Studio Hill is increasing its livestock herd size and holistic grazing capacity and expanding on-farm accommodations to grow its agritourism business.
Funded on 03/23/2022
Studio Hill co-owners Caroline and Jesse McDougall work every day to build abundance, diversity, and resilience on their 4th-generation family-run farm in rural southwestern Vermont. Working to restore 200+ acres of degraded land, they raise sheep and poultry on pasture, use no-till gardens for annual food and pollinator-friendly flower production, and are a Savory Institute Influencer Hub. In addition to rebuilding the land's soil ecosystem, they also run a thriving farm-stay program with bookings out to 2023. Studio Hill is expanding their farm stay capacity to provide more opportunities to share their knowledge and passion for holistically managed regenerative agriculture.
Studio Hill is using the loan from Steward to purchase two neighboring properties, starting with a refinance of a Steward bridge loan, which they used to purchase a 50-acre hilltop parcel with a 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom house and sweeping pasture views in every direction. This will allow them to increase capacity for their wildly popular on-farm cottage stays. The other neighboring property that will be purchased with this capital is a 24-acre forested property with a cabin that they will use to accommodate the increasing number of visitors every year. Caroline and Jesse are excited to provide more opportunities for people to learn about the many benefits of holistically managed regenerative farming. The extra acreage and funding will also allow Studio Hill to expand their herd size and ramp up pasture sheep and poultry production.
Studio Hill restores the soil ecosystem on their land by managing livestock holistically in their perennial polyculture pastures. Their farm employs a number of techniques to revitalize the land, including:
Participating lenders who lend at the following tiers can expect to receive the following products and experiences:
I was never any good at baseball. As a boy, in Little League, I batted last and had the most strikeouts. It didn’t worry me much. Frankly, I was always relieved to strike out because it meant that I could walk back to the bench and my bubblegum and away from the 12-year-old pitching phenom throwing rock-hard balls at me.
So, I would chuckle when my dad—who was my biggest supporter—would yell from the stands, as I trembled in the batters’ box, “Jesse! Swing hard...in case you hit it!”
It’s a phrase that rings in my ears to this day. And it now applies to all facets of my life.
This farm expansion is me swinging hard.
And I’m happy to say that—with Cally’s help and guidance, and with Steward’s help and guidance—we’re knocking it out of the park.
We’ve now crossed the halfway point in the campaign! With your tremendous support, our campaign has the backing of 239 incredible people lending a total of an astounding $705,200! And our wonderful momentum is only picking up, with new lenders jumping into the campaign every day. Thank you!
Also, after three weeks of carrying couches, making beds, changing light fixtures, and so much styling...I am thrilled to announce that the new farm stay on the hilltop at Studio Hill is now live on Airbnb and ready to accept reservations!!
Please check out the new digs. It’s a gorgeous place with stunning views, and we have some amazing photos: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/572451400978444423
Book a time to come see us and revel in the project you’ve supported.
Thank you for your commitment to regenerative agriculture and our program to introduce its power to more people.
Swing hard. In case you hit it.
It’s Jesse here with TWO bits of exciting news.
First, we have crossed two milestones in the campaign! We’ve just passed the $600,000 mark—which is astounding! And more importantly, we now have 200 people participating—which is something that brings tears to my eyes.
As you farmers in the crowd know, farming is often done alone. More often than not, we are moving animals, fixing equipment, finding problems, without anyone around to help. (Sure, it’s tiring. But it does create some ingenious people.) So when the cavalry does arrive, it is all-the-more-special.
The support of 200 people shines on our energized hearts. Thank you!!
Second, we’ve been hard at work getting the new hilltop farmhouse ready for guests. (I was moving a lead & granite sofa filled with barbells through the snow last night at 10pm after chores.) And it is ALMOST READY! We’re just getting the listing photography done this week, so the listing can go live next week. Be on the lookout! And if you want a notification of when it goes live, subscribe to our email list or follow Cally on Instagram (@studiohillvt).
Everything else is going well on the farm. The ewes are pregnant and chomping happily on hay in their cozy winter paddocks. We are expecting 100 to 120 lambs to start arriving in May! (Pro tip: a GREAT time for farm stays.)
