Andrea Davis, owner of Broken Shovels Farm, knows a thing or two about variety. She rescues animals, sells cheese that comes from her no-slaughter goat dairy, and hosts touring bands, which can take advantage of a stage she built on her farm, inspired by the time she dated a traveling musician.
The downside of her passions: She hasn't had a day off in three years.
“I can’t be on the road, and I can’t go to festivals,” Davis explains.
So Davis decided to bring the festivals to her. This year she created a concert series, and shows planned for September and October (weather permitting) will close out the season. This idea stemmed from the combination of Davis’s love for her farm and wanting to share the space with more people, as well as wanting to host more shows. Starting next May, Davis hopes to have weekly events booked through September that are mostly music-focused. But she's contemplating adding burlesque shows, poetry open-mic nights and even a film series.
For the audience, concerts at the farm follow the same basic format: touring the farm as an opener followed by the music itself, and ending with a family-style meal.
Starting in 2014, Davis hosted bands on a patio on her property, but that proved to be too small a space. So she and interns Sandy Beman and Natalie Grossman built the bigger stage last spring. “We built it to look like it fits here,” Davis says. The stage is lined with age-rusted metal walls and is decorated with antique farm tools like shovels and pitchforks. Musicians Davis met while touring with her ex-boyfriend even lent a helping hand in the stage's construction, and the team worked through blizzards.
“We totally started from scratch,” Davis says. “It all comes together at the last minute, adding one new thing before each show [we host]. It’s still a work in progress.”
At first, Davis was reaching out to everyone she knew to play at Broken Shovels, be it mutual friends or bands she saw on the road. Now that the word has gotten out, she receives requests from bands to play at the farm.
From metal to country, Davis finds that bands of all genres are a good fit for concerts on her farm. “Looking at a goat farm with a family-friendly environment, it may not seem like a good fit,” Davis says. “It’s surprising how well it works when you bring in fun, talented and interesting people [to perform].”
After spending time on the road herself, Davis experienced first-hand how tough that lifestyle can be, and wanted to provide an alternative experience for musicians. “Being on the road is hard for bands that aren’t in a big tour bus and larger green rooms,” Davis recalls. “Sometimes the club doesn’t know you’re coming, maybe promotion was bad and five people show up to a big venue. It can be really disheartening. So I want to express a European appreciation for the arts as well as see shows I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.”
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Davis prepares a big meal for the staff and bands before the shows; she prides herself on making comfort food with a healthy slant. “The food that I make isn’t to make people start eating kale,” Davis explains. “A talent of mine is to make traditional heavy meals into vegan meals. Most times people think they can’t eat it if they’re vegetarian, and are surprised to find out it's vegan.” Davis also has a small guesthouse on the property for bands to stay in overnight. She hopes to eventually have multiple cabins and a larger guesthouse, enabling bands with more members to feel even more at home.
At the core of her work, Davis enjoys sharing her space and being hospitable to friends and strangers alike. “I think my home here is one of the best places in the world,” Davis says. “Aesthetically and ideologically, sitting under the stars with goats, watching live music and having a picnic. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
The next show at Broken Shovels Farm is Ryan Davidson on September 7. The farm tour starts at 6 p.m. followed by music at 7:30 p.m. Visit the Broken Shovels website for more information.