Daniel and Divya Botkin, of Laughing Dog Farm, live on a 3+ acre permaculture-inspired farm in Gill, MA with their children, one other couple, and ten goats. They currently have one housemate, although there are usually several seasonal helpers. The property does not look like a traditional farm, but instead is on a hill scattered with a number of beds and greenhouses, a teepee, and structures created out of found wood.
They live in a unique, angular house that was built by members of the commune that previously existed on the land. We visited Laughing Dog Farm for a workshop that they led on winter gardening. Danny and Divya welcomed us into their cozy living room, heated by a wood stove, and began the workshop with an icebreaker for the ten of us to learn about each other. Danny taught us about the technical aspects of greenhouse structures, but also stressed the “psychological benefits” of being able to plant all season long. Being able to seed vegetables in December and January is how he stays motivated through the winter months. Although we couldn’t see the full potential of the property on the late fall day, the greenhouse was filled to maximum capacity and in peak season every planting space looks that way. Each greenhouse bed was interspersed with different vegetables, including lettuce, spinach, leeks, tomatoes, and beets. He calls himself a “carpet installer” instead of a gardener, and makes sure that there are no spots of bare ground.
Danny spent twenty years teaching and counseling, but had a love for gardening and homesteading and was always searching for more community involvement. It seems that he connected them well when he left to start Laughing Dog Farm, where he is able grow food with loved ones and use the farm to educate others. The goat products and food produced on the farm provide more than enough for the residents. The excess is sold through a small CSA and some direct sales. However, it is clear that selling at markets and making money is not the point of this farm. Spreading knowledge is the community service that Danny and Divya value most. Their primary source of income is from workshops for the public, like the one we attended. They also host many WWOOFers to learn on the farm in return for food and board. Inspiring people to grow their own food, teaching them the necessary skills, and attempting to instill the correct mental models to do so are the values that stand out at Laughing Dog Farm.
– Maria Superti and Nora Seymour