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First:

Emma

Last:

Abby

Co-Applicant / Spouse:

Kurt Holmes

Email:

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Past and present farming experience:

My name is Emma Abby and I own a farm in Eagle Point, Oregon with my husband (Kurt), our two small children (Ronan 6, Thea 2), and my mother-in-law and her husband (Angela and Jens). Kurt and I have been on this journey together for 20 years now, 12 years of which we’ve been pursuing farming or farming experiences as our primary focus. Please bear with me as I try to relay our story and past/present farming experience.
We were both born and raised in New England and left together in 2008 for graduate school in Sweden (Kurt MS in Plant Ecology, Emma MS in Sustainability Science). It was then that we first were exposed to organic agriculture and began to realize that was our future. We started volunteering and working on small organic farms from then on (in Sweden to start and subsequently in HI, NC, NV and finally OR). After graduation in 2010, we decided to drive across the US for the first time, to see if Oregon might be the right place for us to settle and start a farm of our own.
We felt drawn to Oregon even though we had never been here before. We felt compelled to at least see it with our own eyes before settling in our comfort zone of New England after school. At the time, farmland was far more affordable in Oregon than in the northeast, which was a driving force as well.
Our first steps in Oregon brought us to a 10-day intensive Cob Building Workshop on the Oregon coast at the Cob Cottage Company and that was our only plan. At the time we hoped to somehow find a little place somewhere to build a cob cottage and homestead. Well, we never did end up building a cob cottage (yet!) but our experience at that workshop led to a cascade of events and opportunities that flowed ever so smoothly and eventually led us to where we are now, the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon.
Sometimes things flow in life so seamlessly, it can’t help but feel meant to be, as if the cosmic strings perfectly aligned for a moment, listening to our every whispered dream. That is how it felt for us landing in Oregon. We found community and made deep connections at incredible speed. We both found jobs working on a beautiful historic farm (that reminded us of ‘home’ i.e. New England) running their agricultural programs (Kurt, livestock and gardens, and me, education programs). Kurt’s mother found herself at a crossroads in life and decided to join us in the Rogue Valley. She knew we were desperately dreaming about stewarding some land of our own and so she decided to buy a neglected, broken down old farm in the Rogue Valley for us to all live together (there are two homes next to each other on this land). I continued to work as the Direction of Education at Historic Hanley Farm for a few years after we moved onto our own farm, up until our eldest child was born in 2015. Kurt worked for several different local farms for years, in addition to our own, in order to buy our place on the deed of this farm, which we all own together now.
We have an incredible network of friends, mentors, farming and homesteading community here. The climate is mild with four distinct seasons and a long growing season. It’s a really hard decision to leave. Our intention was to stay here forever, but at the beginning, wildfires were not an annual event. Since we moved to this farm in 2013, every summer has been plagued by at least a week of toxic wildfire smoke. This year we had over 9 weeks of toxic wildfire smoke filling the entire valley. It is visible in the air at all times, with ash residue on everything. The gardens look haunted and our livestock struggle. The tipping point for me is simple, our children. We don’t allow them outdoors in the smoke. It is known to cause major health complications, especially for growing little bodies. However devastating it might be to leave here and start our farm all over again somewhere else, I feel we must be prudent and protect our children, and ourselves.
As for our farm here, we live in a rural farming community in Eagle Point, Oregon. Rural, but about 20-30 minutes to town with natural food stores, agricultural supplies, colleges, excellent farmers markets, arts and music and a strong wine country scene. Our farm, which we call Boden Acres, is 80 acres of open pasture and oak savannah. We raise Icelandic sheep (about 20-25 ewes plus annual lambs) and Icelandic chickens. We have two A2/A2 Jersey cows which we still milk by hand and sell excess locally (on-farm sales only here in OR). We also raise Kune Kune pigs and sell piglets and pork. We have extensive permaculture gardens and have taken soil building very seriously from the moment we landed here. Kurt is the main livestock farmer, but his real passion is definitely plants (hence the Plant Ecology MS). He has created a little Eden here and poured his heart and soul and sweat and tears into it from day one. He’s planted over 50 fruit trees, coppiced willow acres, and planted hundreds of perennial plants in addition to annual gardens. We have a 3/4 acre spring fed pond that we use to irrigate our gardens and livestock water. We sell raw milk, lamb, pork, and surplus produce to our local community by word-of-mouth and a small seasonal farm stand. We also run a rustic campsite nestled in the corner of one of our pastures under the oaks. You can check out our campsite, which won best Hipcamp site in Oregon 2021, by searching ‘HipCamp Pasture Camping on the Farm’ (and see lots of pics!).
We have created a beautiful life here, the life of our dreams starting all those years ago as students in Sweden with big eyes learning about permaculture for the first time, as carefree young adults road-tripping across the country. We manifested through hard work, deep love, unwavering integrity, constant visioning and revisioning, and trust in the universe and in each other. Our kids were born right here in this farmhouse where I write this. And it is all they know. They are deeply connected to this land. We’ve poured everything we have into this land and we love it here. But we acknowledge that this chapter is coming to an end. We can hold on a few more years and pray for less smoke, but ultimately it’s only a matter of time before we leave, as the wildfires/smoke are unlikely to end, so sooner is better than later.

