Agricultural Curators Q + A: Homestead Manor
Our family just keeps on growing, y’all… literally!
We’re thrilled to welcome Casey and Joni McCarty to the A. Marshall clan, as the new agricultural curators at Homestead Manor–the freshest addition to our family of restaurants that will offer a unique farm-to-table dining experience. One of the coolest parts about dining at Homestead? You’ll be feasting on dishes with featured fruits and vegetables that will be growing right here on the grounds of this historic property.
Not sure what it really means to grow organic produce, or how you operate a “working sustainable farm?”
We sat down with Casey and Joni to find out the answers to those questions, and to learn more about their family’s passion for agriculture. Keep reading for the scoop on our newest A. Marshall family members, and what they’ll be bringing to Homestead Manor!
What will y’all be doing at Homestead?
We will be the agricultural curators for Homestead Manor and the restaurant, which means we will be organically growing the vegetables and fruits for the restaurant and the event center, while simultaneously keeping the integrity and style of Homestead. We’ll also show how farming practices have changed throughout the years through different methods of farming–from ground to hydroponic and aquaponic techniques.
What have you & your family been doing the last 10 years?
For the past 10 years we have been moving towards living off the land. Back in Washington state, we lived on a little hobby sustainable farm. We had a big garden where we dried, canned, and fermented the vegetables for the rest of the year’s meals. We also raised a number of animals, including goats and sheep.
With the joy and satisfaction of this lifestyle, we made a conscious effort not only to share this with others but to also let them know they are capable of doing the same. So, for the last three years we have been searching for a way to do what we love–and we simply couldn’t have found a better way to do so than through a farm-to-table restaurant located on a site that’s so rich in history.
What are a couple fun facts about you and your family?
As a family, we believe life is meant to be lived out in a way that’s similar to how we eat–with lots of different spices and seasonings! A sense of adventure and the desire to try new things are two qualities our family has a love/hate relationship with. We have lived in a remote, fly-in only village in Alaska, as well as an off-the-grid farm. We’ve travelled from West Coast to East Coast several times (by car!), but we’ve been able to do so because we all truly enjoy being together as a family.
What do you mean when you say you lived on a sustainable farm?
A sustainable farm means staying out of the grocery store as much as possible. Aside from a handful of items, we have been doing just that.
Why do you refer to yourselves as agricultural curators?
A curator is someone who oversees or is in charge of a museum or historical site. We are overseeing different methods and techniques of producing the vegetables and fruits here at Homestead Manor, so we thought our one-of-a-kind position here deserved a unique title.
Your life has taken you to some interesting places. What’s your craziest story to tell?
One of the craziest things we’ve ever done was when we travelled to Canada during the middle of the winter in a 1984 Volkswagen Fox that didn’t have a working heater. We bundled up, sat on our sheep fleeces and laughed together thinking about how few people would be willing to do what we were doing.
Another trip across the country–from California to Ohio–we travelled with 23 goats and sheep in an “ark” on wheels that we built ourselves. We’d pull over on the side of the road and milk the goats with a milking stanchion that pulled down on the side of the trailer–now that’s a sight you don’t see everyday!
What are y’all most passionate about? Why?
Our passion is life. Life is meant to be simple, but our world just makes it complicated with distractions and technology. Our family is constantly seeking to live simply.
Why is Homestead and what y’all have to offer important to the community?
Not everyone is in a situation where they’re able to grow organic produce, nor do we all have the same likes and dislikes. So there’s a variety of things to do and see when you come out here.
At Homestead, we are providing a unique experience for the senses and a learning opportunity regarding our work on the farm. We want to extend that to the community by sharing all of our expertise about natural, organic growing that can be done at home.
How do your educational backgrounds tie into your work?
I (Casey) have taught history and english in the public school system for 20 years and Civil War history is an emphasis I have always enjoyed. With the rich story behind Homestead Manor, it’s fun that I’m able to combine my passion for agriculture and history in a way that will better serve those who visit.
You mentioned a “pizza tour” in your bio. How cool! Tell us a little about that.
Some of our friends wanted to know more about what all this “sustainable farm” talk was, so we invited them over and built a dinner with them as we toured the farm. Our guests would pick the herbs and vegetables they wanted on their pizza and then go milk the goats and bring it into the kitchen to make the cheese. We even had a hand grinder for making flour! Then in the evening, when everything was done, we ate our pizza with home-brewed beer while watching the sheep graze in the yard.
Those McCarty’s are pretty interesting, right? Be sure to follow along as they document their Homestead adventures… and teach us all a thing or two in the process!