Local Hero Profile: Falls Brook Farm
By Hope Rhoades, CISA Intern
Published in CISA’s March 2015 Enewsletter- Sign up here!
“I just enjoy them so much,” says Eileen Gates, sipping her coffee and smiling towards the barn, which houses six goats, 35 chickens, and two guinea hens. “They’re our family.” Falls Brook Farm, built by Eileen and her husband Dick, is a true labor of love.
Surrounded by the expansive Carl Knittle Conservation area in Blandford, Eileen and Dick Gates purchased their farm house and nine acres of farmland in May of 2006. They both grew up in urban environments but had always entertained the idea of farming and shared a love for animals. Eileen and Dick wanted to continue the farming traditions associated with the land and pursue a farming lifestyle.
Without plans for specific enterprises, they started with four laying hens that came to them as a house warming gift. Seeing the potential for a small livestock operation, Eileen attended a “Woman in Kidding” program at Heifer International’s Overlook Farm where she gained hands-on experience working with goats. Upon completion of the program, Eileen was attached to Danny, a four day old, four pound goat in need of a home, and she decided to bring him home to the farm. “It all started with that little goat,” Eileen says. Since Danny required bottle-feeding and constant care, he lived in Eileen and Dick’s home for the first month of his life on the farm. A goat named Peanut came next, adopted as a companion for Danny, and Eileen and Dick started to think about raising goats as a business. More interested in animal products that don’t require slaughter, Eileen and Dick decided to raise goats for fiber. Pygora goats produce a unique and desirable fiber, and so they expanded their herd with four Pygoras: Hazel, Pico, Bella, and April.
The health and comfort of their animals is a top priority. Eileen and Dick do all of the shearing themselves and happily spend extra time to maintain the cleanliness of their barn and the goats’ fibers. “I enjoy spending time with them,” says Eileen. Eileen continues to take knitting and spinning classes to improve her skills and to network with other knitters and fiber enthusiasts. Eileen and Dick operate a self-service farm stand where they sell their eggs, yarn, and a handful of other locally made products. They also grow and sell a substantial amount of hay during the season. Eileen also sells her yarn online through Etsy, at Northampton Wools, and has also started to vend at farmers’ markets.
Eileen and Dick both continue to work off-farm, but they are looking forward to expanding their farm as they reach retirement. Small gardens of raspberry and lavender occupy space surrounding the house and evoke questions of what to do next with their property. An evolutionary style of farming offers excitement for Eileen and Dick as they discover what works best for the farm and for themselves.