Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love of the land = Marriage = Online local foods business

By: FarmersOnly Staff
Dairy farmer David Bone was milking one of his Jersey cows, Maggie, when he saw Jennifer for the first time, as she entered the barn on his Vermont family farm.
“My heart stopped,” he says.
“All I could think was “Oh!” says Jennifer, recalling their first meeting. “It was instant love.”
That love had started developing just a few weeks before, when the two met on FarmersOnly.com in July of 2009. FarmersOnly.com is the leading online dating site for single farmers, ranchers and others with down-to-earth values, who cherish a rural lifestyle.
David and Jennifer each turned to the site to find someone who shared their love of the land.
“Farming is definitely a lifestyle and I knew that FarmersOnly.com is where I needed to be. I wanted to be with someone who had the same work ethic and values as me,” says Jennifer.


The beginning
Jennifer, who is 37, grew up in a small town in New Hampshire. Her family raised goats and pigs and always had a large garden. She attended college and moved to Colorado for a short time. She later took a job managing a vegetable farm. Along the way, a marriage ended in divorce. She was now raising two small boys, but knew there was someone out there for her.
David, who is 43, was also divorced, but didn’t give up on finding the right one for him. He already had the perfect lifestyle, after taking over the Bone family farm from his uncle. David is also a former Marine.
“It’s like someone handing you a big chunk of gold. The farm means so much to me. I know every inch,” he says.
David follows a traditional approach to milking his 30 Jerseys. He doesn’t have a modern milking parlor. Instead, he uses an old-style machine that is carried to each cow. He straps it around her and then the machine milks into a pail. He then carries each pail to the bulk tank – about 30 pounds of milk, plus the 40-pound machine. Each cow produces about 60? pounds of milk from a 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. milking schedule. Each milking takes him about five hours, including feeding and cleaning chores. This grueling schedule left little time for dating.
“When you farm, you’re beat by the time you can go out. And, if you do, everyone is gone by the time you get there,” David says. “I know everyone in my small town. I just wasn’t interested in people I knew. And, not a lot of people are interested in a stinky dairy farmer,” says David. “Coming home for dinner in barn boots and coveralls…it takes a special kind of gal.”
Jennifer was exactly that gal. David did a search for single women in a 150-mile radius and Jennifer was at the top of the list. In fact, their online profiles on FarmersOnly.com were almost identical, with mentions of walks in the woods and lying under the stars. He even revised his profile after receiving a “flirt” from Jennifer. He was worried that she would think he had copied hers.
They exchanged just a few emails before talking by phone.
“When I heard her voice, she was so sparkly,” say David. They talked about what each did for a living and what they believe in. Within a few weeks, Jennifer drove up to meet David at his farm. They never left the farm for that first date, or any date. Instead, David showed Jennifer his favorite spots on his hilltop farm, a small gorge with a walking bridge and an Indian burial mound.
“We were exactly where we wanted to be,” she says.  “When you climb to the top of the farm, you can see forever.”



Lasting love
They made their relationship permanent when Jennifer moved to his farm that fall. She laughs that she needed to be up there by then, so she could plant her fall garlic.
“He was just so honest and so open and so himself. I fell in love with who he is. We came together in a way that was not guarded,” says Jennifer.
“I was 40 at that time. I let go and let God in,” David says. They soon became engaged.
“We didn’t really even have to talk about it. We both knew it was going to be,”
says Jennifer.  
And, no ring.
“I decided long ago that I was not marrying someone who gave me a ring. It’s not what I’m about.”
They married on April 24, 2010, on the farm near the gorge. The couple and their families and friends flew kites afterward.


Growing their farm
A little daughter, Genevieve, was soon borne into their family, a sister for Jennifer’s sons, Noah and Quinn. The couple is also growing their farm.
“I wanted to diversify with vegetables and downsize my dairy operation,” says David. “Lucky for me I married a vegetable farmer.”
The couple raises onions, garlic, lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, blueberries, potatoes, cabbage and carrots. They sell now mainly through farmer’s markets. But, that is changing with the launch of their web site, www.myfarmersmkt.com.
This online community links them and other farmers directly to consumers. Consumers order fruits and vegetables online and then make arrangements for pickup. Eventually, the site will feature growers nationwide. Consumers can order from wherever they’d like and make shipping arrangements.
The site will also soon help growers connect with institutions, such as hospitals or restaurants that are seeking local food. The “Bid to Grow” program lets smaller farmers bid together to supply a large order.  
“We are trying to reinstate the small family farm. But to be sustainable, you have to have a market. You can’t just hope it’s going to sell, you have to know it’s going to sell,” says David. “We’re taking local global. And we’re planting the seeds to grow farmers.”


Congratulations, David and Jennifer, on finding each other and on your new venture to support fellow family farmers and rural communities.

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