For over 30 years, Prudy Wholey, who is better known as Farmer Prudy, has been raising beef and pork to sell to loyal, repeat customers. To give an idea of the longevity of her customers, families order their meat from her throughout their children’s school years and beyond. Mostly, her customers pick up their orders at her home in Shelburne, MA, but each fall, one person comes to pick up beef orders packed in boxes that she takes across the state to board the ferry and deliver to people on Martha’s Vineyard.
Involving a ferry for deliveries is fitting as Wholey lives near Bardwell Ferry Road in Shelburne and runs along the Deerfield River — once forded by an actual ferry.
Prudy hails from a farm family, as her father Lawrence Wholey owned Ferry Farm in Shelburne, that included a farm in Conway. After her father died in 1961, when she was 10, all the children helped on the farm. The farm is now owned by her brother James, who has retired from dairy farming but still makes hay. Her younger brother John sells raw milk at his own farm, Wholey Cow Farm in Conway, MA.
Prudy and her former husband bought their own farm in Shelburne in 1981. At the time, it was a dairy farm named Fiske Farm with a huge, two story gray barn built in 1929. They took out the stanchions and left the space underneath open for beef cattle. Prudy had worked at nearby Foxbard Farms, with their Angus beef cattle. “I like Angus cattle, that’s what I’m used to. I think they’re very good beef cattle,” said Wholey. She also raised Herefords, or other crossbred cattle that she buys at auctions, cattle that she likes, and that are affordable. Her preference remains Angus.
Prudy raises four beef steers at a time, and likes to have standing orders for all of them. They eat the pasture down, and there are not so many that they overgraze it. Right now, they are off pasture and staying in the barnyard “so they don’t walk off all their food,” as they are a few weeks away from going to the slaughter and packing house in Wilmington, VT. They get a little bit of grain and lots of apples from a nearby orchard in Shelburne and round bales hay from her brother James’ farm. They each have names, and she knows their preferences for liking apples or rowan, which is second cutting hay. “I like them to be happy. Same with the pigs,” said Wholey.
She also raises three to four pigs, Yorkshires, or crossbred pigs, mostly Hampshire Yorkshire crosses at a time, twice a year. She buys them as piglets from her neighbors farm a quarter mile away. They are trucked to her farm in a dog crate. The pigs eat an assortment of fruit — peaches, apples, and pears — seconds, that got passed over for selling to people due to blemishes or bruises and milk and grain. Pigs also don’t perspire, they drink lots of water in hot weather and she keeps it available to them at all times. A friend built a wooden chute that can be disassembled so that the pigs don’t have to jump into her friend’s trailer on their out. This way, they just step a little way into the trailer.
Wholey notifies all her customers when to pick up their orders and they are ready and waiting. Her friends and nearby neighbor farmers help to deliver the produce and pick up and truck the cattle and pigs for her as she is legally blind, and therefore, cannot drive. It has not stopped her. She is a farmer, local historian, prize winning poet, and lends a helping hand to all her neighbors and friends.
She has also kept chickens for meat, but currently is allowing a friend to keep his chickens in her immaculate chicken shed.
Wholey has farmed all her life. “It’s consistent. I’m here every day. I rarely take off or go away on vacation,” she said.
Helping feed her brother’s cows one icy February morning in 2015, a cow was trying to get some of the grain she was carrying in two buckets. Another cow banged into that cow, and she fell, hitting Wholey on her leg along the way. Wholey sustained two stress fractures and a broken ankle. After her ankle surgery, she stayed the ensuing three months at her sister’s as she healed, and her family and friends fed her stock. “It pays to have family and friends. They help keep me going.” In turn, she helps them keep going.