When groups of children arrive at Open Gate Farm, Tom Ward, the farmer, asks how many of them want to be farmers.Only a few do. But after the tour...
Tom Ward, owner of Open Gate Farm, gives one of his pigs a
back scratch. (Photo: Rose Jenkins)
After they gather a warm egg from under a hen, after they taste a yellow cherry tomato or raw asparagus for the first time, after they meet the gigantic, grunting boar with bristly fur and big ears flopped over her eyes, after they gawk at the preening turkey with a rumpled face that turns blue, pink, and white like a mood ring—when Tom asks again, lots of enthusiastic hands go up. “You don’t know it,” Tom tells the kids, “but at least five of you are going to end up being farmers.&rdquo
Those ones are lucky, if they take as much pleasure in farming as Tom and his wife, Michele Mattioli, do. “I have a farm because I love being a farmer,” Tom says. For example, when he’s milking goats early in the morning, “I’m leaning on my goat looking out over the yard, where I just let the turkeys and the chickens and the guineas out, going ‘This is amazing. This is amazing.’”
The animals enjoy a good life as well. “Animals live in the moment,” Tom says. “So we make each moment as great for them as possible, and then when it’s time to process a pig or whatever at the end of their season, then that’s what we do.” Like an old-fashioned homestead, Open Gate has a little of everything—animals for meat, eggs, milk, and cheese, plus a garden, and fruit and nut trees. For the most part, Tom and Michele sell right at the farm, so their customers get both fresh food and a country outing. They also offer tours for families and school groups, introducing their visitors to the joy of growing food.