WRITTEN BY MEGIN POTTER | PHOTOS BY SUSAN BLACKBURN PHOTOGRAPHY
At Rookie’s Gamble Farm, the Smiths are making their dreams come true.
“This whole place really is a love letter to Molly,” said Tim Smith as we toured the grounds of the 55+acre property where they produce their own food and practice sustainable living with their two children, Elizabeth, 6, and Owen, 4.
The couple met after college (while they were both competing in a rugby tournament) and have been inseparable ever since. While living in Atlanta, Ga., where Tim worked as a police officer, Molly completed a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It had been her dream-job, but every night a new dream began taking shape: the Smiths desperately wanted to raise a family in the country.
Down to the Wire
In 2016, on the day of her baby shower, Molly found their Saratoga home on Zillow. The small, already-established farm was just what they’d been searching for.
“I always wanted to be self-sufficient and create my own food,” said Molly while popping freshly-risen bread dough into the oven.
Today, Molly makes everything from scratch from their farm’s meat and produce including lotions, soaps, and dish detergent. They currently have three bee hives and harvest a huge assortment of vegetables and fruits including grapes, apples, peaches, pears, plums, persimmons, and blueberries.
They can’t even remember the last time they went to the grocery store. They use well water, have solar water heating and power, recycle and upcycle whenever possible.
As a full-time Emergency Medicine Physician at Albany Medical Center, it’s amazing Molly finds time for it all.
“You can’t be with someone exceptional and not keep up,” explains Tim. He stays home and cares for kids, the land, and the animals while Molly works a schedule that includes lots of overnight shifts at the busiest trauma center in the state and trips around the world. Even when she’s in a far-off country like Romania however, she’s still longing to get home to milk the goats, she said.
An Ace in the Hole
Hobby farming alone wouldn’t bring in enough money to live on said the Smiths, but its benefits are still very tangible.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said Tim. “This is a huge gift. I have no complaints.”
Once responsible for raising the animals at Old Chatham Sheepherding Company (which is now the largest sheep dairy in the country), today Tim looks after a single Friesian wool sheep of the same South African breed and a handful of Black Headed Dorpers.
When the Siena College Saints rugby team won their first ever national championship title this year, Tim prepared them a lamb dinner to celebrate.
“It was, quite possibly, the greatest thing I’ve ever cooked,” he said.
Hedging Your Bets
On the job, Molly’s seen how exposure to toxins can result in bewildering physical symptoms, so she makes a practice of avoiding chemicals at home.
In the garden, instead of pesticides, a flock of guinea hens, chickens, ducks and geese meander around munching bugs, as do the turkeys housed in a hand-built chicken tractor that moves around the yard.
Instead of using commercial fertilizers, their naturally sandy soil is supplemented with compost, manure, and bone ash.
To cut down on fuel usage, instead of mowing, their goats chomp away on grasses and bittersweet bushes. (They’re so good at clearing the land, the goats have even been rented out to the Saratoga Battlefield to do the job there). Finally, the pigs are brought in to root out the area so it’s ready for the next season.
Sweetening the Pot
The variety and cyclical nature of their practices makes Rookie’s Gamble Farm inherently more sustainable while providing an invaluable sense of security in an increasingly unpredictable world climate.
“Self-sufficiency equals freedom,” said Bobby Grimm. In 2013, Bobby and his business partner, Jeff Hensel, started Norsemen Farms, a purveyor of fine meats including the rare Japanese Waygu beef. The balanced marbling and richness of these premium steaks make them highly sought after.
“The ribeye is the single best steak I’ve ever eaten,” said Molly.
“Soon, everybody that’s interested in it is not going to be able to get it,” said Bobby.
On this day, Bobby brought two dark beauties, Bessie and her calf, Little Feet, from their herd of 250 grassfed cows (which also include the Belted Galway breed) to the shaded pastures of Rookie’s Gamble Farm.
Upping the Ante
These two farmers thrive on trade. Tim provides Bobby with labor and sells Norsemen Farms meats. In exchange, Bobby cares for the Smith’s sow, Big Mama, over the winter and supplies the farm with hay.
The cooperative nature of farming can be seen everywhere. The pigs climb over themselves to get to the breads leftover from the Twisted Bagel Company and grains from Spring Brook Hollow Distillery. Rookie’s Gamble Farm meats are humanely slaughtered by Stratton Custom Meats and Locust Grove Smokehouse.
To promote small agriculture, Rookie’s Gamble Farm has joined up with Featherbed Lane Farm to sell products online at 100milemarkets.com, is a member of the Hoosac Valley Farmers Exchange, and has started the Battlefield Farm Trail.
Welcome to the Farm
You can stop by the Rookie’s Gamble Farm stand at 323 NY 423, in Saratoga Springs, anytime. Go on Farm Stand Friday for a beer with Molly and Tim.
For a farm tour and a burger, register online for Mondays on the Farm.
They’ve hosted a variety of events, from graduation parties to weddings, have an annual Full Moon Bonfire, and Easter Egg Hunt.
For updates and products, follow Rookie’s Gamble Farm on Facebook and Instagram.
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