Circle of Stones: Interview with Adrie of Fields and Fire

January 22, 2010

The very first post of Adrie’s that I ever read was on her handmade grain bags. I don’t remember who I found her through, but I know that after that post, I spent hours reading through the rest of her blog. Adrie and I have done an interview swap, so you can find my piece at her wonderful blog.

Adrie lives my dream life. She runs a bakery (and is the baker) with her husband and daughter, owns a small farm where she and her family grow their own fruits and veggies, and facilitates a grain CSA for her community. Talk about being the change you wish to see.

Living sustainably is not a catch phrase to Adrie and her family, they live it every day. She has been an inspiration to me, and a guiding force on how to tread lighter on the earth we have all been blessed with.

The circle opens. Welcome Adrie

You and your family do an amazing range of work. Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you all do together.Whew, this is a big question. We are a family of three – myself, my husband Ben, and our two and a half year old, Ella. We live in the incredible Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, on a small farm. We own and run Wheatberry Bakery & Cafe (we are the bakers, not just the owners), and we also created and direct Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain, our grain & bean CSA. Together, we farm, bake, cook, create, try to protect our precious Earth, build community, and try to spread real food, peace, and joy.
Tell us why you decided to start both your local grain CSA, and your bakery, and how those are run/operateWe started the bakery in 2005. Ben and I were very interested in the world of food I had been to culinary school, and we had both worked in fine dining, but we wanted something more connected to people’s everyday lives. We were both out of work, and Ben had started making sourdough breads – so many that we couldn’t give them all away! We licensed our tiny residential kitchen and started baking for farmer’s markets. When the summer came to an end, we started wholesaling our breads and pastries to local restaurants, cafes, and small groceries, and finally we found our current space, where we run the bakery and cafe – just what we hoped for all along. We have a totally open kitchen, where our customers can watch us create the food they eat, and we make everything from scratch here, including items like our cream cheese. Ben and I run the business and do the majority of the baking, with the help of our wonderful counter staff, who also do some baking and food preparation. Ella, of course, is the real boss.
We created Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain in 2008. We’ve wanted to bake with locally grown wheat since we started (we have a huge emphasis on local ingredients), but it simply wasn’t available. In 2008, flour prices (and other food prices) started skyrocketing, due to a whole host of factors (crop failures, increased demand, land changed over for ethanol production), and suddenly we felt the time was right for a local grain project. Our community had a lot of interest in buying local grain (wheat in particular), but the farmers were hesitant to start growing a crop that hadn’t been grown here in half a century, plus they needed equipment most of them didn’t have. As farmers and bakers, we felt we could bridge that gap, from field to plate. We were very blessed to start a partnership with Arnie Voehringer at White Oak Farm and the New England Small Farm Institute. Arnie had land, experience with some of these crops, and he had a combine – a critical piece of equipment uncommon in this area. We started with just some trials, and then in spring 2009 we began planting for our grain & bean CSA. This harvest is going to almost 150 families, with crops from White Oak Farm, Lazy Acres Farm in Hadley, and three New York farms that we brought some grains and beans in from. Ben and I do most of the management of the program, as well as some of the field and processing work for PVHG.
And lastly, we run our own small farm, Yeoman Farm. We grow organic vegetables, fruits, and grains, to feed our family and to supply Wheatberry. We have a draft horse, two ewes (who we’ll start milking this spring – very exciting!), and a flock of chickens.
Running the bakery and the grain CSA, how do you balance your work life with your home life?Oh, balance. We strive for balance, and I do feel like we’re getting closer at this point, instead of farther away! We all go in to the bakery a couple of days a week, but mostly Ben is at the bakery while Ella and I stay home. We try our best to leave bakery work behind when we come home, but often we’re up late into the night problem-solving and brainstorming, like any small business owner. We do try to observe a true day of rest each week.For us, also, our work life is our home life. We are so incredibly lucky to have a path that we love. At the bakery, we display the Kahlil Gibran quote, “Work is love made visible,” and we truly feel that way. Our bakery, our CSA, and our farm are all expressions of our love for our community and the earth. Not to say that there aren’t hard days or even months, but overall, our love and passion sustains us, and our community feels that and gives it back to us in kind. Even though sometimes I wish for a peaceful home life where I just get to play with Ella and cook and clean, I’m also so glad she gets to see our work in the community, and be part of it.
You recently wrote four amazing posts/articles on how to live more sustainably (please see below). Can you summarize those for us, and tell us what your vision is for creating a sustainable life for you and your family.Thank you. I wanted to write some posts about the ways we’ve felt moved to make our own lives sustainable, not in a “granolier-than-thou” way, but in an inspirational and informative way. We continue as a family on a path towards a less wasteful, simpler life more grounded in our community. We try to live as stewards of the earth – the small piece that we “own,” and all the pieces we touch through our everyday decisions.Generations ago it was assumed that parents made sacrifices for their children and grandchildren, and today it breaks my heart to see so many people who feel they must just get as much for themselves and their families right now as they can, ignoring the impact on our collective future. We try to take no more than our fair share – it can be very challenging to figure out what that is, and how to make it happen.
You have a young daughter, Ella, does she help you in the fields and the bakery? How do you believe the work that you do will effect her

