INDIAN LINE FARM
Elizabeth Keen and Al Thorp own and operate Indian Line Farm in Great Barrington. Indian Line was one of the first CSA farms in the country when it was started in 1985. Elizabeth and Al rented the land in 1997 and started a small, 2-acre market garden growing for restaurants and farmers markets.
ELIZABETH: "Once you start putting energy into land, you become connected. And, I immediately fell in love with being here … fell in love with this place. And, I remember thinking, 'Could we fall in love with another place just like this? Is there another place out there like this?' But, it was almost immediately a connection with this place."
"Over the next two years, we began this conversation with the Nature Conservancy and the Community Land Trust of how we might be able to stay here longer term. It hadn't really occurred to us, being as broke as we were at the time, that we could actually buy it outright. And there were these two entities that really wanted to make something work out, they wanted this model to work."
AL: "I'm off farm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I'm on farm Thursday through Sunday, essentially. The roles I tend to play on the farm have to do with repairing things that break, tractors and cultivators. It seems like they're breaking for one reason or another all the time. Or, if it's not breaking, we're setting up a tool or building whatever it is that needs to be put together. And I tend to do the books for the farm and the financial perspective. And, at times I'm out there harvesting with the whole crew and washing things, and it's at those times when I'm down there with the kids, and they'll join right in with the whole performance, and they'll start harvesting things themselves, and it's nice."
ELIZABETH: "We have 140 families that come to the CSA. We feel that we have created a place for people to come to. It's comfortable, it's safe, it's beautiful and it does provide an experience. And, that is something you can't exactly quantify in the price of the CSA, the share, but we do feel like it's something we want to share, we want people to have a good experience here. It's a high point, and it's one of the reasons people continue to come back."
ELIZABETH: "I guess coming from a non-farming background, there is this amazing miracle that happens when you plant to grow something, and then you plant a seed, and then you see it actually growing, and then you take care of it, and then you eventually harvest it. And then, better yet, you actually sell it, or eat it. It is a miracle, and to see that happening over and over again in this place … and if you're drawn to that kind of work, which I feel I was, you just want to keep doing it."
ELIZABETH: "You know, I've worked 80 hours a week, and I've worked hard, and I've felt it physically and mentally and emotionally, and for me to be a mom and a farm manager and the owner, something has had to give. So, for me it's been this creative process of how can I incorporate my own personal needs in, my family's needs, and still have a working farm that is both feeding us, feeding our community, making money and being overall a successful operation, and right now we have something that really works, and we're happy with that."
Indian Line Farm has a stand at the Great Barrington Farmers Market.