Yellow Barn Farm
By Vanessa Herald | Photo By Rebecca Claypool 0
“I really hope to give people a way to feel connected to the earth and connected to themselves through what they are eating. I want to help weave that thread.” – Rebecca Claypool, owner of Yellow Barn Farm
Rebecca Claypool grew up a city kid in West Philadelphia, a long distance from her new home at Yellow Barn Farm just west of Spring Green. Despite her urban roots, the seeds of the farming life were planted early for Rebecca during a Maine Coast Semester at the Chewonki Foundation during high school. In her time away from home, for the first time she dug potatoes, milked cows and collected eggs – all of which left a lasting impression.
Now in the third year of production at her own small, diverse vegetable farm, the agricultural pursuits sparked in high school are in full bloom. Rebecca, like many other young or beginning farmers, acquired her farming education through years of experience interning and working on other peoples’ farms. She was motivated by the fact that, personally, there is something important about being a part of a process that is so fundamental: eating. “It’s nourishing. It’s loving. It feels like farming has always been the way I can express my love or give back to the community,” she comments. While following her passion, she was also gaining sufficient skills to lay the foundation for her own farm.
In the interim years between the impactful semester on the farm and the start of Yellow Barn Farm, Rebecca didn’t stray too far from agriculture. After high school, she attended Bates College and earned a degree in biology. Immediately following, she leaped into an AmeriCorps term of service as an educator at a working Maine dairy farm. When it was finally time to step away from the east coast, she landed at Featherstone Farm in Minnesota for two seasons, Tait Farm in Pennsylvania, Vermont Valley Community Farm and Greenspirit Farm in Wisconsin. If Rebecca’s path to farm ownership suggests anything, it’s the value of gaining experience working at a variety of different farms before starting your own.
“Even though I love farming, I’m a cautious person,” Rebecca explained about her decision to attend the Agroecology Masters program at UW-Madison. “A graduate degree would allow me to have options: to work for Extension or grow into the field in a different way. I know life is long and I might not want to farm forever,” she elaborated.
Rebecca recalls the moment when the thoughts of her own farm became a reality. While working at Greenspirit Farm in Dodgeville, she saw the farm succeed while operating at a manageable scale and using practices requiring minimal financial investment. “I could do this!” she thought, as she imagined herself starting small and creatively crafting the systems to make it all work on a small budget. Rebecca’s long-standing trepidation of taking on a farm mortgage and starting a farm as a girl from City Center Philly melted away.