We – Marcia and Claudia – live in different states, and are close friends who met at East Hill Farm more than 25 years ago. Since then, we – and our families – have been coming to the Farm for the same week every year. We have often had conversations about the ways in which East Hill Farm is special and unique. So, we decided to sit down and capture our thoughts. We then decided to ask some of our other Farm friends about their experiences as well.
We posed the following question to ourselves and others:
“What made you want to come back to East Hill Farm after your first visit?”
Marcia: I often think about our then-six year old daughter who had always been afraid of animals and was not very independent. At the Farm, we were delighted to find her leaving the cabin at 6 am, with new friends, to go sit in the chicken coop and look for eggs. She ran around with other kids – without us – and loved her new-found freedom. We realized that we were able to read, talk with other adults and not worry about her safety. At the Farm, everyone looks out for one another. Although we came as a family, and didn’t know anyone else, we also were easily able to make new friends. We had fun together, without the distractions and responsibilities of home, e.g., feeding the animals, playing games, taking walks, and participating in many activities. We loved the fact that we didn’t have to lock our doors, and we always felt safe and secure. We began coming for three days – which was all we were able to book. We got “hooked” on the combination of worry-free relaxation and fun, and, after a few years, we were coming for the entire week. And the rest is history.
Claudia: We first came with our two daughters, ages six and two, and with some family friends, so we had a built-in social group. They were dear friends who had moved several states away and the Farm was a perfect spot for reconnecting. We loved eating meals together and then lingering in the dining room while the kids dashed off to do the many things they found irresistible, e.g. petting bunnies, collecting eggs and chasing one another around the property. In between meals, we sat on the lawn chatting, swam, hiked Mount Monadnock and/or dropped in on the craft activities our young children were engaged with. The toughest decisions were whether to sit by one of the pools or on the grass in a lawn chair —and whether to have a fritter at dinner. Whether or not to come back was scarcely a question – the girls adored it more than any other place in the world and would have gone on strike if we even considered not returning. And, it was the only week in the entire year that I, as a busy working mom with two young kids, could actually relax. We enjoyed both the time with our girls ….. and the guilt-free time without them!
Here is what we heard from some of our friends…
Mary Ann – whose children were only two and four when the family first came, and are now grown, said: I found it to be an incredibly happy place. I didn’t have to plan, make decisions, cook, clean or leave the Farm for any reason. It was just so easy. The freedom for my kids was breathtaking. As long as they were in sight of any adult, I knew they would be safe. And there was always so much for them to do; everything was fun!
Ed – with two preteen boys, whose family has been coming for about seven years, said: The Farm provided a sweet spot for social connection with my family and with other adults, as well as opportunities for solitude…. because my kids were busy… and happy. And, I slept well here.
Deb – who has been coming for about 20 years and whose children were almost two and four their first time – said: In the past, we had rented a beach house. It was such a hassle, bringing food, sheets, towels, etc. Here you came and everything was taken care of. You didn’t have to worry about meals. If you didn’t like what was on the menu, you could get something you wanted. My husband liked grilled cheese and he still has it to this day. It’s very relaxing, so accommodating, anything you need, they do!
Karen – who first visited East Hill Farm when her kids– now in their 20’s– were only one and three, said the following: The real reason we came back initially was because the Farm created an environment where we could be together and do things as a family. As two working parents, it was difficult for us to spend meaningful time with our children at home; the events of daily life would interrupt. The Farm afforded the time to spend with our kids. Someone else was cooking the meals – we just had to show up! We could watch our kids at the chicken coop, with the bunnies … and see the enjoyment on their faces. The Farm was also accommodating. We asked to eat dinner 30 minutes early as it worked better for our kids and they made it very easy. We never felt bad about asking.
And finally a mother of two, Julie, whose kids—now nine and thirteen– were two and six the first time they came reports: The first time we went, we got a glimpse of community. There was a three-generation family there. They were very warm and welcoming and interesting to talk to. We didn’t make a lot of friends that first year, but we did chat with people, and they were curious and open…. which you don’t find in every community. The Farm encouraged family togetherness. For the adults there was adult stimulation. It made it easy to be a good parent. You got ideas and input from other parents…. and there were other kids to make it easier. Plus, there were activities, so you weren’t always having to come up with ideas. So why wouldn’t you want to come back? The first day, our younger son had chicken soup and he loved it. He wanted the chicken soup at every non-breakfast meal. And you know what? They gave him chicken soup! Done! That’s the attitude. It’s not like they have this mold and you have to fit it.
Above are several reflections about what brought many of our friends’ families back after that first time. Now, more than 25 years later, Claudia and Marcia still return. So many things have changed: our kids are grown and have full-time jobs …. and we are working less. And yet we still come back every year. And that is a conversation for another time….
What made you return to East Hill Farm after your first visit?