A Rural Renaissance: Bed and Breakfast

From a busy city life to a quiet homesteading lifestyle, running a bed and breakfast.

| June/July 2004

Seven years ago, in search of a more satisfying, sustainable lifestyle, we left the hectic pace of downtown Chicago to move to a small farm in Browntown, Wis., in the southwestern part of the state. We left behind prestigious advertising agency jobs for an 80-year-old farmhouse that we operate as Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast, and that serves as our base for such income-producing projects as writing and photography, and a variety of environmental-conservation efforts.

One balmy evening last July, while sitting on our front porch sharing a simple supper of tender lettuce greens and ruby red tomatoes partnered with a warm and crusty loaf of homemade bread, we watched the summer sunset fade to a warm glow and the fireflies begin their evening dance. And we realized we were no longer just owners of a farm; we were active participants in a rural way of life.

We moved to this farmstead with the idea of living our lives according to Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy that "We must become the change we seek." Our quest for the ideal life aims for an existence simpler in design yet richer in meaning than we had in the city. It means a sustainable lifestyle, where we are unearthing passion with every potato we dig.

Making the Move

As suburban kids, and later as young urban professionals, we felt an illusory sense of prosperity and success. The ad agency we both worked for offered exactly the kind of atmosphere in which our college educations prepared us to thrive. And for a while, we both did.

But nightclubs and espresso bars satisfied for only so long. Why were we thinking more about the next weekend getaway to Wisconsin or the next vacation to the Smoky Mountains than of moving up to a corner office? After three years on the job, we realized something was amiss; all we had to show for our efforts was a bank account and a collection of restaurant matchboxes. So, we wandered into southwestern Wisconsin in search of another place to plant our roots, and we found our farm. With a computer and an Internet connection, we established our bed and breakfast; with Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, we figured out which direction the eyes of the potato should be facing when planted. And we dug into our new rural life.

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