Meet Mark–urban farmer and master carpenter!

​This week we are excited to introduce you to someone who is doing some amazing things not only for the Creamery, but also in his community. He is part of our East Hill team, and he is also a great family friend. Please ‘meet’ Mark Stevens!

​Mark is a very skilled carpenter whom we have known for a long time. Our kids even homeschooled together for a while. He, and his two sons Willy and Tucker, are doing a lot of work for East Hill—many of the details which you will see when you come to visit the Creamery, and some that are more behind-the-scenes. Mark, Willy, and Tucker are responsible for the metal studding on the windows and doors. They are also doing the exterior siding, interior wall panels, and the ceilings. All of the trim work, the nicer stairs, and the detail work will be done by Mark and his sons.

Posts and beams have arrived to Creamery. They have assembled frames and set four beams on top of second floor
Some of Mark's projects at the Creamery

He also said he is there to do whatever Gary asks, and other things that came up, such as the shoring work, which is the temporary structure underneath the 2nd floor concrete and the ribbing that holds up thfat concrete.

​All of this variety of work is nothing new or too challenging for Mark. He has been a carpenter for 28 years and has been self-employed for 22 or 23 years. He has done everything from remodeling to new construction. He used to do it all by himself, but now his two oldest boys, Willy and Tucker, work with him full time. Mark has done a huge variety of work and particularly really likes detail work. He has done very unusual projects like working for an award-winning architect. He likes the things that challenge him and make him think. Remodeling is something he has done a lot of, and almost always he completes most everything in his projects. When he works on a remodeling project, he does all the plumbing and electric work.

Mark and his son Tucker ready to raise the post and beams
Mark and his son Tucker ready to raise the post and beams. Willy is not in the photo as he had just left to go to the World Cup bike races in Virginia.

Mark has done various work on people’s farms and even did some work for Gary a number of years ago on his house and the houses for the people who work for Gary at East Hill Farms. One year when Gary’s sons where in high school, they went and worked with Mark for a while to learn from him. Even though he has done various work on farms, he has never worked on a project like this. He said this is a “pretty involved project.” When asked how he got involved in the Creamery work, he said “I know Gary pretty well so when he asked if we would be interested in the job 18 months ago, and it sounded interesting, and I like Gary, so it was a no-brainer to accept the challenge. It’s new and interesting and a cool project.”

Posts and beams ready to raise
Posts and beams ready to raise

Mark grew up in the southern tier of New York in a small city called Olean. He went to college at Houghton College and got a degree in history. He said there isn’t much to do with a history degree besides teach or go to law school, and neither of those was something he really wanted to do so he got a job on a building crew and enjoyed it. He read books on how things were done and learned pretty quick. He started on a good crew that did custom houses from start to finish, so he was able to learn a lot from that. His grandfather was also a carpenter, so the skill runs in the family.

​It was at college where Mark met his wife Janice, who is from Rochester. They bought their first house in the Finger Lakes area and then moved to Wyoming County. Eight years ago they decided to move into Buffalo, which Gary thought they were crazy to do, but they had a purpose in mind. They moved to the east side of Buffalo, which is a high poverty area and started the largest urban farm in Buffalo there. It is 27 city lots that used to be houses.

Mark and Janice in front of a sign for their urban farm
Mark and Janice in front of a sign for their urban farm

Mark talked about how this area has a lot of potential. He said they grow produce and sell it to CSA members (community supported agriculture). They also sell vegetables to two or three high end restaurants that want super fresh, wholesome stuff. His wife is the main lady behind all of this. He and Janice have 6 of their own children, and one boy that they are guardians for whom they have raised for eight years. This boy came over from Africa, and they got to know his father, and the father asked them to homeschool him, and they ended up being his guardians. Their oldest daughter is married, and they had their first granddaughter in June, which Mark says is more relaxing than having your own kids, and he really enjoys her.

imageWhen asked what he likes about working on the Creamery, Mark said, “Growing produce, we are very connected with people in the food movement, so having an artisan cheese is up the same alley. We want to grow and buy quality food, so this fits right in with that. It’s a really cool project. Good quality stuff is what it’s all about. It’s really neat to be involved in this.” We are fortunate to have Mark and his sons involved with the Creamery also, and we are so happy to have such skill on our team. As you can see, Mark is a very talented family man, with a heart for his community and the people in it. If you have any questions for Mark about the work he does, both carpentry and urban farming, please feel free to ask. As always, thank you so very much for reading today!