Farmer and journalist Janice Riley, a Davis Scholar in the class of 2000, and conservation specialist Stephen Spear have chronicled a year in the life of the thriving blueberry farm they own and operate on Cape Cod. We caught up with Janice on a rainy spring day when she wasn’t out pruning.
What was the trajectory that took you to Hokum Rock Blueberry Farm?
It was one of those life circles—something that you don’t plan for but is just the right thing. My family had rented a place in East Dennis, Mass., the summer I was 19. We drove past Hokum Rock Farm every day on our way in or out, going to the beach or wherever, and that was the year that Steve was starting his farm. We would drive by and kind of keep an eye on this hippie who was out there planting things, and we’d just go, “As if that’s ever going to be anything.” And we would laugh about it. We had a photograph of his little garden and farm and cottage that we surreptitiously took one day that we put in our family album.
And then we met years later, the first year after I left Wellesley. We were introduced by friends and I recognized him. I asked him if he was a farmer in the 1970s, and he said, “Well, I still am.” Within a couple of weeks, he invited me over to have a look at the farm. I walked out there with my dog, and I was amazed, absolutely amazed, at all he had done.
This beautifully photographed and illustrated book is like a love letter to the farm.
It is a work of love. I wrote Part One over a year. I had a framework; I wanted to work with a sense of immediacy. In January, I wanted what it really feels like to be out there in winter. I did that each month—watching berries form in June, completing the harvest in August, and so on.
What do you hope your readers take away from the book?
I’m hoping people understand that this story we’re telling has a universal message: In your little place in the world, if you focus on it and you love it, if you work hard and respect the gifts you have in that place, it’s something you can do in a world where you often feel powerless.
Grace, a senior associate editor of Wellesley magazine, has bought blueberries at Hokum Rock.