Photo: Alissa Hessler
A while back husband and wife team Alissa and Jacob Hessler came to visit Little Ghent farm from their home base in Maine. Over the past few years, Alissa has been working on finding, connecting with and photographing a network of creative people who decided to leave their urban existences behind and move to the country just as they had done (from Seattle to Coastal Maine). When Alissa’s not working on the Urban Exodus project she runs Hessler Creative, a boutique creative agency/photography studio and co-teaches landscape photography workshops around the U.S. with Jacob.
The feature involves a Q&A format with both of us. The introduction follows below with a link to the full article on the Urban Exodus website.
“It was early fall when Urban Exodus visited Mimi and Richard Beaven’s Made in Ghent farm, farm store, bakery and gathering place. The apples were ripe for the picking and the fall harvest had commenced. The farm store was bustling with people coming to buy produce, meat and bread for their evening meals. Mimi was busy at work in the kitchen, whipping up fresh scones, while Richard was working on various projects that needed attention on the farm. Upon first entering Made in Ghent, it is difficult to believe that only four years ago this 75-acre farm was overgrown fields and a few derelict buildings.
Mimi and Richard started as weekenders in Columbia County, they bought a little farmhouse on a small plot of land and would come up to escape the madness of New York City on the weekends with their two daughters. Each visit, they found it harder and harder to return to New York. They started a vegetable garden, began raising animals and realized they were both ready for a major life change. Richard had worked in the advertising world for many years and the constant travel and stress had left him ready for the next adventure. With their two daughters entering high school they thought long and hard about what truly held meaning in their life. They were ready to take a leap of faith and start a new venture together. They sold their home in the suburbs outside of New York and moved into their little farmhouse. Richard commuted back and forth until they found their current farm, just a mile from their previous place in Ghent, New York.
They invested their life savings to build Made in Ghent, knowing full well that it meant their business had to become sustainable in order to not have to return to their previous city lives. They also knew that they would be in it for the long haul, this would be their forever farm, something they would continue to run when their city friends had long since retired.
Made in Ghent is constantly evolving and adding new offerings for their local and seasonal community. In addition to running an Animal Welfare Approved meat and egg business, Mimi makes bread, baked goods and preserves for the store, they host farm dinners and run creative and business development workshops. Richard has channeled his former agency skills into his photography and has established himself as a respected photojournalist in the Hudson Valley, working for the Wall Street Journal and other major media outlets on regional stories. Mimi has channeled the success of her kitchen pursuits into her first book Do Preserve: Make Your Own Jams, Chutneys, Pickles and Cordials that she co-authored with a friend.
Although they both feel like they work even harder now than they did in their previous lives, the work feels meaningful and they get to do it side-by-side. Their daughters are flourishing, loving being surrounded by the natural world and the family has solidly rooted themselves in their local community. The support, mentorship and friendships they have made in such a short amount of time has solidified their resolve that they made the right move. Although it certainly hasn’t been easy and the learning curve steep, walking up into the high fields above their farm at sunset and gazing out on the Catskill Mountains, they feel incredibly lucky they took a risk and created Made in Ghent”. (Click here to read the interview at Urban Exodus)