time. So it’s just that perspective that the young person didn’t realize what he had to do, or the fact that lunchtime’s coming but we’re not quite done, and they wanted to quit, and it’s like, well, let’s just finish this and then we’re done. So younger people have a different viewpoint on some of that stuff or lack of understanding of what was needed. So it just made it a little difficult.
Andy Chamberlin (00:31:47):
Were they just pulling the big weeds?
Paul Chamberlin (00:31:49):
Yeah, generally more of the big ones, not getting all the other ones. So it’s just a difference. But yeah, some young people are very good at it, but some are not. And I think at that age, they don’t know either what they enjoy doing. So I can’t blame them for the fact that they just don’t understand it.
Andy Chamberlin (00:32:12):
Yeah. They don’t know what they don’t know. Was it difficult to train these young people or not?
Paul Chamberlin (00:32:18):
No, not typically, no. They were good at learning. I mean, we showed them what we needed to have done, and we all did it with them. So it wasn’t like we just showed them here to do this, and we went away. So my wife and the other ladies and I would be out there weeding with them so they could see what we’re doing. So it worked well, but like I said, the two other ladies, one moved away and one aged out. And then as we got older, it got harder. And so plus back when we were growing flowers, one of the ladies was very good at making floral arrangements to put in the store. I knew nothing about flowers, but we got some lady who just knew how to make a bouquet that was very attractive. And so those kinds of things are nice to have.
Andy Chamberlin (00:33:02):
How did you find the young labor? Is it just people who asked are you hiring or did you reach out to people?
Paul Chamberlin (00:33:12):
I’m trying to remember. Well, a lot of them I think were acquaintances. I know I think back a lot of the young ladies, especially that worked for us, were either folks parents we knew from church or neighbors, and they grew up around here. And so I think a lot of them are that way. There may have been a few who’ve called or come by and wanted to know about work, and we might hire them, but I think a lot of it was just local people that knew us and the kids decide to try it.
Andy Chamberlin (00:33:37):
Yeah. Just circling back, I didn’t know if you could think of something that is hard now that was maybe easier when you started.
Paul Chamberlin (00:33:46):
Well, I think just because physically I’m not near as strong now, physically doing labor that requires more strength, whether it’s lifting heavy objects or loading like fertilizer in the bins up high, something like that, my back and legs are not as strong as they were, and so it is harder physically to do some of those things that I’m not as coordinated as I used to be and not as sturdy and not as stable. So balance is an issue, and as you get older, you’re more aware of the implications if you fall, so you tend to be more cautious. So I think that’s one of the things that’s harder for me now is not being able to physically just say, well, I’ll just do that. So that’s why I often ask, “Andy, can you help me do this?”
Andy Chamberlin (00:34:30):
Are there other things that maybe you’ve implemented or modified as you’re not quite as strong as you used to be? It’s been evolving, so it’s hard to think.
Paul Chamberlin (00:34:45):
It is, I know.
Andy Chamberlin (00:34:47):
Like getting the newer tractor.
Paul Chamberlin (00:34:50):
I know about that. But I also think when you’re doing hay, one of the things you learn, even as a younger person that you learn when you’re doing a lot of hay handling the small hay bales, 40, 50 pound bales, is you learn how to move them with the least amount of energy. I mean, it’s one thing to pick up a bale from the ground and try to throw it onto a pile or into a wagon or on the ground, versus learning how to use your leg, pick up the bale, put it against your leg, and use your leg to help push it. You learn all these tricks. How can I do this with a minimum amount of energy and not strain my back? And so those are things that I learned over time.
Andy Chamberlin (00:35:27):
Yeah, yeah, that’s a good thought because it’s always when we have somebody new helping us on heyday, it’s like, oh boy, no, you’re doing it wrong.
Paul Chamberlin (00:35:37):
Well, they just understand and they don’t know what to do with it, so it’s never moved them. And it’s a technique that you learn over time.
Andy Chamberlin (00:35:47):
What’s one of your best memories from the first 10 years of farming?
Paul Chamberlin (00:35:54):
Okay, here’s a good one for you. Well, the memories, I don’t remember if it was the first 10 years or not, but some point back in the ’80s, my wife’s sister in Ohio had a horse, and the horse had a colt, and then my sister or my wife’s sister was going off to college, she wasn’t going to be able to keep the horse anymore. So you wanted to know if we could bring it to Vermont now because we have a farm. Well, first, I don’t know, we thought about it. Well, it turns out the neighbor we bought the farm from wasn’t old horseman. He had horses his whole life work horses.
