Last summer, Lisa Turchin was watching an episode of “Clarkson’s Farm,” the Amazon Prime Video reality series starring British TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, a rookie farmer with a penchant for extravagance. In one episode, Mr. Clarkson buys his first tractor, discarding a rusty Super Major and a restored Massey Ferguson in favor of an 80-speed Lamborghini R8. Ms Turchin said Mr Clarkson immediately reminded her of her husband, Gary Turchin, 56, an advertising agency owner turned novice farmer with a penchant for extravagance. “Oh my God. It’s him,” said Ms Turchin, 52. “It’s the British Gary.”
Since 2019, when the Turchins purchased a roughly 91-acre farm in Vermont, Mr. Turchin has enthusiastically embraced the couple’s farming lifestyle, rushing for a John Deere tractor with air conditioning and Bluetooth speakers, building a state of the art chicken coop with automatic doors and remodel a quaint stable that would be right at home on any Walt Disney set. “He always does over the top extras,” Ms Turchin said.
The couple, who also have a home in Orlando, Florida, began looking for farm property in New England several years ago with the intention of splitting their time between the two locations. Married since 1992, the Turchins met at Walt Disney World, where they both worked in the 1980s. They have nine children together, four biological children in their 20s and five special-needs daughters who were adopted from China . “We have been very lucky in life,” Mr. Turchin said. He sold his Orlando-based company to a private equity firm in 2012. He has since started a second ad agency, also in Orlando. Ms. Turchin takes care of the children full time.
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Mr Turchin said they wanted to create a different lifestyle for girls, aged 9 to 17, whose disabilities range from deafness to spina bifida. “In Orlando, it’s big, it’s busy, it’s loud, it’s theme parks,” he said. They chose Vermont “on a whim,” he said, and flew in from Florida to see about 10 farms over a long weekend. “We made a pact that we would have a contract before we got on the plane – and we did,” he said.
In 2019, they paid $2.65 million for a farm in Londonderry, a southern Vermont mountain town near several major ski resorts. The Turchins’ property includes a primary residence of approximately 7,700 square feet with six bedrooms. There is also a stable with 10 boxes, an indoor arena, a three bedroom apartment above the stable, a guest cabin and a swimming pool. Now, with several girls needing surgery, the Turchins have decided they need to be in Orlando full time. They list the house for $4.25 million.
Mr Turchin said the house was in very good condition when they bought it, but the property needed updating. They invested around $1.7 million in total, and improvements included renovating the stable and renovating the riding arena. They have also redone the apartment above the stable and added a separate guest cabin to the property. In the main residence, the Turchins installed air conditioning and energy-efficient windows. They also upgraded the electrical system and plumbing, and added a generator and fiber optic cable.
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The Turchins did not cut corners. They built a chicken coop with automatic feeders and watering systems as well as doors that open during the day and close at night. ‘It’s the James Bond of chicken coops,’ said Mr Turchin, who said his wife hung a sign out front that read ‘The Chick Inn’.
Initially, the Turchins intended to split their time between Orlando and Vermont but during the Covid they took refuge on the farm. They filled it with animals, including chickens and ducks, 15 beef cows, two miniature donkeys, two miniature goats and two sheep. “It’s the most beautiful children’s zoo in the world,” Mr Turchin said. Because their daughter, Marigold, 9, uses a wheelchair, they bought her a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle to get around the property. Mr Turchin said he also bought ATVs for the other girls, which they rotated twice a day to do chores, such as letting animals in and out of their enclosures. “Looks like you’re in Daytona Beach during Harley-Davidson weekend,” Mr. Turchin said.
Unsurprisingly, the Turchins the learning curve was steep. “When you go from a quarter acre to a farm of nearly 100 acres, it’s like a shock to the system,” Turchin said. “You have to go pick out a tractor. What do you mean by eggs? It was truly an incredible adventure.
Ms Turchin said that although they had pets before, they were unprepared to see the vet spay one of the kids. Her daughters watched as the vet cut off the goat’s testicles and threw them over her shoulder onto the barn floor. As the girls tried to comfort the goats, Mr Turchin said: “My only daughter says, ‘I think we’ve seen enough.’ ”
Likewise, the couple, who had no experience with cows, thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to raise cattle – until October 2020, when one of their cows had a sit calf .
“It was learning by fire,” said Mr Turchin, who said he called his digger, who is also his equal partner in cow ownership. Mr Turchin said he then called a local farmer, who asked for help from 20 locals, including an employee of the local grocery store. Eventually, one of the farmers took the cow to the vet. “It was like [stuff] you see in a movie,” Mr. Turchin said. “Afterwards, I literally try to hand them $100 bills to say thank you.”
Besides the breech calf, Mr Turchin said he and his wife had gone online and read about everything – what to do, what not to do, where to set up a cow pen (a fenced area where animals can graze) and how to tilt it according to the sun and the wind. The Turchins and their daughters do the majority of the farm work, including caring for the 15 beef cows, although they have help mowing the lawn, plowing the driveway and doing odd jobs.
In updating the farm, the couple was inspired by their appreciation for Disney. They painted several outbuildings red and designed the pool to look like an old swimming hole with rocks and waterfalls. “I wanted it to feel like a Disney location,” Mr. Turchin said. “I’m the only guy with Restoration Hardware lighting in his stable.”
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Sometimes, he admitted, he went too far. During Covid, the girls attended school remotely, and when one of his daughters had to dress up as writer Laura Ingalls Wilder for a school project, Mr Turchin bought a full-size covered wagon to be the backdrop for his video. He then added a vintage hay wagon, mainly for aesthetics. Separately, he added an authentic Aermotor windmill with 8-foot blades to help aerate a pond he stocked with 400 rainbow trout.
Londonderry has a mix of full-time residents and second-home owners, and the median listing price is $389,000, according to Realtor.com. News Corp., owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors. Land properties fetch about $2 million to $3 million, said listing agent Story Jenks of LandVest, who markets the property with his wife and business partner, Dia Jenks.
Mr Turchin said the farm brings their older and younger children together, but their daughters have to undergo surgery in Florida, where they are being treated by long-time doctors. “We are going to be extremely busy and it will be difficult for us to spend time on the farm,” he said. Although he called the decision to leave their Vermont farm “heartbreaking,” he said family is more than the four walls that surround you. Over the past two years, he added, the girls have acquired a “feel of the American dream.”