Searching for a farm has become, once again, a part of our weekly routine. Looking at listings for land and for established farms has become part of *my* daily routine. I look at listings from Kentucky, and because the children are dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders, I’m also looking here in Massachusetts, and in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Recently Brian and I went out to look at a place a little over an hour from here. The land was not as much as we wanted, but the house was a sweet old antique that had been lovingly cared for. The listing said it had 5 bedrooms and outbuildings for critters. We hoped that this was going to be the perfect place. It was going really well until we went upstairs… Turns out that the 5 bedrooms weren’t quite adequate. Very disappointing. Two bedrooms were actually quite perfect, but one bedroom was about the size of a closet, and the remaining two were long and narrow without room for more than one bed. After mulling it over at length, we determined that we just didn’t feel we could make the place work for us.
On the way home, we stopped in a nearby town for a bite to eat. As we sat down to at the table with our sandwiches, we were both thinking about a farm we had seen and bid on about 3 years ago and then again 2 years ago. It was the farm that really made us begin to focus on what our mission would be – real food for real folks at real prices; and dignified work, hospitality, and service to the poor, displaced, and disabled. Brian spoke first, “I wonder what’s going on up at that farm?”. We had been to check on it a couple of times and it seemed that the chap who had bought it was struggling. Actually, there were no real signs of farming, though the house had gotten a new roof. “Mmmm, me too.” We decided that since we were in town, we might as well take a swing by.
It’s hard to say whether my heart sank or rose when we turned into the road. It was clear that almost nothing had changed. There appeared to be a shiny new tank of some description just visible behind the huge sand-and-tire pile which was supposed to have been removed by the USDA two years earlier. The house was as ever – not much improved, making the roof look strangely out of place. The barn was shut up tight, no lights in the house, no cars, no animals… no life. We sat for a minute or two remembering the figure of St. Joseph that our family had placed under the twined maples more than 2 years earlier – and the day we two stopped and prayed in the field. Then we turned, and drove away to go home. We debated back and forth whether we ought to make him an offer. How would we do it? Neither of us is naturally that bold. But it was clear we had nothing much to lose. We could make a cash offer since we have a commitment from our bank in hand. That’s something.
By the time we got home I was exhausted and my poor joints were screaming. I decided to stay home while Brian went to our class. After seeing the kids fed, I logged onto the computer and decided to check the county registry of deeds… I was stunned to learn that the farm had just been foreclosed. I called and left a message for Brian to call me on his break. When he called back, we decided that we really had to take a chance and make the offer. There really was nothing to lose and the owner had everything to gain by getting out from under the place with the least pain possible.
It was only a day or two later that we realized that the day the farm foreclosed was the exact day that our commitment letter (too late for the Petersham farm) was issued, and the same day we discovered that we would be welcoming a new baby.
We have sent a letter to the owner of the farm to ask whether he would entertain a cash offer on the farm. And a phone call was made to the bank holding the note. The banker was most kind and helpful. He encouraged us to make an offer to the farmer, but cautioned us that he probably would not be interested, though he (the banker) would encourage him (the farmer) to accept our proposal. In any case, there would likely be an auction this spring – and we were urged to come along at that time and bid if we hadn’t succeeded in persuading this fellow to sell to us before then.
So here we are again, asking for your prayers and good thoughts – not just for us, but for the chap who owns the farm. I’m sure this can’t be easy for him.