The year was 1995. I was out of a job and waiting tables at Ladew Topiary Gardens. Not a bad gig. Not great tips…but I did learn to make a killer bloody mary. Fresh horseradish…that is the absolute best! So, there I am mid-20s, confused, bored…hadn’t found my niche yet. One day at Sunday brunch the most beautiful little family comes in…and since I was (and still am) a kid magnet, I bonded on the brick floor of that beautiful old carriage house (horse stalls and all) with the family’s two little boys. That was it…I was hired. I was their new babysitter. And twenty or so years later, here we are…still friends.
The boys’ mom, Helen, is a professional photographer and does amazing, amazing work. LOOK. The summer we met, I went to NYC with Helen and her older son Peter, who was 3 at the time a few times. While Helen was on photo shoots (she has worked for clients like Martha Stewart, Country Living, LL Bean, etc), Peter and I traipsed all over Manhattan, spending hours and hours in museums, Central Park and more. I LOVED THAT SUMMER. I got to know NYC, had a job I liked and got to spend a lot of time at the family’s 1850s farm house in White Hall, Starbright Farm. The farm is so beautiful and through Helen and Mark, her talented advertising pro husband, I discovered the music of Lyle Lovett, French press coffee and I learned to slow down and enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. I had only lived in the city a few years and had grown up about 30 minutes south east of White Hall in Kingsville, another quaint, sleepy small town. So spending time at the farm seemed natural for me and I grew to love these people. They are good, hard working people. This was when I met two other hard working people, Drew and Joan Norman of One Straw Farm – Drew is Helen’s brother. So, I have Ladew to thank for bringing some great people into my life.
Now that Helen and Mark’s two sons are out of the house, their focus is now on turning their gorgeous old barn on the propery into a destination event space. They’ve already booked some weddings, photo shoots and more. It’s also a great space for parties, barn sales, corporate retreats and more.
Check out their website and follow on Instagram to see the place. What they have created just 40 minutes north of the City is pretty amazing.