Counties being considered:
  • Knox County
  • Waldo County
Types of enterprises considered:
  • Apple/Fruit
  • Berries
  • Dairy (cows)
  • Flowers
  • Greenhouse
  • Livestock
  • Pasture
  • Sheep
  • Sugaring
  • Woodlot
Total Acres Desired:

100+

Wooded acres:

10+

Acres in Pasture:

10+

Acres in Pasture:

10+

Organic:
  • Doesn't matter
Farm structures needed:
  • Barn(s)
  • Storage
  • Other Housing
Arrangement(s) considered
  • Standard Sale
I am interested in farms with Conservation Easements:
  • Yes
Here is a summary of the vision for my farming future and/or business plan:

And so we began our search of where to start over away from the smoke months ago when the four of us (myself, Kurt, Angela & Jens) agreed it is time. We agreed we want to stay together, that is critical. Sharing life as three generations is a top priority for all of us. We knew we wanted to somehow replace our beloved farm somewhere else but at first, we were unsure where.
Before we originally drove across the country, we strongly considered moving to Maine. We both spent a lot of time there growing up and it was always at the top of our list, alongside Oregon.
Some of the important location search criteria are: close to the ocean but at least 300 ft elevation, close to vibrant farming/homesteading community and markets and homeschooling community presence. So it’s no surprise that our search led us back to Maine. Everyone I talked to and everything I read kept pointing to the mid-coast region and more specifically, Belfast and surrounding community. I finally booked a flight and visited Waldo county at the beginning of November 2021. It felt like coming home and it was easy to confirm with confidence that it’s the right place for us to start over. We feel the pull back to our roots, to clean crisp New England air and the satisfying assurance of a deep frost that sets all anew. And it will bring us closer to family as well; my father lives in North Waterford, ME - my mother and sister are in NH, and Kurt’s entire extended family is in MA and NH.
Logistically, a cross-country farm move is no small feat. We will have to sell our livestock (all except our livestock guardian dog) here in Oregon. This is one of the hardest parts to grapple with. Our flock of sheep and our cows are our farm family and we've been working for 9 years to get them to where they are today. I’ve tried to find a way to bring them with us and it simply doesn’t make any sense. It would be cruel to them and unfathomably expensive for us. So, we will sell our livestock here and replace them as soon as we are resettled.
When we move to Maine we have agreed we don’t want to start from scratch the way we did here (this farm was neglected for 4 years before we moved in and required a great deal of work before we or livestock could move in). Here, we fenced all the pastures ourselves, and built the small barn we use for our livestock. We hope to find a farm with a solid barn for dairy cows and sheep, and ideally pasture already fenced/cross-fenced. We will seek to purchase new A2-A2 Jersey cows as soon as we get to Maine, hopefully things can be in place enough to have one within a month or two, as we all rely heavily on daily access to raw dairy. We will continue to produce as much of our own food as possible (meat, eggs, dairy, herbs, vegetables, fruit, nuts) and sell surplus as we do here. We want to connect to the community, especially the homesteading and homeschooling communities of the area. We want to figure out what our place is in this new community, what the community might need and how we can contribute, and go from there. And we want to give ourselves some time to get to know the land. I’m eager to see where the journey leads us and I pray this new home will be forever. But I trust that whatever unfolds is exactly what is meant to be.
I’d like to add that I think sharing our lives together as three generations has worked so well for us because we share important core values. While Angela and Jens have reached retirement age and do not farm with us, they are a integral part of our lives and farm. We all value deeply nourishing food produced with love by our own hands and our local community. We all value daily individual and communal time in nature. We value less technology for growing children and adults alike. We value family and community camaraderie, real-life, face-to-face shared connection and support and celebration and grieving. We all marvel at the magic all around us and like to keep life simple, yet vibrantly, deeply satisfying.

Thank you for taking the time to read our story.