Good Life

Marion Township couple starts from the beginning with 14-acre farm

CDT photo

The gravel road that connects Christie Pace and Mark Holloway’s new farmstead to the rest of Marion Township stretches almost two miles — that’s roughly 2 miles during which all traces of civilization gradually recede into the distance.

Except for the highway.

It should be hidden by a set of towering trees whose leaves have a been an unfortunate causality of the autumn season but would be a much better fit with the rustic 130-year-old barn that lines the edge of the property.

In fact, the sight and sounds of the passing vehicles are the only incongruous disturbance to an otherwise tranquil enclosure.

It’s both exactly and not at all what Pace and Holloway were looking for when they relocated to the area from Philadelphia to escape the claustrophobia of the city.

The search parameters they set on real estate were simple — Pace and Holloway wanted something with between 3 and 4 acres of space.

They settled for a 14-acre farm.

Now Pace and Holloway are giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “farm fresh.”

“I joke that everything we know about gardening we learned from the Pinterest and Google,” Pace said.

The newest additions to the central Pennsylvania landscape of fertile fields aren’t exactly farmers — not yet anyway. But they’re working on it.

One of the first steps in that direction is their campaign on Barnraiser, a crowdfunding website geared specifically toward — you guessed it — farmers.

Pace and Holloway are trying to raise enough money to repair 130 years worth of wear and tear to their barn as well as purchase a few farm-friendly essentials like a tractor or greenhouse.

“We’re excited to take a chance and make a change,” Pace said.

It wasn’t long ago that Pace was working for a private consulting and engineering firm near Philadelphia. The hours were long, and she and Holloway barely saw each other.

“I was nearing burnout,” Pace said.

They decided to take tentative steps in the direction of a life free from clock punching and the more the couple evaluated their goals, the more a pastoral existence slowly started to come into focus.

It would be a leap for sure. Both Holloway and Pace had only had tangential experiences with agriculture and now they had 14 acres worth of space where a chore as simple as mowing the lawn takes up to three and a half hours.

“I think we might have been blindfolded to just how much work it would be,” Holloway said.

Fortunately, they’ve had some help.

Pace and Halloway approached Kathy Kelley, a professor of horticultural marketing and business management at Penn State, for insight on how to get their upstart farm in business.

Kelley did them one better, turning the farm over to her students as the basis for a class project.

In December, the group will present Pace and Halloway with an analysis of their options as farmers and strategies that they can deploy to turn a profit.

But until then, there’s still the matter of that barn.

The couple is hoping to keep the renovated structure as close to the original as possible minus the termite damage, antiquated wiring and weather ravaged brown exterior.

Pace and Holloway plan to use the space — which they hope to have finished by February — to host luncheons, homesteader workshops and weddings, starting with their own.

The Barnraiser campaign, which is current at almost 25 percent of their $2,500 goal, is set to end Oct. 31. Each donation is an investment in Pace, Holloway and the property they’ve chosen as their new home.

“We want to leave this place better than we found it,” Pace said.

For more on the project and Barnraiser campaign, visit www.facebook.com/rootedfarmstead.

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