So he agreed to go with us to Ohio. We rented a trailer, went to Ohio and brought this horse back, and it was a very nice horse, Arabian young horse. And so we had him along with an older horse that my wife could ride. And back in that timeframe, this must’ve been the early ’80s, we still had the cows and we had a black Angus that we were raising for beef. His name was Charlie, and he was in the barn. He was always wild, gnarly, he wasn’t tame, he wasn’t easy to deal with. So we were putting him out in the summer to put them out in the pasture, and we had him in the barn yard, and he broke through the electric fence, and he took off running, and we chased him and we couldn’t catch him.
He ran through the field, across the river, up the hayfield on the other side. We were at a loss. How are we going to get him back? Well, we didn’t know and we could see him up there, but you couldn’t get close to him. And so my neighbor, Mr. Pollard, said, “Well, why don’t we go have a roundup?” I said, “Really?” Oh, yeah, well, get the neighbor kids, the Sullivan’s next door, they got horses, and the kids are young too. So we got our two horses, and I guess they had a couple, I can’t remember, and got them, and Wayne went with us and we went across the river and saw him, the cow laying up along the fence row, and we snuck up the hill so he couldn’t see us until we got fairly close. And once he saw us, he took off running, and so we chased him with four horses, and it was like a rodeo roundup.
So we chased this cow, and actually we got him between two horses and we’re running him. He’s running and we’re running alongside, and we actually ran him till he dropped. So we ran him till he run out of air, and he went down. And so as he went down, then Mr. Pollard jumped on him and held his head down so he couldn’t get up until we put a rope around his neck, and then we hitched him to the back of the tractor and told him back to the barn. So, to me, that was one of my main race that I really enjoyed thinking about.
Andy Chamberlin (00:38:28):
A high adrenaline day.
Paul Chamberlin (00:38:29):
Andy Chamberlin (00:38:31):
How long does it take to tire an angus cow?
Paul Chamberlin (00:38:34):
Well, it’s probably not too long because we were running him up a hill.
Andy Chamberlin (00:38:37):
Paul Chamberlin (00:38:38):
It was across the river up to Hayfield, so running uphill, a steep.
Andy Chamberlin (00:38:43):
I didn’t know if that was a few minute adventure or all afternoon event.
Paul Chamberlin (00:38:45):
No, it was just a few minutes. So that was a memory I’ve always recalled, the roundup.
Andy Chamberlin (00:38:52):
Paul Chamberlin (00:38:53):
Andy Chamberlin (00:38:59):
What was Wayne’s involvement after you bought the farm?
Paul Chamberlin (00:39:03):
Well, when we first came here, Wayne was ecstatic that we were coming here because a number of reasons. One was they never had any children. And the second of all, we had our two older boys, Terry and Tim, when we came here, they were like 11, eight. He saw them as, oh man, little guys, I can be around. So he loved our kids. He would help me. He was invaluable to help me learn all the techniques, how to use the equipment that he gave me when we came, and also he was always willing to help me, whether it was haying or moving cows or whatever. And he enjoyed it. He was still healthy enough, he could do stuff, and he liked doing that. So it was a big help. I learned a lot from him, and I was really glad to get to know him. Now, it’s interesting that I had a grandparent.
My grandparents lived in Ohio, and when we bought a farm here, my grandfather, who at the time was probably 80 years old, he was ecstatic to think that one of his grandchildren bought a farm. And so he and my grandmother actually traveled up here to visit us one year, and my grandfather actually got on a wagon and bucked bales at 80 years old. I was so excited to be able to do that. And of course, he and Wayne Pollard then became best buddies. And of course, both of my grandfather and Wayne were horsemen from that generation. And so they talked all the stuff about what they did when they were young with horses, and they became great friends. And eventually, Wayne and Edna went back to visit my grandparents in Ohio a couple of times. So that was a neat thing to have with him, but he was a big help.
Andy Chamberlin (00:40:37):
What type of farming was Wayne doing before you came?