Ella is at our side about 98% of the time. This makes a lot of work more challenging for us, of course, but she also reminds us constantly why we’ve chosen this path. We hope that the work will shape her values, her work ethic, her commitment to tikkun olam (the repair of the world) and her heart. I’m sure she will decide a path of her own someday, but we definitely dream that someday we’ll have the pleasure of a multi-generation family business.

What is most important to you as a mother

To raise a child into an adult who believes in right action in the world. To know that I am living a life which helps ensure that she and her children will have clean water and food, and get to enjoy this beautiful Earth.

How has your handcrafting played a role with Ella, and where does that fit into your life?

Handcrafting brings us a lot of pleasure as a family. Working with our hands in soil, dough, yarn, fabric . . . we like to use our hands! We try whenever possible to engage Ella in all these things. Right now, I do most of my sewing and knitting after she falls asleep at night, but I get very excited when I see older children (like your own!) doing handwork. I imagine it will become a big part of our days.

What would you say to a family that is looking to follow in your footsteps

Start where you feel the inspiration. Don’t choose something that seems really hard or arduous. Start with what seems fun and exciting and delicious, and start where you can see the results. It can be hard to feel really good about something that only takes a few watts off your electric bill, but it can inspire you to continue moving forward if you choose something tactile and rewarding, like strawberries from your garden, warm from the sun.

How is the work that you are doing creating a community, and what are the changes as that community is growing?

Our work is really how we found our place here. Neither Ben nor I grew up in the Pioneer Valley, and we’ve made almost all our friends through our work. As we continue, that circle just grows and grows, and it’s wonderful, incredible, and humbling.

Your blog is an amazing resource, as well as being a beautifully written glimpse into your lives. what is important to you in connecting with the online community?
It’s so incredible to be able to reach people beyond our physical community here, and a great pleasure to learn from them as well. I’ve found so much inspiration, helpful ideas, tutorials, and kindness online, which I never imagined.

Adrie’s amazing posts on living sustainably
Step One – Buy Less Stuff
Step Two – Grow Food
Step Three – Eat Local
Step Four – Eat Less Meat, Eat More Grass

To read more about Adrie, Wheatberry Bakery, or Pioneer Valley Grain CSA, please visit her blog.

Thank you so much to Adrie for being here with us today. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

adirondackmama January 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

What a wonderful interview. Adrie is one of those people that I have no idea how they do all of the things that they do. I wish I lived closer, I'd be in their bakery every day! And the horse and the baby sheep are un-real!

What a beautiful life!

Thanks for giving me a little bit more insight into her world.


Chris Worthy January 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Ah, more kindred spirits — give me hope that our children will have a wonderful world in which to live.


Chris Worthy January 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

That should be "you give" :)


Tonya January 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm

This post was so wonderful and they are a family that our family admires and strives to be more like – to incorporate these same ideals into our daily work. I just love the quote "work is love made visible" – so perfect. Thank you thank you for sharing and inspiring.


Suzanne January 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Thank you for introducing Adrie to us! We live a few towns apart so I will make it a point when I go to Whole Foods to stop by their bakery:-)


Brooke January 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Thank you for sharing this! So much food for thought. And inspiring!


Maeghan January 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Very interesting. Thanks for introducing her to us.


Jenna January 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I just came over from Adrie's blog, and I fell in love with your blog. You have so much inspiration and goodness here. I will be back often


Its_Lily January 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Oh, I knew it had to be good if there's a horse in the house. What a beautiful family Adrie has and what a beautiful life. I'm heading over to her blog now. I can't wait to read her living sustainably posts. Wonderful!


