As we finish 2016, our thoughts at the BDN turn to the interesting people we met throughout the year. It’s been our privilege to share the snapshots of their lives, whether uplifting, tragic or surreal, with our readers.
Yet we know the story doesn’t end with our telling, and in fact, the story often changes greatly after we’ve told it. This makes “Whatever happened to … “ a common refrain not only in our newsroom, but we expect, among the public as well.
That’s why, at the end of this year, we wanted to find out “whatever happened.” For the next few weeks, we’ll be touching base with several Mainers whose stories came to attention during the year. What we found may sadden, delight, or surprise. In all cases, we hope you enjoy them.
– Anthony Ronzio, Editor, BDN
In December of last year, after months of preparation, two brothers from New York, Caleb and Ethan Bartlett, launched their Pittsfield-based raw milk startup, White Bull Farm.
Coming from careers in music and film, the farm was born out of the brothers’ passion for food, sustainable living and regenerative farming practices. With their token white bull, Bo, and a herd of five Dexter and Jersey cows, the Bartletts were selling their raw milk directly from their farm and in two stores.
But in August the brothers ceased operation of the farm, sold their herd and relocated to New Jersey.
“It was not the business that failed,” Caleb Bartlett said in a recent phone interview, declining to delve into the details of their departure.
According to a GoFundMe page established by Caleb Bartlett, issues with the home where they were living arose, and they were “unable to reach a suitable agreement with the owners of the property.”
However, the property owners dispute this claim, adding they tried to address complaints from the Bartletts but were met with resistance. It is unclear whether a lease agreement was broken.
“It was an unfortunate situation, and we have moved on and we’re looking to the future,” Caleb Bartlett said.
Despite the departure from farming in Maine, the brothers did not want to give up on farming altogether. They relocated to northwestern New Jersey, near where they grew up in Long Island, New York. Ethan Bartlett also happens to be engaged to woman from New Jersey. Caleb Bartlett said it felt like a good fit for their operation.
“We always intended to continue to farm, we just didn’t know how long it would be,” Caleb Bartlett said. “We were blessed and fortunate to get into the community rather quickly.”
Placing their new roots on a 200 acre farm in Newton, New Jersey, that they are leasing, the brothers will start up White Bull Farm again in the spring of 2017.
As a result of a twist in fate, the Bartletts will be sending their original herd of cows — including their bull Bo — back out to pasture this spring, after being able to buy them back from the people they sold them to upon leaving Maine in August. The herd was delivered to the Bartletts’ new farm in mid-December.
Because of stricter dairy laws in New Jersey, the brothers will be restarting White Bull Farm as a beef and pork farm instead of a dairy. Caleb Bartlett said they plan to start with their same herd of cows, which they will use to breed their startup stock with the goal of increasing the size of their herd and adding pigs in the future.
“We’re starting small,” Caleb Bartlett said.
While the brothers have left Maine, Caleb Bartlett said they enjoyed their time farming in the state and were appreciative of its farming and agriculture community.
“It’s a beautiful state. It’s a great state for having a small business,” Caleb Bartlett said. “There is a wonderful food and farming community there, and I hope it grows.”