Paul Chamberlin (00:40:42):
Wayne was a dairy farmer. He had sold his herd probably just two or three years before we came here. Yeah, he was born and raised, I think he was born here in Underhill, just up the valley here a little ways. And he grew up here and farm, his parents owned it before he did, and he was a dairy farmer all his life, had his work horses. Majority of his farming with horses. He had a Ford tractor and he had a Farmall H, but he mowed hay with horses. He raked with horses. He bailed with that engine baler behind the two wheel gig with horses, picked up the bales on a wagon with horses. So he loved his be and work horses, and he also used them for logging because we had a lot of woods here. I don’t recall him logging to sell logs, but he logged for firewood, and I went up several times with him to bring down logs out of the woods to turn into firewood. So he was great at doing that.
Andy Chamberlin (00:41:42):
Did he have a certain resistance to having newer technology or he just really loved playing with his horses?
Paul Chamberlin (00:41:51):
No, he loved horses. He loved horses so much. He knew how to train horses. As a young person, I heard him tell a story about one that had a colt one time when he was young, he would bring the colt in the house.
Andy Chamberlin (00:42:05):
Paul Chamberlin (00:42:05):
He brought the colt in the house. So his mom probably didn’t care for. But anyways, he loved to train workhorses. He loved to go to fairs and watch the horse shows and horse pulling. And he also knew his cows. He was a great dairy farmer because he knew his cows. He loved them, and we could go to an auction and he could tell you what was good or bad about every cow that came out to be sold just by looking at the cow, the shape of the back, the way they otter hang, how they walked. He could tell you he knew his animals and he just loved them. So he dairy farmed all his life till I think 73 is when he sold, or so.
Andy Chamberlin (00:42:46):
That’s so interesting. And that’s a lost art in today’s day. Maybe some do. I’m sure some dairy are good. The number of people that can look at an animal and know them is going down. What’s a exciting memory or farm story in the last 10 years, post-retirement last 20 years, we’ll say?
Paul Chamberlin (00:43:11):
Post-retirement, I guess maybe even more than 10 years, but it’s continued to grow, so I’ll bring it up. It’s the corn roast that we have here every year. We started a corn roast probably back in the late ’70s. We were in a bible study group with folks from our church, and they came out one summer and we went back by the river and built a campfire, and we had some corn, so we threw it in there and roasted it, and everybody thought that was fun. We should invite the church next year, and so we did. So the next year, maybe we had 15 people and we did the same thing. Well, as time went on and the church grew and more and more people became involved, we changed how we cooked corn because the fire got too big and we had too many people. So we eventually moved the cooking on charcoal by several different versions.
And so now the corn roast turned into outreach in that we are now, we open it up to invite our neighbors and friends from church or our neighbors here in the community come out and enjoy an evening of sweet corn, hay rides, whatever. And to me, it’s the best day of the year because I see so many people enjoying the farm. They can come out and they can enjoy the scenery, enjoy the corn, enjoy seeing the river, hayrides, whatever. So that’s probably the best memory I get is every year, and it’s all organized, so it’s not too much work for us. We just show them which field to pick and they bring in the corn. So I guess that’s the best memory.
Andy Chamberlin (00:44:41):
Yeah, no, that’s a good one. That’s probably one of mine growing up too, because like you said, it’s been every year, something that’s been ongoing at the staple. What do you think that the impact of that event has had on the church community?
Paul Chamberlin (00:45:00):
Well, I think it’s given a lot of people, people who may are going through struggles, to come out and just have an enjoyable day outdoors with friends and family. I know that’s meant a lot to people, and some people eventually get connected to the church through the corn roast, which is great. So I don’t know if I really know all the impact. I hear a few stories, so that’s what I know.
Andy Chamberlin (00:45:25):
Paul Chamberlin (00:45:27):
Andy Chamberlin (00:45:27):
Well, people seem to like it because they keep asking if we’re having it again and when it is.
Paul Chamberlin (00:45:36):
I could tell people, about a year ago, Andy came and asked me we needed to put cover crops in and where the sweet corn’s, and it’s been there, we’ve rotated corn and pumpkins, but we haven’t really taken out of production. So we took the whole field out of production for a year, seven acres, put cover crops in it and whatnot, and then so that year we had cover crops growing, we moved the corn fields to other areas. Well, the community became very anxious. I guess that’s the best way to put it. People called, people stopped by, everywhere I went, people asked me, “You’re not growing corn this year?” No, we are, you just can’t see it. Well, they were so worried that there would not be sweet corn. And so this year, the cornfield is back where it was most of it. And I already have so many comments from people. “Oh, I can see the corn’s going, we’re all good now.” So that’s a deal.
