Rich Jakshtis: An electrical engineer by training but a builder by vocation, Rich is a lifelong resident of Hardwick, MA. His grandparents ran a farm in town, and although Rich grew up in a house on the Hardwick Common, he spent much of his childhood at his grandparents’ farm. There he learned to fix nearly anything with an engine, work with animals, install and fix fences and make hay. As a young adult, Rich was a carpenter who built barns and houses. He then built a professional wood shop and was creating custom high end furniture out of reclaimed lumber when he met Kim. In the past decade his woodworking career has taken a back seat as Rich has worked hard to create Chestnut Farms. He is responsible for the construction of barns, pens, pits and roads along with the de-rocking and reseeding of fields, the trucking of animals to harvest and the maintenance and operation of all tractors and equipment on the farm. Occasionally he is spotted at a CSA distribution – usually in winter.
In his spare hour Rich sleeps each night.
Kim Denney: As a child Kim loved the Little House on the Prairie books and read them all repeatedly. She dreamed of living Laura’s life and credits the hours spent reading with driving her dream of farming. In addition, she grew up with a family that appreciated and valued open space. Her father would often tell her “they don’t make any more land”. He was instrumental in founding the Bolton Land Trust and today the Tom Denney Nature Camp honors his commitment to environmental stewardship each summer. As an adult, Kim purchased an abandoned farm and embarked on the path of her dreams. She has enjoyed a decade of life without a furnace and raised three children (a family of five) on one bathroom. For over a decade, Kim worked as a middle school teacher and school administrator fully believing that nothing is more fun than a thirteen year old. Today, she loves farming full-time and notes many parallels between her former middle school students and current farm animals
Marlisa: Kim and Rich’s oldest daughter moved to the farm at age ten. She gamely worked hard throughout her teen years often getting up at five am to feed and water animals before getting on a school bus at 6 am. She hauled brush, cut and split wood, slaughtered chickens, birthed animals and intubated horses. Farm life is fabulous for driving academic dreams and she was thrilled to go off to college. In 2008, Marlisa graduated from Brown University with a degree in Art History and Architecture. In 2011 she received her MFA in Architecture from Columbia University and is currently a practicing architect in NYC. She continues to support and contribute to our farm building designs and construction. Marlisa also does all of the design and artwork for our farm print materials.
Benedict: In 2013 we were fortunate to welcome Benedict to our family when he married Marlisa. Raised only 45 minutes south in pastoral Storrs CT, Ben is also an architect in NYC working for Columbia University. However, we have been able to uncover his inner farmer and Ben willingly performs all sorts of essential farm chores including cattle herding, stone wall building, chicken wrangling and pig castration. He can even shoot a clay pigeon in our back field! A wonderful musician in his earlier life, Ben is skilled at supporting family harmony across generations. Ben is often spotted at our open barns working the back pig pastures, parking cars and welcoming members.
Caroline: A seven year old spitfire when she moved to the farm, Caroline spent her childhood outdoors. She is a hard working young lady who can put a roof on a building, move stones and build a wall, herd pigs and birth cows. She was Kim’s partner in tire removal and spent one summer in her early teens removing over 700 tires from the farm one by one. On a good day they could do three pickup truck loads from the farm to the local landfill for recycling. In her mid-teens, Caroline combined farm work with our farmers markets presence and worked both the land and the markets. Like her sister, Caroline was thrilled about the relaxing pace of higher education. She graduated with a major in biology from Smith College in May of 2010. She then moved to Berkeley, CA where she gained invaluable experience in commercial agriculture by working in research in Integrated Pest Management. She spent part of the time in fields (cherry orchards, almond groves) running experiments and part of the time in the lab evaluating the results. In the fall of 2014, Caroline will matriculate at UMASS Amherst in a masters degree program in biology and ecology.
Sam: As the youngest, fifteen year old Sam is the one remaining on the farm full-time. Like his father and grandparents, Sam was born and raised in Hardwick. He is able to drive every vehicle on the farm including loaders, tractors and dump trucks. Sam is truly helpful with field work, livestock management, manure spreading and fence post pounding. Sam is comfortable and sanguine with our livestock and can feed, water and load all of our animals. He is a wonderful help and his sheer physical strength is an asset on both the farm and the field. He escapes to the classroom and sports whenever he can and, like his sisters, he loves school. (What is it about farming that ensures the love of school?). Sam’s affable nature and good work ethic are fantastic.