An expatriate family leaves the mad rush to buy a dairy farm.
Eric and Molly Glasgow were living in London with their two young boys when they decided they had had enough. As an oil trader and art director, respectively, they had moved every two years for Eric’s work for a decade. So what do two expats who are interested in food, but have no experience in agriculture and food production do? They naturally buy an 86-acre Martha’s Vineyard dairy farm. The couple were determined to make their own cheese using organic practices. “We really had no idea,” Molly laughs.
But in fact, the Glasses had done their research: a month after the property in Chilmark closed in 2009, they arrived at the Hutker Architects offices with an 80-page document, complete with a mission statement and programmatic needs and physical, energy requirements and the number of animals on their potential farm. “They had inquired about all of this,” says project designer Greg Ehrman. At the heart of it all, they wanted the people who visited their farm and bought their produce (eggs, raw milk, cheese, and meat) to leave with an understanding of where their food came from.
The team immediately got to work on what Ehrman calls “one of the most unique projects ever in our office,” building a house and seven new farm buildings while modernizing and renovating. a historic barn, which has been raised to create a basement for cheese. cellars and aging of meat. The couple, who lived in a tiny three-bedroom house on the property during construction, hired two general contractors – one for the house and one for the farm – who had to deal with issues such as how to d ‘get three semi-trailers. loads of antique lumber, from seven states and Canada, on a boat and through Vineyard Sound.
Ehrman and his associates often work on waterfront properties with stunning ocean views, but it was different. “We weren’t looking in one direction, and it changed the way we think about it,” he says. “Sometimes it’s about monitoring farm operations; other times it is property or animals. It was also important that it was the couple’s primary residence, not just a seasonal home, where families enjoy close quarters for a short time. “The lifestyles are so different [year-round]Ehrman says. Family members need their own space.
Instead of a traditional farmhouse with a wraparound porch, Hutker Architects designed a house that would feel original to the property, with the look of an old barn structure. It would be rustic, with a gable roof and naturally weathered cedar plank siding, but with contemporary tweaks including blackened stainless steel windows and oversized openings. “We wanted people to watch twice and [ask], ‘Is it the house, the dairy or the barn?’ Says Ehrman.
It took 18 months to build the 5,000 square foot home and about six more months to complete the farm. Molly Glasgow calls interior design a ‘modern Belgian farmhouse’. “It’s not meant to be perfect and flawless,” says Ehrman. “You get some interesting quirks.” Exposed mortise and tenon joinery, for example, serve as exhibition nooks for the Glasgow boys’ Lego creations. The floors were milled from the same material as the beams: a mix of red and white oak, beach, elm, poplar and hickory, hand hewn and salvaged from century-old barns. The split-face limestone, chosen for its aged and earthy appearance, was paired with a flush grout in a natural tone that would look true to an agrarian building.
Upstairs are two bedrooms and the master suite, plus a lounge for the boys. An annex to the house, designed to look like an addition to the original barn, includes two guest bedrooms. The guest bathroom protrudes from the building, almost like “a shed starting to wobble,” Ehrman says.
But the kitchen is the focal point of the house. “I wanted each line [to come] out of the kitchen, ”Molly says, because“ that’s where we come together. The boys, ages 10 and 12, do their homework at the counter while Molly chops vegetables and prepares meals. When it’s time to practice their musical instruments, the kids migrate to the formal living room, which has a glass wall that overlooks the farm… a view that constantly changes, depending on the movement of the animals.
“I had visions of what it would be like to be on a farm, get up, milk the cows and feed the chickens and pigs,” says Molly. The reality is totally different. “Every day, twice a day, the cows have to be milked. This is the part that was a real shock. You don’t have a weekend. We would just sit down to dinner and we had to [do something] at the farm-[like help] a calf being born. It’s like that haze this first year after having a child. Nothing prepares you.
Three years after moving into their new home, the Glasgows have finally settled into their new reality. The boys have farm chores, like feeding the chickens before school, and Eric oversees the farm. Their products can be found in Formaggio Kitchen and Whole Foods markets under the Gray Barn label. Molly checks in with the animals daily – their pigs, Lucy, Big Bessie and Gurdy, have all given birth recently. A litter can produce 6 to 16 piglets.
“There were times [that were] so stressful we wondered, why did we create this complete madhouse for ourselves when we could have just stayed in london? Molly thought about it. But then she wouldn’t have known that chickens have cliques. And that there is a lead cow who insists on being the first to milk every time. And at 600 pounds, mature sows aren’t cute like Wilbur.
And even if Molly would have eventually found out that she had a severe dairy allergy, it would have lacked irony if she hadn’t spent two years learning the art of cheese making.
Architect Hutker Architects
Interior decorator Kathleen Walsh Interiors
General contractor, main house Holmes Hole Builders
General contractor, Farm John G. First entrepreneur and builder
Landscape architect Landscape architects Horiuchi & Solien
Landscape contractor Contemporary Landscapes
Lighting designer Dave nelson