Andy Chamberlin (00:46:31):
Yeah, lesson learned last year. That’s right. Because yeah, so many people were panicking. So we learned, okay, we at least have to have some corn right next to the road because putting it out of sight is not acceptable for our community. They were thinking the farm’s going under and like, no, no, we still got corn. What did you envision your farm would look like when you started? Did you have an idea of what you wanted it to be?
Paul Chamberlin (00:47:02):
Well, I knew when we started, even though we were raising young stock, that I never wanted to go into dairy. I came to the Midwest and I saw what dairying is like here, at least in Vermont, New England, the fact that you have a short growing season, you have a long cold winter, you have high energy costs. To me, that was just never the way I wanted to go so I raised young stock and that was okay. I guess I envisioned it because I came from the Midwest doing more of the cropping like I do now with corn pumpkins, even though it’s not field corn, it’s sweet corn and then hay because we have a lot of ground we can do hay on. And yeah, I guess it’s turned out like I wanted.
Andy Chamberlin (00:47:45):
Yeah. Just evolved and you rolled with it. Because it was always the hobby. It was something to do. It’s not like you were set out to turn it into something.
Paul Chamberlin (00:47:55):
I didn’t come here with a business plan. I didn’t come here with a, here’s my risk and here’s my inputs, I didn’t come with that. I wasn’t looking at it that way. It was something to do and something I liked to do, so I did it.
Andy Chamberlin (00:48:10):
Yeah. Was that difficult when you were trying to buy the farm because you didn’t have a business plan?
Paul Chamberlin (00:48:18):
No. No. It was never a factor because I wasn’t looking at it to grow as a business.
Andy Chamberlin (00:48:25):
Right. That’s something that has certainly evolved in the last 50 years because just finding a piece of land of a couple of hundred acres and going to buy that is not so straightforward. What’s the next decade of farming look like for you?
Paul Chamberlin (00:48:50):
I don’t know if I’ll be here another decade for farming. No, I think my farm days are getting shorter. I mean, I realize I don’t have as many years left to do it as I did when I started. And so we like to travel, we like to do other things. I can’t deal with the cold weather the way I used to when I’m younger, so I don’t enjoy being here all winter. So farming is not going to be as impactful as it had been, but that’s okay. I’ve had a good run at it. I did mostly what I wanted to do with it and just glad that I could.
Andy Chamberlin (00:49:37):
You said mostly what you wanted do. Are there things that you wish you had done or were able to do and you didn’t?
Paul Chamberlin (00:49:43):
On the farm?
Andy Chamberlin (00:49:44):
Paul Chamberlin (00:49:45):
No, not really. I did mostly what I wanted to do. I don’t think there’s anything that I wished I had done that I didn’t do. I mean, we built a new Morton building, which we really needed because the old barn was dilapidated, and that’s been an excellent thing and it’s worked out well, and I’ve been able to evolve the equipment, so it made things easier for us. And I’ve also enjoyed farming because it was part-time and not full-time, and the fact that for me it was now that there’s no animals, it’s mainly October. So it’s roughly six months of activity, and then the rest is just okay, get time off. Yeah.
Andy Chamberlin (00:50:27):
Is there something not part of the farm, but just in life that you wished you were able to do?
Paul Chamberlin (00:50:36):
Well, I think I like to travel more. We have been able to visit friends and family in India and friends in Africa, and I’ve been to Europe a few times back when I worked for IBM, but would like to travel more. And I enjoy seeing other parts of the world, seeing different cultures, seeing different climates and everything.
Andy Chamberlin (00:50:58):
Yeah, you’ve had the opportunity to see some real interesting things.
Paul Chamberlin (00:51:03):
Andy Chamberlin (00:51:04):
What advice would you give to your beginning farmer self?
Paul Chamberlin (00:51:11):
Give it to me?
