New HGTV series spotlights Berkshire farmhouses


When HGTV premieres its latest 10-part series "We Bought the Farm" on Saturday, it just might spark a stampede of city folk moving to the Berkshires.

That's because the debut episode on the Home & Garden Television show traces the path Stephanie Bergman and Rob Hoechster took to buy their bucolic South County farmhouse.

Each week, the series will follow a different family's journey from city to country, according to executive producer Carley Simpson.

"They tour four homes and settle on one fabulous farmhouse which is revealed at the show's end," she said. "We traveled all over, from the Berkshires to Florida and Texas."

Moving really takes you back to a simpler time," she said. "With all the technology and craziness right now, it's a great thing to be doing."

When Simpson was 13, her family moved to a farm outside Seattle. "We worked 5 acres and had animals," she recalled, "it was a great life."

Local real estate agent Annie Alquist of Barnbrook Realty led the farmhouse hunt.

"When someone walks into a house they are going to buy, it's like when two people meet and realize there might be some romantic attraction," she said. "You feel that jolt of energy.

"I love watching all the home buying shows on HGTV," she said. "Every year I see an increase of families in my child's class that left the city to come here and raise their children.

"They want them to grow up with fresh air and a yard and an idea of what it's like to connect with nature," she said. "Nowadays many people can work remotely through the Internet, or one person commutes to the city for the work week."

Alquist considers these new residents essential to support local schools and businesses.

Bergman and Hoechster, who moved to the Berkshires from the New York City area, filmed for four days viewing four farmhouses and touring Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock with daughters Maya, 6, and Lila, 4.

As a child growing up in the suburbs, Bergman was always digging in the dirt, and often visited the Berkshires to go hiking.

"It's a beautiful area with many outdoor opportunities," she said. "We never owned a house before deciding to put down roots here."

Hoechster went to school in New Hampshire and spent time in the Catskills area. Working on a farm and in construction taught him great skills for the life they want to live, he said.

"Gardening is really important for us," Bergman said. "We want our children to experience growing their own food and taking care of animals. There's space here and support from the community to do all that. Our children can roam and aren't living where the next door neighbor's house is five feet away from us."

The couple started gardening together 8 years ago, and grew carrots, broccoli, peppers and greens. "Our first garden was makeshift in all these different buckets and plastic containers," Hoechster recalled. "It was pretty successful."

"We wanted space to plant apple trees, berry bushes and nut trees, to be as self sufficient as we could," he said. "We didn't want to live in a construction zone, we wanted a place we wouldn't have to completely redo."

They needed good soil and always consulted the USDA soil map before looking at a house, Bergman said. "We wanted an acre or more to be able to have a huge garden and chickens and maybe other small animals down the road."

A spacious kitchen was essential, with room to cook and can homegrown produce. Seeking a home with character, they looked at farmhouses built from the 1700s to early 1900s.

Bergman is operations manager for Blue Rider therapeutic riding stables, while Hoechster is a dietitian at Fairview Hospital, both in Great Barrington.

"I love hearing old timers' stories about growing up on farms, producing their own food and animals, and filling root cellars for the winter," he said. "They scratched a living from this land, and it's inspiring to me. I get a lot of good tips."

"We've found our home," Bergman said. "We have a great social network, our children are in the schools, we're part of a community. I like being able to go to the [Berkshire] Co-op and see people I know. It's a really nice small town atmosphere."

They will watch the show with their family while visiting nearby Connecticut for Bergman's mother's birthday.

"We actually don't own a TV," she said.

On the air ...

What: "We Bought the Farm," a new series featuring a city family looking to move into a country farmhouse

When: 11 p.m. Saturday, 2 a.m. Sunday

Where: HGTV (check local listings)


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