Bill Turner–who runs Turner Farms in Egremont, Massachusetts with his brother, Paul–did not expect his son, Darrell, to become the next farmer in the family. Neither did Darrell himself.Sometimes #farmlove runs so deep, it catches you off guard. #TurnerFarms Click To Tweet
Darrell, 33, is the fourth generation of Turners on the farm his great-grandfather bought in the beautiful Berkshire Hills in the mid-1950s, paying $20,000 for 140 acres and a house. As a kid, he liked helping out in the calf barn, Darrell recalls, “but I always planned to study mechanical engineering. I’d always worked with my dad in the shop. My family is very mechanically minded. We do all our own repair work.”
The young man went to college in the Boston area, graduated with his engineering degree and landed a solid job right out of school for a plastics company. He did well and, by the age of 30, Darrell was the solo engineer on a new $1.5 million plant project in charge of up to two dozen contractors at a time. While he enjoyed his work, Darrell said, “It was definitely stressful. I felt like I was going to burn myself out.” One day, he recalled, “My wife and I looked at each other and decided to take a break, quit our jobs and travel for a while.” The couple visited 13 national parks over two months and then came back to Egremont to stay with Darrell’s parents while they figured out their next steps.
With the time and space to consider their options, Darrell said, it became clear that he wanted to come home to farm. His wife, who also grew up in the area and is an architect, agreed. Bill and Sue, his parents, were surprised but pleased. “They went off to the real world and came back,” Bill recalls. “Darrell came to me one morning and he said, ‘Dad, do you suppose there’s a spot here for me?’”
“I figured I could help out as everyone got older,” Darrell says. “I’ve always been a really hands-on person. I enjoy physical labor. I like tinkering with stuff.” The farm had grown to 120 milking cows and more than 600 cropped acres. “I could see where it could use another person, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to work with them, compatibility-wise,” Darrell admits.
It’s worked out well, everyone agrees. “Three years in, we’ve kind of meshed,” Darrell says. “We find our own corners,” his dad says. “It’s pretty nice having him back here.”
Darrell and his wife recently bought his grandparents’ house and are feeling settled in for good. “We came back looking for kind of a simple life. We’d done the city life. We wanted to get back to the country,” Darrell says. “I really appreciate the ability to work with my father and my uncle. It’s nice to be able to be the young face on a farm. People are always surprised to see that I’ve come back. It’s nice to be able to be part of the tradition of the farm. In some way or other, I think I’ll be able to continue it.”
Like many of our farm families, Darrell’s mom Sue Turner says her family likes pretty straightforward food to fuel them through long days: “Give them meat and potatoes, salad and vegetables and they’re happy. And chocolate cake every once in a while.” Her husband Bill does admit to really enjoying a good macaroni and cheese with ham.
Here’s a lighter version of ham macaroni and cheese with the vegetables built in.
Or, while the summer still steams, try this fun twist on macaroni and cheese with bacon in pasta salad form.
And a classic chocolate layer cake made moist and tender with Cabot Greek yogurt.
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Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).