An Interview with Runaway Farm
In anticipation of AS220 Foo(d) and The Bar at AS220’s first ever Farm-to-Table brunch on Saturday, May 21st, Sarah Quenon, General Manager of Food & Drink, interviewed our first featured farmers for the event. Runaway Farm is located in Dartmouth, MA and is owned and operated by Adrian Fulk and Claudia Arsenio.
Sarah Quenon: How did you get into farming/raising livestock?
Claudia Arsenio: Farming was always in the background in each of our lives, but I will admit our farm is all Adrian’s fault. He had spent some time on a farm as a teenager, and had worked as a cook most of his life, so his interest in food itself grew from there. We met, and different health issues created a life changing situation for us, making healthy, affordable food a basic need we couldn’t afford to ignore. We started a family, and Adrian began interning at a few local farms. He became slightly obsessed with farming, constantly reading and researching, then someone offered him land to rent and before I had a chance to stop him, we were farmers.
SQ: How long have you been farming/raising livestock?
CA: Adrian and I started Runaway in 2011. We ran a small CSA and began acquiring our select breeding stock. A few years later, we were able to purchase our farm in Dartmouth, where we are now able to focus on our heritage breed livestock and permaculture.
SQ: Why do you think growing chemical free produce and pasture raised livestock is important?
CA: Industrial farming is poisoning our planet and our bodies. We can all eat and coexist without such destruction. What they say is true, without your health, you have nothing. Each meal is an opportunity to impact your body, and the world in a positive or negative way. I was a vegetarian for 15 plus years, so the quality of life for our animals is very important to me. Our livestock eats, roams and thrives. The animals all do their part in the healthy revival of our land. The goats and sheep eat the invasive weeds, the pigs till fields, and they grow and ultimately provide many families with a delicious, healthy meal that we are proud of.
SQ: How do relationships with small farm-to-table restaurants play a role in your farming?
CA: Without this specific relationship we would not be able to sustain the farm. Besides the dependable revenue, the chefs that we work with really help us showcase our product, and allow us to actually feed a larger audience. We love to see (hopefully taste) these amazing creations! Our chefs truly appreciate our food, they have always been our biggest supporters.
SQ: What community do you see yourselves being a part of?
CA: Adrian and I actually met outside AS220, I will always love this city and feel like I am a part of its community. Thankfully, our farm is only 25 minutes away, so it is easy to maintain the relationships we have built here. Because our farm was abandoned for over 8 years, reclaiming the land, and barns, and house have kept us too busy to be as engaged in the community as we would like to be. We currently work with our son’s school, donating plants and pigs to clear their garden, and hope to expand that relationship. Our vision for the farm has always included a community, open source learning platform for the exchange of knowledge and ideas.
SQ: What are some of the challenges you face as a small farm?
CA: Funding, feed, equipment, regulations, permits, no 401K, no day off, no vacations, no security, what if everything dies? Farming is a lot of hard, back breaking work, the hardest job we have ever had. We make a lot of sacrifices as a family to keep the farm running, never enough time or money to do all the things that need to be done. Runaway is still a start-up, built by just the two of us, our children and an occasional friend kind enough to volunteer. Slowly, we have invested every penny we have yet to make in equipment and improvements. With livestock there is never a vacation, one of us has to be on the farm every day to take care of the animals properly. Even if you go to lunch, you suffer farm guilt.
SQ: What is the greatest reward of farming and raising livestock?
CA: It’s a love hate relationship, as you can read from the previous question/answer, haha. At the end of the day, I love to see my animals in the pasture. I love that my son is a little rabbit and picks one bite off of each of my kale plants because they are delicious. Our family works hard, but we are together, Adrian and I get to spend more time with our children than most parents who work 40 plus hours a week. Our days are diversified. The farm heals us. I feel good about the food I grow, and my personal impact on the environment. Our farm was once a thriving apple orchard. Our first year here, we tended to the remaining 4 apple trees, and we were gifted one apple. It was so incredibly delicious. Last year, we had 5 apples. I suppose those apples have been the greatest reward to me yet.