A Jersey cow uses a solar panel as shelter from a sudden rainstorm. Two golden retrievers run in circles next to a rambling Victorian farmhouse.
This is Hollister Hill Farm in Marshfield, VT, a working farm and bed and breakfast owned by Lee and Bob Light.
It was a dairy farm full of Jerseys until 1999 when Bob and Lee went into the B&B business. Their insurance agent told them of a client who raised beefalo and ran a B&B.
The Lights thought it might work for them. It did.
The 190-year-old house, with its front and side porches overlooking the rolling hills and farm fields, is a picture-perfect B&B. Inside, too, it’s right for the job. The farmhouse kitchen has plenty of room for family-style breakfasts. Those breakfasts often feature Lee’s homemade jams and butter along with goodies she has baked. A common room for the guests features books and games for rainy days and a cozy fireplace. The Lights have their own private suite of living room and bedroom connected by a separate staircase.
Connected to the little house is a greenhouse where Lee starts her annuals. Lush gardens surround the house.
Beefalo were the perfect replacement for the dairy herd, since they need grazing land. They are low-maintenance, easy breeders and very tame, Light said. They have between 70 and 80 head. Bob said he obtains a new bull every two years. They also have about 30 pigs, 40 laying hens, and a couple of hundred meat birds, plus 75 turkeys.
Of the 204 acres, 100 are in hay, 72 in woodlot and 25 in pasture. The farm has a pond, which has the expected Canada geese problem.
The farm store, which is run on the honor system, sells chickens, pork, beefalo and raw milk from the Jerseys they do have. The Lights also sell maple syrup, berries and produce. Orders are taken for Thanksgiving turkeys and the birds are slaughtered the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving to be picked up before Wednesday afternoon.
Hollister Hill has a big garden. Lee Light was in the perennial flower and herb business with a friend and still enjoys designing gardens. Decorative dried herbs hang from the kitchen beams, but Lee dries the ones she uses in a dehydrator.
Guests come from all over, national and international. Often they are city people who have become far removed from farming, although many have farming in their backgrounds. Children often come to Hollister Hill without much knowledge of farming but once they are here, barely leave the barn.
“Parents plan places to go and the kids want to stay,” Light said.
Recent visitors from the Netherlands included children aged 12 and 10. They learned to milk, collected eggs, took the dogs to the pond, played in the haymow and became acquainted with litters of kittens.
The Lights love what they do, but are considering selling the property as they are both of retirement age. Running a bed and breakfast as well as a farm can be a 24/7 responsibility, but the payback, in terms of fostering life-long friendships, has been well worth the effort.