During our very first CSA pickup in our first year - 2018
Free Living Farm was a dream sprouted from both of us when we lived across the country and has taken us on an exciting journey so far! The farm is run by Michael Zueger and Cara (Germain) Zueger.
We inherently share many responsibilities, decisions and labor of running a farm business as only two people, but take the lead in different aspects of farming. Fortunately we have a complimentary skillset and outlook while enjoying what we’re doing, though running a business with your partner can certainly be a challenge!
Both of us must take part in seedling care, bed prep, general labor, planting, working in all weather, early mornings and into the night, harvesting and processing, markets and related core tasks.
Cara is the heart of the operation as the primary crop planner, mother of plant babies, harvest and CSA leader, people person, marketer, display designer, dreamer and recipe compiler.
Michael keeps things going, growing and efficient as the systems guy, tinkerer, soil fertility and plant health fanatic, maintenance, tools and supply person, basic mechanic and carpenter, scavenger, financial/business mind and researcher.
Cara, the local in town, grew up in Auburn, MA. She found her passion for farming and the outdoors after a volunteer to Costa Rica working with a conservation program while camping in one of the most biologically diverse places on EARTH (Corcovado National Park). It was there that she fell in love with Mother Nature and all she has to offer. She packed her bags and moved across the country where she worked for various different conservation corps up and down the West Coast, learning about native plants and restoring habitats. Which all played a large part in her love of plants, planting and growing both food and community.
When not busy with a long list of farm tasks, you can find her cooking nutritious food made with love, exercising, engulfed in historical fiction novels and planning her next adventure.
Michael, recently transplanted to MA, grew up in a tiny northern Illinois town. He still carries that friendly Midwestern vibe around with him as well as an appreciation of the rural country life. He has always been an outdoorsy nature and music lover. In college he focused on natural resource management and ecology of all sorts – forestry, wildlife, soil, aquatic, restoration, etc. and spent summers taking internships related to this career field he was building including one collecting forestry field data in the rugged backcountry of Southeast Alaska as well as leading a student chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration.
Early on he stumbled into a traditional or ancestral lower inflammatory health and proper exercise world that overall still guides him today and fuels his deep passion for healthful food and lifestyle. Maximizing nutrition through traditional methods like fermenting, soaking and sprouting, avoiding the junk and making homemade medicine/products are an important foundation. A deep connection with our surrounding habitats by way of exploring, hiking and observation makes him feel alive. You can always find a stack of non-fiction library books nearby as he is always on the search for life enhancing information on a wide range of topics.
After college, he gave in to the pull to venture West where our stories combined. (story continued below)
We met in California (2013) working for a conservation corp doing work-camping labor stints in breathtaking national forests and parks. Afterwards, we moved to WA state and began a new life journey. Here, working towards our goal of ecological restoration and cultivating a healthy lifestyle, we joined our first CSA program with a small farm and work-traded for part of the share.
That eventually led to work-trading on a farm on Kauai, Hawaii for 4 months. That experience and the vibe alone launched our food, plant medicine and outlook journey more than most things.
We then moved to eclectic Eugene, Oregon (2015) for another forestry research internship for Michael while immersing ourselves in the grand beauty of the west coast.
That winter we attended a farm school in Petaluma, CA with an inspirational old time organic visionary, Bob Cannard. Next, we made way to Mount Shasta, CA (2016) while Michael worked for the Forest Service and Cara worked for a local farm and ayurvedic inspired Indian restaurant.
We camped, hiked and explored on our off days, supported local businesses and attended conferences and events whenever possible these years. We were young and living free with no familiar family or friends around, but I guess we were living our own life to the fullest and digging for things that must have culminated into what we are doing today!
We then made the decision to leave the vast and luring West Coast to do a full season organic farm apprenticeship in Warren, Maine. But first, one more winter trip to Hawaii, this time Big Island, to work on a permaculture fruit/nut/coffee farm and study with an agronomist for a few months.
In Warren, Maine (2017) we worked for the most kind, open and genuine family one could ask for at Hatchet Cove Farm and learned so much about actually running a farm and CSA. That winter, before starting Free Living Farm, we made one final swoop to work for the iconic organic farmer, Eliot Coleman, of Four Season Farm in Harborside, ME.
2018 was our first year working for ourselves as a farm in beautiful Brookfield, MA and continued until we moved to a gem of a town near the Quabbin Reservoir in late 2021 - Petersham.
We have heaps of gratitude for our many mentors, guides, and people placed along the way that we know we must pay it forward, put it to use! With this diversity of experiences, insights, knowledge and passions, we feel we can combine the best of everything in our farming to grow quality food while using responsible practices that work with the ecology. We have nothing to hide and can truly say we are doing the best we know how for the health of our community AND the health of the environment.
Thanks for joining in on our journey!
Cara & Michael