Unconventional Farmers Take the Long View of Rural Life
By Shirley Standring
A recent guest at Long View Farm said upon leaving that it was a nice place to visit but that she would rather live there.
Long View is 145 acres of beauty. The rambling, white farmhouse and big, red barn overwhelm you as you round a narrow corner on one of North Brookfield's country roads and see it standing majestically at the crest of the hill. Owner Gil Markle considers it a working farm. But five cows, five horses, two goats and a handful of chickens hardly make it produce to capacity.
Long View is also a recording studio. You may have heard of it Stevie Wonder was there last year. And Don McLean of American Pie fame has recorded there on a number of occasions. But whether it's a recording studio first or a farm first depends on who goes there and for what reason.
Naturally the artists paying as much as $1250 a day for the facilities have to be considered. But the five people who work there have adopted the farm lifestyle and are serious about their chores.
They drink the cow and goat milk and raise Angus cows for the freezer; eggs are a natural for breakfast and fresh vegetables from the garden accompany the evening meal. A neighboring farmer cuts the hay crop, leaving half for the farm's animals and taking the other half for himself as payment.
Aside from their practical use, Markle must also realize that a farm is not a real farm without animals and having them around completes the country image Long View projects in its promotional material.
Markle bought the place five years ago when his girlfriend informed him that they were either moving to the country (from Paxton) or she was going to find another boyfriend.
The 37-going-on-25 Markle can hardly be considered a country boy. He was born in New Jersey and has studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Paris and Yale University. He founded the Worcester-based American Leadership Study Group student touring agency, in 1967. He was teaching at Clark when he bought Long View.
"I didn't buy it with the intention of building a recording studio there. I bought it to live there and enjoy its beauty," Markle said. "I was brought up in a musical family and have always been around music. Naturally when I moved all the equipment came with me. But there was so much room that I kept adding more and more equipment and would knock a wall out to make more room until I realized that I was actually building a studio. I guess the idea had been in my subconscious all the time," he confessed cheerfully.
And so began the extensive renovations and the criss-cross patterns that brought the Long View five together. There's John Farrell and Geoffrey Myers who remodeled the house four years ago and decided to stay. Now John cares for the garden and cooks the evening meal. Geoff works on a variety of carpentry projects that still need doing.
Kathy Holden and Kent Huff were living in North Brookfield when Kent's brother, a lawyer in the New York firm that handles some of Markle's affairs, told them about the studio.
"We zoomed up here the same day," Kathy remembers. "Then we started spending more and more time here so that pretty soon we decided to move in."
They lived in the farmhouse for two years but rented a New Braintree house about a year ago when more and more artists started coming to Long View, demanding more and more of their time. However, they still work there. Kent managing the studio and Kathy doing the cooking, shopping and caring for the animals.
At 19, Susie Marron is ten years younger than everyone else at the farm. She had visited the place a few times with friends and when Geoff asked her if she would like a job cleaning and helping Kathy with the cooking and the animals she packed a suitcase and left the same day.
Of the five, John is the only one who has a hint of farming in his background; he grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania. The others all are from city suburbs and quickly decided that the country's quiet and open spaces were for them.
For the record industry artists who record there, Long View can be a mixed blessing. Musicians have come from Los Angeles or New York City who have never seen a cow or even a tree and discover a whole new world at Long View. But some have also found the quiet too distracting and have had to go back to the city for a good night's sleep.
Sometimes those who appreciate the country most are the city strangers who come quietly, willing to learn about country life but unwilling to sacrifice their idealistic views about living as one with nature. That is part of the beauty at Long View.