From her earliest years, Cindy Westover remembers her parents hosting gatherings at the family’s Great Brook Farm. There were regular Friday night card games, outdoor get-togethers around the horse shoe pit, and several big annual parties including a legendary July 4 barbecue with town-scale fireworks that has grown over the years to attract around 500 guests. Farmers don’t get away too much, Cindy notes: “They’re tied to the farm. I think my parents figured if they couldn’t leave, they’d bring the party here.”
Between social activities, though, there is always a huge amount of work to be done. Cindy and her brother Peter Graves are the ninth generation of the family at Great Brook going all the way back to 1761. Peter bought the 135-acre property from his parents in 1992 and continues to milk about 75 cows with just a little help, mostly during cropping season. “I don’t mind working all the time,” he says with a chuckle. “I never liked just hanging around. It makes me nervous to go on vacation.” Cindy has her own real estate business but stays involved running their Milkhouse Farm Store where locals swing by for Great Brook’s own beef, maple syrup and other regional products.
It remains to be seen if the 10th generation will take over some day. “That’s the part we worry about the most,” Cindy acknowledges. Her grown son, Andy, has always shown an affinity for farming. “As soon as he could walk, he was with my brother and my dad all day on the farm,” Cindy says. Andy operates the sugarhouse and helps around the farm but has also built his own off-farm business that actually allows him weekends off and vacation days. “We try not to push,” says Peggy Graves, Peter and Cindy’s mother. “You have to be realistic in this day and age.”
Peggy considers herself and her husband Bob lucky to have raised their kids on the farm with a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. “You can’t just feed the animals one day and not the next,” she says. “I think farm kind of adds to family and I think family is very important on a farm.” Peggy looks back on all the “homemade fun” with satisfaction, reflecting on the joy of sharing country life with friends and family: from snowy “sliding” parties lit by glowing bonfires to hosting inner-city kids through the Fresh Air summer program for years.
With 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren nearby, the family Thanksgiving table must now accommodate about 50 and has moved from the house into Peter’s shop. When her son mentions that it doesn’t look as nice, Peggy says, “I tell him, ‘It’s the getting together that matters.”