Andy Chamberlin (00:51:14):
Yeah. If somebody were to, you were 30, you just moved to the farm. Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself then? Like make sure you…
Paul Chamberlin (00:51:31):
I think if I told a young farmer is, make sure you realize it takes time. Don’t expect to have everything the way you want it right away or to have everything that you can do, done the way you want it. It just takes time. Time for financially. It takes time for you physically. It takes time for a lot of reasons for things to get to where they are. So everybody looks now and say, wow, that’s a really nice farmer. But I’ve been here over 40 years, so it’s not like when I came here, I didn’t really have an idea that it would be like it is now, but I’m happy with it the way it has come out. I think as the opportunities came, we moved with it and I don’t believe I put extra pressure on say, I’m going to do this regardless. I never felt that way about it, I just did what I could and see what happened.
Andy Chamberlin (00:52:33):
So that’s one part. What advice would you give to a new farmer starting now? Would that be different?
Paul Chamberlin (00:52:46):
Well, it’s hard to say because I can only look at the farm in this particular instance. And so there’s a lot of different kinds of farms. So I’m not really sure. Right now, back when we started, there were not that many vegetable growers around, so it was relatively easy. We didn’t have competition amongst them. The organics was not a thing that was even talked about back in the ’70s and ’80s. Today it is a lot. And so I think that creates more competition amongst farmers for market. And that would be the thing is to try to determine what your market is or where you can get into the market and make it profitable without struggling, just to keep going. I think that’s why people are finding out that even with dairying, people have been in dairying for generations, but now they’re finding out it’s just not sustainable in the long-term the way it has been.
And that’s been a history of Vermont. If you look back at Vermont after the Revolutionary War and the first land grant people came here, they started out, they didn’t have what it is today. Vermont was like 80% wooded. So they had to spend a lot of effort and time clearing to get fields that could produce grass or crops. And eventually over time, it became a bread basket for New England. And so the early market was, even when Wayne was here back part of the 20th century, they were growing grain in larger quantities than they are today. And eventually, so they were shipping grain to Boston for the flour and all this stuff, but then when the railroads came and people moved west, then it went to sheep, and eventually the wolf industry died out and went downhill, and then it turned to dairy. And so you can see over the generations it’s modified, it’s changed. I don’t know what the future is here for farming, what it’ll be.
Andy Chamberlin (00:54:49):
Yeah, because on the decline, so what’s next for the vast majority of the working landscape? A lot of young, new beginning farmers listen to my podcast and they’re either thinking about kids or have young children. Do you have any advice on farming with jongens?
Paul Chamberlin (00:55:21):
Well, I think having grown up on a farm as a jongen, I think it was great. And I think our kids growing up here on a farm had an experience that the majority of kids in town never get. So, for me, it’s a wonderful place to raise kids, not just to get farm help out of them, but the fact that they learned so many trades was mechanical, how to fix things, how to run things, how to drive things, how to use things, how to use tools. So I think it’s a great experience to grow up on a farm and be able to learn all those things that you would never learn being in the city. So I think it’s a great place for kids.
Andy Chamberlin (00:56:05):
Say you had another 50 years left of life, what do you think you would do with the farm for the next period of time? Or I guess, do you think you would do anything different than what it has been and is?
Paul Chamberlin (00:56:22):
Well, one thing, and I’m not in my own mind, I think because of the way the country’s gone economically in Vermont, maybe in particular, is I see, yes, the economy of the state is changing. We don’t have near as much agricultural, I don’t think, as we used to have. We don’t. But also because of that, I see in our own, we sell a lot of hay for horses. But over the years, I’ve seen a lot of our friends who’ve had horses either, oh, I’ve only got one horse now this year, or I sold my horses, oh, we’re moving to Colorado. So, over the years, I’ve had many, many people that we’ve dealt with who decided to leave. So that’s one thing. There’s still a market for hay, which is fine, but in the long term, I’m not sure what would supplement that or replace that in terms of using this land.
Now, maybe if somebody was going to farm it on a different scale and instead of just doing retail, do wholesale, maybe there’d be a larger market than to if they wanted to move other things, other commodities. I’m not sure what they might be because I’m not sure where the profit margin would be on those, but that’s just a thought.
Andy Chamberlin (00:57:47):
What have you noticed from the change of climate over the last 50 years of being here?
