Amber’s enthusiasm is pretty contagious, “I believe we can have our cake and eat it too,” Amber insists. “Whenever beef, chicken or pork is really delicious, it’s because the animals are really healthy. When you raise healthy animals, you’re also doing what’s best for the land. All those pieces fit together.”
Amber’s love of farming sprouted from her West Virginia roots. “Food was a major part of family life. Everyone enjoyed gardening, chickens, cows, cooking, canning…” Amber remembers. “My grandfather is still an avid mushroom collector, in fact he hoards “sheep’s head” stumps (where 50 lb mushrooms grow) out in the woods and only tells his closest friends. He still grows a giant garden, and every year gives away bushels of vegetables.”
Organic farming was always in the back of her mind, while Amber was an undergrad at Bowdoin College. A double major, Amber studied Environmental Science and Visual Arts – with a minor in Biology – while at the same time holding down jobs at a vegetable farm and a boat yard. Her passion for animals and farming led Amber to apply for a two-year apprenticeship in Colorado with the Quivira Coalition. “It’s an awesome non-profit organization that brings together ranchers, environmentalists and scientists to find innovative solutions – and to make progress for the sake of the land, the animals and the people on the land.” (www.QuiviraCoalition.org)
Amber spent the first year of her apprenticeship at an organic beef ranch, and her second year at a grass-fed dairy farm and creamery. “I really loved cheese-making. It’s like chemistry, farming, and art all at the same time. You have to pay attention to all the details to make something beautiful… or mess up and ruin a three-thousand-dollar vat of milk!”
Amber’s experience with sustainable farming in Colorado was a real eye-opener, “That ability to raise food and at the same time have a positive impact—changing the land in a way that improves it…That’s the work I want to be a part of. And I’ve been farming ever since.”
One of Amber’s favorite responsibilities at The Farm At Woods Hill is pasturing the animals. “Pasturing livestock is the method that makes the most sense,” Amber insists. “It’s funny because it’s hilariously simple: the animals are healthy when they exercise while harvesting their own feed, aka cows eating grass, chickens chasing bugs, pigs rooting up logs! It costs us no fuel to let them do it! We don’t have to start a tractor to spread their poop! The fields get evenly fertilized with no effort on our part! The fertilizer is free! We get great food from it!”
For Amber, sustainable farming is all about using the right efforts to create the best results. “I’m really glad to be at a place where caring for the land and the animals is important to the farm owners, Jim and Kristin, who are serious about alternative agriculture.
Farming close to nature is Amber’s life work thus far, but she still makes time to ski, mountain bike, and hike in the woods with Sam and their rambunctious pup, Hazel. She is also a serious science fiction buff and amateur baker. Come by the farm for a tour or maybe just a slice of sourdough and a pickled egg. She might even let you hold her Alien sculpture.