Jennifer January 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Oh, wow! Adrie really is an inspiration; I LOVE how she refers to being good stewards of the earth. That is exactly how I feel, word for word, based on my own faith about much of what we try to do! And the problem solving of small business hits very close to home; it seems as though we are constantly talking "shop" around here. The business end of things (Ha!) is woven into almost every meal in conversation; it used to drive me a bit nuts that we couldn't get away, but now that the boys are getting a bit older, I love that they are a part of it all!


perches January 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Such a great interview, thank you for sharing!


Kelly January 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm

what a fantastic interview, thanks for the introduction!!


Mona January 22, 2010 at 8:59 pm

I recently found her blog and I sure like it a lot too. She's a real inspiration! And so are you, thank you for bringing this interwiev!


Jen January 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm

What a wonderful interview. I really like your questions and style as it really creates a wonderful picture of the person. I wanted to thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. I found your blog via SouleMama and Rhythm of the Home. Your articles there were fantastic and your blog is proving to be just as great.


valarie January 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm

What a fantastic interview. It was so great to get to know Adrie and her family a little better. What an inspiring story. I just love the way they live from their heart. Isn't Ella too cute? Thank you for doing these interviews I really really enjoy them. I also enjoyed reading more about you over at her blog. Heather can you help me with something? I know many a yoga teacher but what is a doula? I understand that you use yoga as therapy as we've been reading on the blog but what is the definition of a doula and what is the difference between a teacher and a doula?
Boy I think I made that complicated. :) Happy Weekend.


Stephanie January 22, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Great interview! I loved hearing about their family business. How great is that first photo with the horse indoors!


Emmalina January 22, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Wow! What phenomenal people, they are living an amazing life. Incredibly inspiring and humbling. Thanks for this Heather, I'll be checking out their blog too.


nicola January 23, 2010 at 2:27 am

i will have to visit her blog. it is new to me, but the interview makes me think she's living my dream life, too!


AG Ambroult January 23, 2010 at 3:17 am

oh yay! This is just another reason to love fridays. I had forgotten how much I love this day of the week now, for these interviews. How do you find such amazing women?!
so,sigh…She truly is living the dream. there's just to much to say I'm speechless now!
As a resident of MA I can say I will be seeking out her cafe and grains! yay!


Kyce January 23, 2010 at 3:37 am

What a lovely, inspiring, and uplifting interview. Thanks for turning me on to the goodness that Adrie's cooking up in the world.


larissa January 23, 2010 at 5:25 am

Another amazing interview with a totally inspirational woman.. On many Friday nights we light candles and discuss giving in light of being jewish – tonight i spoke with my kiddos about the importance of tikkun olam in relation to the suffering in Haiti. Then I come here and read about this amazing woman who is working to instill similar values in her child – what a small world. I say this each week but I truly mean it – Thank you so much for connecting us all through your thought provoking interview series.


Sachi January 23, 2010 at 1:00 am

Wow–these people are seriously inspirational! Thanks for sharing this.


geek+nerd January 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Awesome! I just read about the Wheatberry Grain CSA on Boston Eat Local a few weeks ago, and now this pops up again in your "circle." Adrie and I are neighbors of sorts, I will be popping in on her blog for sure! Thanks for sharing Heather!


Mindy Bell January 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I'm loving this series of interviews! just wonderful.
xo m


jessica January 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I loved this interview–Such an inspiring family! I went to the blog and read away with a cup of coffee. Perfect!


kaylovesvintage January 24, 2010 at 7:49 pm

love the horse in the living room…
love it Heather ,Adrie sounds very nice.


eliz~ so wabi sabi January 24, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Thanks so much for this introduction to Adrie, although I think I've been to her blog before it is always nice to get a bigger picture that an interview gives. What inspiration to live more sustainably…I am enjoying her series of steps to live more sustainably posts.


Tricia January 25, 2010 at 2:33 am

Thankyou for sharing the stoty of this inpirational family :-)


Manon January 25, 2010 at 3:01 am

What a wonderful and inspiring interview! And what an amazing blog that I'm so grateful to discover! I'm a member of the Free spirit knits class and this is how I have discovered your blog. I'll bookmark it in my blogroll and come back often!


Francesca January 25, 2010 at 6:38 am

I find really wonderful that a family so young would embark in such an amazing project. What an inspiration.


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