Paul Chamberlin (00:57:53):
Well, in general, and at least on my farm, I think it’s been drier. Like right now, we’re getting rain. Well, it’s been dry. But historically, when we first came here, I remember down between here and the river, there’s a ditch that used to have water flowing through it. And then over years now, there’s nothing. It’s just a depression in the ground, the groundwater is not there anymore. And I know when we had shallow wells over here, it was a problem with not getting enough water out of the shallow wells. And so even though we get rain and we’d sometimes get floods, I just remember it seemed like it used to be wetter longer or more than it was now. So I think it’s hotter, maybe it’s hotter, it’s hard to say because sometimes we still get cold, wet weather, and we don’t live long enough to see some of the overall changes. So I don’t know.
But I think relatively, it hasn’t changed a lot here. We hear about the extremes going on in other parts of America with drought or fires or floods, and we haven’t seen that. Now, the last major flood heroes in 27, so it’s been a hundred years. So maybe we’re due, I don’t know. But anyways, and we’ve had hurricanes, which flooded, but I don’t know. It seems to me like we’ve never had an issue. Of course, this is river bottom ground, so it’s sandy and gravelly and light, so it drains quick. So typically after a day or so of rain, you can go and plow. But I think it seems to be pretty dry relative to maybe what I remembered 30, 40 years ago.
Andy Chamberlin (00:59:33):
Right. Yeah. That ditch over by the burn pile.
Paul Chamberlin (00:59:38):
Andy Chamberlin (00:59:39):
I’ve really never seen water in that.
Paul Chamberlin (00:59:41):
Andy Chamberlin (00:59:42):
Paul Chamberlin (00:59:42):
Andy Chamberlin (00:59:44):
You learned a lot about how to farm from Wayne, the neighbor who you bought the farm from. Are there other sources of resources that you learned?
Paul Chamberlin (00:59:57):
Well, I think mostly I learned it as a kid in Ohio because when we bought this farm and I was working at IBM, everybody there said, “You did what?” “You bought a farm?” How do you know what to do? Because most people don’t have any idea. And they didn’t know that I grew up in Ohio and that I grew up in a farm community, and so tractors were nothing new to me, trucks and equipment and tilling the ground. How do you turn the ground? How do you make the ground so you can grow stuff in it? All these things, so I didn’t have an issue with it. And so I think most of it I learned before I went to IBM.
Andy Chamberlin (01:00:36):
Just your upbringing.
Paul Chamberlin (01:00:36):
Yeah, right, right.
Andy Chamberlin (01:00:38):
Paul Chamberlin (01:00:44):
Which is another good reason to have a kid grow up on a farm.
Andy Chamberlin (01:00:48):
That’s right. To teach them. Sure, they teach all these things.
Paul Chamberlin (01:00:52):
Yeah. I know when Wayne and Edna were alive, and they told us about living through the depression in back in the ’30s, and he said, yeah, and then in the depression, he said people were out of work, it was really a bad time. He said, we never went hungry. They had a farm. They ate eggs and chickens, they had meat, they had milk. They could survive even in a hard economic time. So that’s a good thing to know.
Andy Chamberlin (01:01:20):
Paul Chamberlin (01:01:20):
At the end of the day, today what happens now if your food supply goes bonkers, sometimes it does in one commodity, whether it’s lettuce or something, but what happens if the major things are not there? Who’s going to be able to survive is going to be the guy that knows how to grow it. And also, one of the things I always concerned about is availability of seeds. What happens if all of a sudden our seed supplies dry up? Because then even the farmers are hurt. Now, historically, farmers used to save grain in the fall, then plant in the spring. Well, nobody does that anymore, they buy the grain. They buy the seed every year. And so that depends on somebody else providing the seed. So that’s another risk.
Andy Chamberlin (01:02:01):
Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. It’s so big of an industry now, we don’t think much about it. Yeah.
Paul Chamberlin (01:02:09):
Well, what happens if there’s a supply issue and all of a sudden the boats don’t go and they can’t get the stuff shipped? And so where are the seeds coming from? I know we grow some seeds in this country, but I know that a lot of seeds are commercial produced overseas and then are shipped here. So I think it’s a good reason to grow up on a farm. At least you know how to provide your food.
Andy Chamberlin (01:02:32):
What was a time where you felt really challenged by farming?
Paul Chamberlin (01:02:38):
I guess if I think way back when we had the animals, when we were raising the dairy heifers in the barn, we had up to 50 at a time. And the winter, it was a winter in the ’80s when it got extremely cold, we had I think a month where it never got to 32. We had 10 days where it never got above zero. And of course, the water froze in the barn, and so we had to carry water by hand from the house to the barn to feed all those animals. And I really felt challenged, because like, man, I don’t know if I can keep doing this, and this is going to happen every year. So that was one of the time I really felt challenged was when it got extremely cold and we were just trying to keep things from freezing in the house, let alone keep the animals. So that was tough.
