Bear Path Farm began from a need by me to redirect my life from my former job working as an applications engineer for a small company that sold energy conserving power systems.
I already owned and lived on 50 acres of beautiful land in the hills of West Whately, Massachusetts. The land was purchased in 1976, complete with rundown buildings, but had a lot of potential. Eventually a passive solar house was built, peach and apple trees were planted, buildings were repaired, flower and veggie gardens blossomed and compost was made, the way it has always been made, using a manure fork and muscle.
Everything was very small scale – a partial homesteading way of life. For years income for the farm and personal needs came from jobs which, for the most part had environmental stewardship as a common thread. Employment in both the public and private sectors, in the field of wood energy as a sustainable resource, lasted for many years. A short stint working for a fine homebuilder was both educational and creative. The last off-farm job, using my engineering skills, was interesting and appeared to have much potential but was ultimately disappointing and lacked job satisfaction, which is very important to me.
It was time to make a change. I wanted to start a business in the environmental / recycling field. But what would that be? By 1996 I was both the recycling coordinator for the Town of Whately and represented my town on the board of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. I slowly began to investigate a few recycling related business opportunities. I was somewhat familiar with composting, since I had composted my food scraps and garden wastes for many years. Then it occurred to me that I had the land and already owned a small front end loader. So I just needed to get a quantity of some basic compostable materials (manure, sawdust, horse-bedding, leaves etc.), mix them, turn them and see what would happen.
Bill Obear stands by his equipment at the farm in Whately.
With minimal marketing I adopted the attitude – if I make it they will come. I felt that if I made an excellent product and provided superior service, compost users will find me and my business will grow and succeed. The rest is history. I now have a customer base of over 500 users in over 50 Western Mass towns as well as southern Vermont and New Hampshire. And I've never been more satisfied in my work.
I know that I must be doing something right when I frequently receive calls from new customers who say that they heard from their friend or neighbor that I make the best compost in the Pioneer Valley. Hearing this, I’m both bashful and proud at the same time. I owe many thanks to all of my wonderful customers for being so loyal and supportive.