For Debbie Betts, home is her grandparents’ farm.
The doors are always open for life lessons or a cup of coffee at my grandparents’ farm.
Many people don’t realize all the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to grow what we eat on a daily basis. A lot of hours and sweat go into being a farmer. But no matter how busy my grandma and grandpa were running their farm, they always made time for family. Their example taught me so much. Like them, I would do anything for my family and I have a lot of pride in my farming heritage. Although my grandparents are both gone, my mom and her sister still live on their land. They collect over a dozen fresh eggs daily from the chickens they raise. They also keep geese and plant a huge garden every year. I live an hour away on my own little farm, but I visit Mom’s place just about every weekend. My kids go to their grandma’s house all the time. I hope they gain the same life lessons that I did from my time as a child on the farm. The legacy began when my grandpa Lewis Frey bought his 50-plus-acre farm with two barns, several outbuildings and a huge house in Macedon, New York, in 1938. The following November he brought his bride, Dorothy, to join him and make a homestead. At first he made his living by raising replacement heifers for local dairy farmers and growing cash crops such as carrots. When his three children (my mom and her brother and sister) came along in the 1940s, Grandpa sought some additional employment in the nearby city of Rochester. When I was growing up he was retired but still working on the farm. Through the years Grandpa and Grandma raised many kinds of animals: cows, horses, turkeys,
chickens, ducks, geese, pigs and an occasional goat or pony. They also planted a garden that provided an abundant harvest for Grandma to can or freeze for the winter. When they first moved to the farm, Grandma invited her younger brothers to stay during the summer. My mom’s cousins also came and stayed there for weeks on end. Continuing the tradition, my generation of cousins spent our weekends and summers on the farm. My dad passed away when I was about 4 years old, and my aunt was also a single mother with young children. My mom and her sister loved farm life and knew it was a great place for us, too. Along the way we were taught wonderful life lessons such as the value of hard work, humility, responsibility, independence and compassion for animals. My grandparents always needed help weeding the garden or getting in hay. One of my most cherished memories is when my cousins and I would drive the old two-cylinder John Deere tractor and the adults would go along and pick up the bales off the ground to stack them on the wagon. Grandma and Grandpa made everyone feel welcome as they hosted extended family picnics, and baby and bridal showers. Family and friends would stop by year-round just to visit, either under the lean-to or inside the house, but always for a cup of coffee. Sometimes they would stay long enough to play cards. My cousins and I celebrated our birthdays and holidays at the farm as kids, and we still do. All of us cousins gather there for picnics in the summer. And family and friends continue to stop by just to visit. The coffee’s always on!
“No matter how busy my grandma and grandpa were running their farm, they always made time for family…”
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The Frey farm; Debbie’s children, Peter, Abbey and Andrew, with their cousin Trevor (holding loppers) in the patch; Peter plants a garden with cousin Mary; Peter relaxes by the creek. Grandpa Lewis Frey on his farm in 1940.