We look forward to seeing you here.
Thank you for lending us your support.
I never thought I'd be farmer. I grew up in small mountain town with no farms nearby, our food came in on trucks, and my family ate from the drive-through so often the folks behind the speaker knew our regular order just from the sound of our station wagon coughing and sputtering next to the speaker.
"Large Meal #1, heavy mayo, heavy onion, heavy pickles, ROB?" the attendant said.
"Yep," Dad said.
"Kids with you?"
The standard order came to $21.11 every time. (Remember, this was the '80s.)
And so it went, until I was in my 20s, slow, overweight, addicted to sugar, and thoroughly bewildered as to why.
I didn't eat food. I ate products. I never sought quality. I sought quantity. I never thought of soil, nor biodiversity, nor nutrition. I drank Red Bull like I wanted to die.
Then, one day, I fell in love with a beautiful girl, named Cally, with big eyes and a family farm. She ate things like "kale" and "broccolini" and "pasture-raised" meat. The things she ate didn't have boxes, or wrappers, or stickers. She composted stuff. Cuz her food "rotted." Again, I was bewildered. My Ho-Ho's were never not Ho-Ho's.
We started building a life together. We had an apartment. We had a web development company. We were happy. And I was still drinking Red Bull like I was gunning for a sponsorship.
Then, one terrible day, we got one of those phone calls that we all fear. Cally's aunt, Edie⏤the woman and superhero who ran the family farm in Vermont⏤was sick. She had brain cancer. It was September of 2011.
Cally and I did what we could to help with the farm and Edie's cancer. We moved to the farm half-time and threw hay and fixed fences, under Edie's slowed, and sometimes confused, direction. We were both devastated watching Edie wither. Cally was losing one of her heroes.
Edie died in September of 2012. We were gutted, and found ourselves suddenly the full-time managers of the family farm.
Management of the farm for the past three or four decades had been "conventional." Meaning, heavy tillage, heavy fertilizers, heavy pesticides, heavy herbicides. Edie admitted to loving the scent of glyphosate (Round Up) in the air.
Cally and I had become petrified of glyphosate and suspected it was the cause of Edie's aggressive and out-of-nowhere brain cancer. So our first decision as naive newbie farmers was to stop spraying any chemicals of any kind on the land. We would "go organic" and clean up the farm.
The next spring, without fertilizers, the grass didn't grow. The soil that had been overworked and polluted for decades was unable to support life--no grass, no clover, no flowers, no bugs, no bees, no birds. We were devastated again. Our naivety was exposed.
But, we are stubborn people. And so we set out to find another way to manage our farm. We figured a field is a field and fields existed before chemical agriculture, right?! So...why can't a field exist now? Why must an open field in our valley turn to forest or turn to desert? I Googled "what is grass?"
And thus began our long journey into ecosystem restoration through agriculture, and its most effective ally, holistic management.
Today, ten years after we lost Edie, we're proud to say that our stubbornness has paid off. The uncertainty, the fear, the sleepless nights, the humiliations were all necessary. Without pushing beyond our comfort levels, we can never learn.
And now, I do think about soil, and biodiversity, and nutrition. I see the connection between the workings and health of the soil and the workings and health of my own body. I stopped pouring Red Bull into my gut's biological community like we stopped dumping unnatural chemicals into the soil's biological community. And both complex systems have flourished.
This campaign is more than a lending campaign to buy more land. It is a declaration that holistic management and regenerative agriculture work⏤ecologically and economically. We have rebuilt the natural systems on the land, and abundance has come roaring back. The birds, bees, bugs, and even endangered species have returned to the farm. And, that abundance and life are spreading through the neighboring forests.
We have lost too many loved ones in the last ten years. Edie was just the first in a wave of loss. And we grieve for them every day. But we also know that just as life creates life, death creates life too. And so, we grow.
Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. Please view our lending campaign at stwd.farm/studiohill. And please forward this to your friends and family and anyone else you think may be up for supporting regenerative farming. We're approaching another milestone of 30% and would love your help in getting there before the weekend. Facebook, Twitter, Bloopt, Spork, and TikTok. Wherever you prefer to argue with strangers. Please spread the word.
I am excited to report that in just over a week we've already shot past 25% of our goal!