Andy Chamberlin (01:03:31):
What does sustainable farming mean to you?
Paul Chamberlin (01:03:36):
I guess it just means farming that you can continue to do in a manner that’s not just profitable, but it’s environmentally safe and it’s enjoyable and it provides for the community and something that can continue after you’re done doing it, and somebody else can take it over and continue to keep it going.
Andy Chamberlin (01:04:03):
Yeah. Well, that was all I had. Are there any other farm stories that you wanted to share?
Paul Chamberlin (01:04:12):
I probably forgot most of the good ones because as you get older, you take back all [inaudible 01:04:17] until something perks your mind and one comes to mind, but it’s hard to think.
Andy Chamberlin (01:04:21):
Yeah, they always come up when we’re out doing something. Yeah, that’s the way it goes.
Paul Chamberlin (01:04:27):
I remember one winter when Wayne and Edna were still here, and Wayne had his horses, he belonged to the, Kent was called Green Mountain Draft Horses Association or something like that. And in the winter when there was snow, they came here to the farm while a lot of his friends with their horses and their teams and their sleighs and sleds, and they were taking kids for rides up and around the fields here with the workhorses. So I remember because I got a few old pictures of some of the young people getting to go for a sleigh ride or sled ride behind the workhorses, and they did that just to help to entertain the kids. So I remember that was a neat thing to see that you don’t see anymore.
Andy Chamberlin (01:05:06):
No sled or sleigh rides. It’s not very common. You mentioned the other day how you had received the land records for this parcel and you mentioned how you’ve owned it as long as almost anybody.
Paul Chamberlin (01:05:26):
Right. Matter of fact, I got this stuff out for Andy so I could let him look at it. But anyways, it said that the original landowners, the original deed that they could trace back in our town, came to us, came to this land back in 1817. That was the first record that they have of it, some fellow named John Maddox. And anyway, so it’s just a list of the owners and when they owned it, and from 1817 till now, and I went through and looked at this and I looked at all the names and how long people were here, and I realized that we have owned this property now longer than any previous tenant. We’ve been here 40 plus years. So it’s interesting to see that some people came and stayed for a while. Some people were only here a couple of years. I don’t know all the circumstances back then what happened.
But yeah, it was just interesting to see and to wonder what this place looked like back then. Of course, in 1817, this house wasn’t here yet. They told us this house was built in 1835, so that was 20 years after the first guy owned it. So obviously when they came, it had to have been forested, I would think, and somebody had to start clearing it. And what they did then, it’s hard to say.
Andy Chamberlin (01:06:39):
Yeah, I see the old stone walls and fence lines, and of course the barbed wire in the trees was back just in Wayne’s timeframe. So I’m wondering, I’m always curious too, what did it look like a hundred years ago? Probably wouldn’t even hardly recognize it.
Paul Chamberlin (01:06:58):
No. And the fact that there was no electricity, we just take that for granted. But it wasn’t until I think the ’30s, 1930s or so before they got any electricity. And so up until then, it was all oil lamps and candles.
Andy Chamberlin (01:07:13):
Well, heck, your house didn’t even hardly have insulation when you bought it.
Paul Chamberlin (01:07:17):
No, most of them didn’t.
Andy Chamberlin (01:07:20):
Awesome. Well, this was fun, and I’m glad I got to capture some of those farm stories. Thanks for being on the show.
Paul Chamberlin (01:07:28):
You’re welcome. Have fun with it.
Andy Chamberlin (01:07:30):
Yeah. I’m Andy Chamberlain, and that was the Farmer’s Share. I hope you enjoyed this episode with my grandpa, Paul Chamberlain of Chamberlain’s Garden and Farm Market. This podcast has a YouTube channel with videos from several of the farm visits. We’re also on Instagram, so that’s where you can be reminded about the latest episode or see the photos from the visit. You can go to the farmersshare.com to listen to the previous interviews or see photos, videos, or links discussed from the conversations. If you don’t want to miss the next episode, enter your email address on our website and you’ll get a note in your inbox when the next one comes out.
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