Dave and Caroline Owens started out, in the mid-1980s, pretty much like a lot of other couples: looking for a home and some land they could afford. They looked first in Massachusetts; when there was nothing there— “We couldn’t find anything even close to our price range,” says Dave ’84—they moved the search north to New Hampshire. Finally, in Pelham, they found an old house on 13 acres of land.
The idea at first was just to raise a few sheep: “We certainly weren’t on any sort of mission to start a farm,” says Dave, who earned his ULowell B.S. in engineering and was working at the time in the computer field.
But then 13 acres in Pelham became 112 acres in central Pennsylvania. The livestock population expanded from sheep to horses and pigs, as well as chickens, turkeys, working border collies and an apiary for honeybees. Over time, even the function of the place widened: Owens Farm today is not only a conventional farm, but also a kind of agricultural theme park and learning center that attracts visitors from all over the world.
You can bring your kids for an overnight “farm stay,” a week of “sheep camp” (halter training, wool making, lamb races) or a “lambing slumber party” (“Sleep at the farm during that magical time of year when the lambs are coming thick and fast”). For curious adults and farmers-to-be, there are lambing clinics, farm tours and a “Pastured Pork Day.” The lambs’ fleece and the bees’s honey are both for sale, of course, as are the sheep and lambs themselves.
What makes it all possible, and keeps it working, says Dave, are the “complementary skill sets” of the Owens family. Caroline, a former vocational agriculture teacher who has also worked in marketing communications, “is very good with mammals,” he says, as well as the marketing end of things. Their daughter, Melissa, a lover of all things equestrian, takes care of the horses. “And I’m in charge of maintenance, of anything that breaks,” as well as the poultry and bees.
“A farm is a system of parts you have to put together,” says Dave, who left a job at Hewlett-Packard in the mid-‘90s but still does some consulting online. “And the engineering training I got [at ULowell] helps give me the confidence to make it all happen.”