Cally and I have been getting beautiful and supportive emails, notes, phone calls, and comments from all of you all week. We sit down every night--after our long days with the farm, with our jobs, with the kids--to read through every one of them. They bring tears to our eyes.
As many of you know, we work hard to help our communities⏤locally and in agriculture and in the regeneration movement, and elsewhere. Sometimes, we need help. Sometimes, we get tired. Sometimes, we get pessimistic. Sometimes, we need our faith restored. And every time we need it, our wonderful community steps in and showers us with the love and support that carries us through another day.
We are entirely grateful.
Right now, Cally is up at the Hilltop House (the new one) putting together our final punch list. We're counting down the days to launch! And, the reservation list for the place is already growing.
The big projects up there are already done. We've refinished all the floors. We've painted all the walls. We've loaded the game room with pool, air hockey, and foosball. The kitchen is stocked with plates and silverware. It is starting to look like Cally's vision. And we couldn't be more excited.
Also, the blueprints are done for the Hilltop Barn renovation, and the contractors are waiting at the ready for this project to reach its goal.
Finally, a deposit has been made on the land down the hill as well!
I will have more updates as the campaign progresses. I'm working on putting together some video tours, which will available on our blog at https://studiohill.farm.
Thank you again for your support of this campaign. Please help us keep it going by telling your friends, family, colleagues, weird aunt, and frenemies on Instagram about us.
Hello and welcome to our Steward lending campaign! This is a dream-come-true for me, my wife, Cally, and the rest of the family here at Studio Hill. We appreciate your help and support in making it happen!
Cally's great-grandparents first came to this land during The Great Depression in 1936—leaving New York City—looking to find food security for themselves, their family, and their community. They set up this farm as a small dairy and got to work feeding the local community and sending all they could back to the city to help with food shortages. They believed in hard work, attentive stewardship, self-reliance, energy independence, and unshakable generosity.
Over the years this farm has endured many managers and evolved through many management systems. We've seen natural abundance turned into ecological collapse and back into natural abundance again. And through it all, we've loved the land and worked to keep it working.
Eighty-six years—and four generations later—Cally and I find ourselves holding true to the same mission and values held by her great-grandparents. We love the land. We love each other. We work to bring about a better future for our kids and our community.
Farming, however, is slow. It's not "put your feet up with lemonade" slow. It's more like "paying off your mortgage" slow. We work hard on small things every day. And in any given day we feel as though we've accomplished very little—just fixing a water pump, or moving the sheep to a new field, or chatting with a guest in the sunset.
It is rare that a BIG PROJECT comes along that substantially moves our glacial enterprise forward. This expansion of our family farm and ecological regeneration efforts--that this Steward lending campaign makes possible--is one of those BIG PROJECTS.
In the last ten years, Studio Hill has undergone a transformation—from a quiet little conventionally-managed family farm that was desertifying to a bustling destination for guests from all over the world that is a showcase for ecological regeneration through agriculture.
This lending campaign will help us regenerate more land, prove to more people that ecological regeneration is possible, and secure the future of this place for another few generations.
If you haven't done so already, please visit the campaign at https://gosteward.com/projects/studio-hill/farm-stay-pasture-expansion.
To learn more about us and our history, visit our website at https://studiohill.farm
Thank you for signing on to help with this campaign. Your support means the world to us. We hope to see you here soon.
This loan will be made to Studio Hill Farm Stays LLC, a Vermont limited liability company, which offers farm stay experiences on a regeneratively managed ranch.
This loan will be used to purchase neighboring properties and increase the capacity for farm-stay experiences as well as expand the number of pasture acres.
This loan is set at a 6% interest rate, with a term of 84 months. Interest-only payments will begin 9 months after funds are disbursed.
Loan refinance for 50-acre hilltop property - $970,000.00
Forest property - $300,000.00
Hilltop barn & furnishing - $150,000.00
Working capital - $50,000.00
Closing costs, marketing & contingency planning - $291,540.00
Total project costs - $1,761,540.00
Steward’s loan is financing 80% of total project costs, for a total loan amount of $1,410,000.00
Join a growing community of sustainably-minded lenders reaping the rewards from responsible farming