Small Farming in the Northeast

Making food isn't easy

Q&A with Shereen Wilcox of Ardith Mae Goat Farm

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At Union Square Greenmarket

 

Q&A: Shereen Wilcox on the Cost of Farming

Shereen Wilcox, 34 and her husband, Todd, 42, own the Ardith Mae goat farm in Hallstead, PA. The couple sells farmstead goat cheese two days a week at the Union Square, Columbia and 77th Street Greenmarkets in Manhattan. Before becoming farmers six years ago, they lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Shereen worked the night shift at Amy’s Bread and Todd worked in advertising.

How did you get into farming?

We wanted a change in our lives- to work outdoors and with animals. I had always wanted goats. We both liked cheese a lot and thought it would be a good idea to try it. It was a very simple decision which ended up being really complicated.

Where did you get the money to start the farm?

For three years my husband stayed in the city during the week and worked and would come home on the weekends. We ended up getting some loans through the farm service agency. We never had a business plan. We just winged it. It probably cost us three times as much as we expected.

How did you learn to farm?

We did an internship at a farm in Vermont for 10 months, but we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. We thought it would be easier because of the internship, but it’s different when you own it and you’re managing those animals and maintaining everything on your own.

What were the initial difficulties of having the farm?

I wasn’t used to being responsible for anything other than our few dogs. We only started with 12 goats, but that was really a huge stress. We had to deal with the health of the animals and milk production. At the same time, we were breeding to expand the herds.

How has your first intern, Yasmeen, helped at the farm?

She’s really propelled us forward. We were stagnant for the last couple years since we became licensed. We had to maintain milking and our markets, and we weren’t able to do anything else. We were spread so thin and becoming so exhausted. When she came in, we put up a new greenhouse and set up a new barn for our kids. It’s been nice to go and have dinner and not have to milk for once.

How much time do you spend preparing for and traveling to the Greenmarket?

Our whole week is spent preparing for the market. It never ends. We spend three hours each way traveling. It’s a bit intense, but we love this city.

How does that time investment affect your personal life?

We don’t have much of a personal life. We try to take some time, but we can’t ever leave to go on vacation together. We really only see our family once a year, and it’s one of us at a time. Hopefully as we expand we can get some regular help. Our goal next year is to be able to leave for a few days together.

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Written by genycounterculture

September 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm

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