The Donegans find inspiration in western Vermont’s farming traditions.
“One of the joys I experience as part of my lifestyle is the connection I feel to the past.”
This is Emily Donegan, a first-generation farmer reflecting on the journey she and her husband Joe began over a decade ago. “Though our lifestyle is a modern anomaly, it isn’t much different from the way it was for hundreds of years before.”
Joe decided during college that the best thing he could do for the world was to raise his family on a farm. With a winter internship as his only experience, Joe started his operation with just four bred heifers and a group of calves.
Despite starting with little money and a growing family, Joe and Emily now successfully milk 30 cows seasonally on their 90-acre rented farm. “Our lifestyle did not occur by accident, and though neither my husband nor I was raised on a farm, we pursued this way of life with a family in mind.”
The couple’s hard work has rewarded them and their kids in unexpected ways. “My boys have witnessed countless births,” Emily tells us, advocating the importance of people understanding the connection between humans and food. “When we allow our children to understand and experience this connection in a meaningful way, we are allowing them to more fully understand themselves.”
Working with and renting from their neighbors in the small town of Charlotte, Vermont has given Emily a love for the community that goes into a farming culture spanning back generations. “I wonder how many folks were raised on a farm in Charlotte. [For me], the history of agriculture in this town still sounds loudly in its sense of identity and values.”
With more farms opening their doors to schools and visitors every year, Emily is optimistic about how future generations will view this old tradition. “The more we engage with the animals and plants that sustain us, the more likely I believe we are to create a generation that values healthy food.”