Land. Animals. People.
Ask Cally and Jesse McDougall why they gave up their successful web design business to run Cally’s family farm and that’s their answer.
Land. Animals. People.
Studio Hill Farm, located in the idyllic town of Shaftsbury, Vermont, has been in Cally’s family for five generations. She and Jesse share a reverence for both the traditions that have sustained this property for hundreds of years and the innovation necessary for survival. At the start of their tenure, their immediate priority was the soil - restoring it to its natural and fertile state using the methods of regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is defined by a series of principles, and in the case of soil, these are: 1) Eliminate Tillage, 2) Keep Plant Residues in the Soil, 3) Keep Living Roots in the Ground, and 4) Maximize Diversity of Plants and Animals
Why am I talking about this? What does this have to do with the gorgeous Airbnb that Cally and Jesse have established on the property? A lot, actually.
Cally and Jesse repurposed these principles beyond their literal applications, and, in the spirit of biomimicry, they are transforming Studio Hill Farm into a model for the local, state, and national economies. For their farm to exist five generations from now, income streams must also embrace diversification, and that’s where their Airbnb, the Vermont Schoolhouse Cottage, comes in.
I found their Airbnb long before I started Weekends Around and was immediately smitten - their Airbnb write up is warm, informative, and clear. Their pictures convey the beauty of the grounds and the impeccable interior design, giving every indication that they spent more than 3 minutes roaming the halls and taking a few shots on their iphone. And the reviews...the reviews are the best I’ve ever read, with guests offering so many specific details, and positve experiences it is clear Vermont Schoolhouse Cottage offers something truly special. When I personally visited the property and met Cally (Caroline), it was such a relief to have my expectations exceeded. Few things ever live up to the hype, but Vermont Schoolhouse Cottage most certainly does.
Its beauty comes from both thoughtful details and the property in its entirety. Mudcloth textiles, sheepskin throws, tiny succulents scattered throughout share the spotlight with the expansive mountain views, wild meadows spotted with sheep, and inimitable natural beauty.
I have thought about Jesse and Cally and their Airbnb nearly every day since we met months ago. Their dedication to diversification is, of course, practical, but there is something bigger happening here too. Perhaps to fully understand this strange phenomenon I need to articulate what they are so intentionally not doing.
Regenerative agriculture is a direct response to the overly complicated and damaging practices of industrial single crop farming on a large scale, a practice known as monoculture, and CAFO’s - Concentrated Animal Feed Operations. It pains me to state the obvious - these facilities are damaging “the environment”, a word I put in quotes due to the perversion of its definition from simply the world around us to some incomprehensible conspiracy against capitalism and American Freedom,.
America has had a long but complicated love affair with diversity, beginning right at its inception. Today, it is widely known that monoculture is harmful, from water contamination all the way to the diabetes epidemic. Nearly three hundred years ago, James Madison, generally referred to as the father of the constitution, understood the integral role diversification has in sustaining basic liberty. While speaking at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, he so eloquently stated, “This freedom arises from that multiplicity of sects which pervades America, for where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.” Like many of the men and women of that time, James Madison’s greatness as a leader was undeniably blemished by being a slave owner, a hypocrisy with which he admittedly struggled. Fortunately, leaders would very soon follow with the strength and opportunities to align Madison's personal belief's with the policies of our country. Today, Cally and Jesse are part of the movement aligning our agricultural, environmental, and economical interests.
Welcoming travelers from all over the world on to their property, they offer a little respite along side a meaningful, replenishing, agricultural experience. The byproduct of their energy and efforts is its own source of renewable energy: an education for their children and the world at large on the power of diversity.
Stay at Vermont Schoolhouse Cottage. You’ll be better for it.
The AirBnb: Vermont Schoolhouse Cottage on Family Farm
The Location: Shaftsbury, Vermont
Number of bedrooms: 1 separate queen bedroom downstairs, loft with queen bed upstairs
Orange Bar Stools ($154 for 4)
Indigo Tie Dye Tapestry Mudcloth ($21.90)
Unfinished Oak Dining Chairs ($80.93 each)
Fluffy Large White Pillow Cases ($15.99)
Circles Tufted Shag Pillow (similar - $50)
Assorted Succulents - Collection of 12 ($29.00)
Small Toy Cars ($12.99 for 36 cars)
Small Toy Dinosaurs (72 for $9.48)
Moroccan Pillow (similar - $49.50)
Colorful Basket ($38.95)
Shibori Indigo Blue or Black & White Vintage African Mudcloth Pillow Covers (prices vary with size)
Cracker Jar for Small Toys ($33.13 for four)
"Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher" by Frederick Kirschenmann ***This book had a surprisingly profound impact on me and my career - this is also a wise book about business.
"5 Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management" by Maurice G. Kains
"Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future" by Bill McKibben
"The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture" by Wendall Berry
"Grass, Soil, Hope. A Journey Through Carbon Country" by Courtney White
"Handmade Home: Living with Art and Craft" by Mark and Sally Bailey
"Scandinavian Design" by Charlotte and Peter Fiell
"Mastering the art of French Cooking" by Julia Child and Simone Beck
Dan Barber on Eater
For the Wild
Permaculture Podcast - Episode with Frederick Kirshenmann
READ MORE AND WEEKEND ON
I started Weekends Arounds to marry my passion for hospitality and interior design with my love of New England. Because lodging has the greatest impact on a travel experience, I only feature Airbnbs, home rentals, and hotels that I have personally visited (and on my own dime and time - always). I’ll share all my detailed itineraries, photography, and recommendations so that you, too, can experience this beautiful part of the world.