They're attracted to the Varneys' vibrant model. The couple's goal is to be diverse and sustainable. They are both. Superbly.
Gregg and Gloria have expanded significantly on the traditional local dairy-farming model. They grow corn, silage, hay and haylage for their livestock. Their three acres of vegetables, plus their laying hens, broilers, hogs, sheep, steers and turkeys, feed their family and generate income through the farm's country store. Their goats and cows provide milk for Gloria's farmstead feta, chèvre, gouda, caerphilly and Double Gloucester cheeses, which also are for sale in the store. Everything is certified organically grown.
Gloria especially craves variety. While she knew she wanted to live on the farm, she realized she didn't want to milk cows all the time. That's where the store comes in. She'd been spinning wool into yarn, and knitting and weaving for many years. When she heard that the local yarn shop was going out of business, she and Gregg bought its inventory and she started selling yarns and finished goods from their home. She soon added her homemade cheeses, breads and canned foods to the shelves.
When demand for her products skyrocketed, she and Gregg built the country store in their barn. Food items are on the main floor; upstairs, there's a yarn shop with knitted and woven items she and the kids make, and an apartment for farm interns and visitors. There's even a café and garden teahouse, where customers enjoy teas and homemade baked goods, cheeses and clotted cream. The store/café generates 40% of their income.
To help stock the shelves, the Varneys spend the long Maine winters knitting, weaving, making baskets and soaps, and canning foods. They also have heaps of fun. Imagine snowy nights when Gloria pulls out her fiddle and harmonica and the gang sings, dances—and yodels!
And somehow, Gloria also has the energy to write "Gloria's Garden," a monthly column about gardening, nutrition and local agriculture for Organic Valley's "MOO" website. She also serves on the board of the regional office of the federal Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, the board of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) and is a member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).
Handy and multitalented, Gregg built the barns and other farm buildings. A skilled machinist, he also designs, manufactures and repairs the farm's equipment. At some point, his machining work may provide an additional income source for the family. Gregg also has served on the town planning board for 20 years. He's busy, yet he finds the time to go hunting and read eclectically, especially about farming and history.
The kids are following in their parent's footsteps. The older girls—Natasha, 13 and Samantha, 11—help with farm chores. The younger ones, Mackenzie, 6, Roy, 3, and Everett, 2, are learning fast. The Varneys' extended family visits Nezinscot Farms often, and Gloria's many nieces and nephews help with chores, too. So do their employees (up to 8 of them) and the interns.