2017-01-01 / Start Here

Putting Down Roots

At Rooted Farmstead, young couple enters ag entrepreneurship to preserve history and make stories.
Dana Ray

You’ll find Rooted Farmstead up a two-mile gravel road not far past Bellefonte. As you approach the property, there’s an old barn and leveled pasture and a little yellow house that spread out before you. Even in winter, you can get why Mark and Christie Holloway “fell in love with the place, with its history” the first time they visited. It’s far enough out that it feels like you are discovering a treasure. And it’s just close enough to town to feel like you really should get all your friends out to the barn for a dance party. And that feeling is exactly what the Holloways are after with their farm.

Mark and Christie Holloway didn’t expect to become first-generation farmers. When they bought 14 acres, it was mainly to give their dogs more room to run. Christie grew up with “one wall between me and another family.” Mark also grew up in a traditional suburban setting. “Farming wasn’t part of our experience at all,” he says.

But Rooted Farmstead had other plans. The land was originally a dairy farm, and the couple kept thinking about turning it into a working farm again. Christie laughs as she remembers thinking, “How hard could it be?” It’s not easy to start from scratch, they learned, but dreaming big and working hard is at the heart of their agricultural entrepreneurship.

Starting Rooted Farmstead also helped them redefine what it meant to be “successful,” something they reflect on over at their website. Their old definitions were upended several years ago when Christie’s nephew was diagnosed with brain cancer. “That was the catalyst to rethink our entire lives,” Christie says. “Mark and I hardly saw each other due to long commutes and even longer hours for our jobs.  Our health and relationships were suffering. Something had to change.”

Together, Mark and Christie started looking for a place to start over. They both had happy memories in Centre County from childhood visits. They started to look for jobs in the area. Within a few months, they had relocated from Philadelphia and started a new life.

The Holloways still work full time locally and spend any remaining hours developing the property. Their biggest project to date has been restoring the barn. It’s a beautiful old structure, a little breathtaking with its rich details and history, probably dating to 1887. Mark and Christie restored the barn using historically accurate methods, including mortise and tenon construction.

Restoration was an important choice for them as they developed a vision for Rooted Farmstead. “It literally would have been cheaper to start a farm pulling down all the old buildings and putting in new ones.” So why restore? Efficiency isn’t what this new venture is about for them: it’s about having a space where people and stories are valued and supported above anything else. The buildings on the property hold the stories of generations of families and hard work and change. “How could we tear that down?” they asked.  The answer was obvious: they couldn’t.

Now, the barn will be an event venue to launch other new stories into the world. It launched the next chapter of their story as well; they celebrated their marriage at the Farmstead just last summer. “It was the coolest thing we’ve experienced here!” Mark says. “It’s incredible to walk out of your house and see the place you got married every day.”

If everything goes as planned, Rooted Farmstead will be available this summer for booking as an event and wedding venue. It really couldn’t be a more perfect location. Launching Rooted Farmstead as a wedding venue will support their efforts to turn the rest of the property into a producing, profitable farm. They are still discerning what the best path forward would be. And in the meantime, Rooted Farmstead will become an important location for those looking to be with people and live great stories.

“We want to give friends and family a space to have the kind of experience we had: where it’s not about the setting or showing off. The priorities are about the community and the promise being made. It’s just a relaxing place to be together. Strip it all away, and Rooted Farmstead is just about the relationships and the people.”

Dana Ray is a wordsmith, community storyteller and idea wrangler. She works as a thinker/doer at Rowland Creative, a strategic marketing and design agency in State College.

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