Maybe you already know Anna and her husband Greg, or you read the last blog post about the wine named after her. Even if you've never met her, if you've been to Rocklands, chances are that you experienced some of Anna's charms, whether it was the flowers in the tasting room; the lambs, calves, and piglets at pasture; or the three ruddy-cheeked boys helping with animal chores.
I got to sit down with Anna (and Fritz, Simeon, and Charlie) on a cold day in March over tea and marshmallows. I have the privilege of calling her a friend, but the more we talked, the more I realized I had no clue about all that Anna does on the farm.
Freedom to Grow
"I find that the more freedom I have, the better they turn out."
Here, Anna was referencing her flower arrangements, and how she works best when she's trusted by brides to bring their floral visions to life through the business she started 5 years ago: Seed to Ceremony.
But in talking with Anna in her kitchen with her boys running (or crawling) around us, I realized that this freedom applies to so much more than just her flowers.
"Greg and I feel strongly about the life we're giving our boys. We want them to have room to run around here on the farm, be welcoming and hospitable to our customers and friends, and just live a free, outdoor life."
After our cup of tea, I got to accompany Anna and the boys to collect more eggs than I'd ever seen, plus one goose egg that was of great interest to Fritz and Simeon. I was bending down, very carefully focused on my task of putting the eggs in a basket without breaking any, so I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw a chicken at my eye level, held out by Simeon.
I'm a little embarrassed to say that a 2-year-old can do something I can't do (i.e., hold a chicken without freaking out).
These boys are indeed earning their keep here, and like Anna's favorite dahlias, they're also growing freely.
Anna and Greg are also in charge of field trips, farm camps, and other educational activities at Rocklands. Her favorite part of these experiences is letting kids be kids out in nature.
"There's always lots of controlled chaos that these kids don't usually get at home. I love that."
During these trips, the kids learn about life on a farm — and nothing is spared.
"We show the kids how we process a chicken, from start to finish. Most of these kids have never seen anything die, let alone an animal they've just been playing with on the farm."
Like those kids, I haven't watched many things die, and I can be squeamish around blood. But through the years of eating Rocklands meat, one thing I've learned is that in talking about death, the staff are actually teaching about life. Through observing the natural, pasture-raised lives they give their animals, I've gained a greater reverence for life, and appreciation of the cost involved with eating.
And apparently the kids don't seem to mind too much.
"Kids are naturally curious, and enjoy learning where their food comes from. Through observing the whole process, they get to see the bird go from an animal they've playing with to something they'd buy in a store."
It also doesn't hurt that Anna has 2 years of experience farming in Miwani, Kenya. She likes to explain to the kids that if they lived in another part of the world, choosing and preparing the chicken for dinner would be their job.
Seed to Ceremony
Although she's always loved growing and arranging flowers, Anna started Seed to Ceremony 5 years ago to accompany Rocklands' wedding business. When you're getting married on a farm, it's pretty neat to embellish your wedding with flowers grown on that same farm. Speaking as someone who hired Anna for my own wedding — and as someone who thinks flowers are pretty but doesn't have many floral opinions beyond that -- I was grateful that she took my springtime vision and ran with it.
As with so many things in life, Anna's talent goes hand in hand with the joy that comes from doing what she loves.
"When I’m arranging flowers, I'm in my groove."
Anna is one of the few Rocklands employees who lives on the farm, which means she literally never leaves work at the end of the day. So I don't know how she finds the time to create these masterpieces ... but I'm glad she does. Because when people follow their passions, things like Rocklands Farm are born.