Calling All City Slickers: Get Out To the Farm

After years of living abroad, Eva and Sid Greer settled on 400 acres in the middle of nowhere. And they’d love for you to visit.

by Laura Kostleny
Published 5.19.2010
From D Magazine JUN 2010

COUNTRY BOY: Sid Greer retired from a high-stress job and took up farming.
photography by Dave Shafer
Sid Greer was an oil and gas executive. He traveled 300 days a year, jetting to far-flung places such as Israel, Kuwait, Oman, and the Emirates. He rubbed shoulders, closed deals, and drank hard. And then, in 1998, when he and his wife, Eva, were living in London, the company he was working for went through a merger. Sid had to make a decision: take a new job or accept a buyout package. He opted for retirement, and they left London right away—like, immediately. “We took Christmas ornaments off the tree and tossed them into suitcases on the way out the front door,” he says. It was Christmas Eve.

Leaving was easy; figuring out where to go was more of a challenge. The Greers could have retired anywhere—a pied-à-terre in New York City or a beach house in Belize (where Eva is from). But aside from wanting to be near their four children, all of whom live in Texas, Sid says they were interested in finding a place where they could pursue a healthier lifestyle as well as a change of vocation. The solution: moving full-time to the family farm they had bought years before near Daingerfield, about 150 miles northeast of Dallas. The transition was easier than they imagined. “I already farmed in my mind,” Sid says, laughing.

“When I got here, I bought every animal I ever wanted,” he says. He has French guinea hens, sheep, cows, and horses. He’s on the lookout for a new potbellied pig—while mourning the loss of his last one, Hooch. He wanders his 400 acres in a golf cart, passing farm dogs Pepe and Tux, pens of roosters, and roaming French Toulouse geese. And as he chases an errant rooster into a pen, collects eggs, or hand-feeds their newest goat, Miss Fancy, it’s tough to imagine this guy ever wore a suit.

Green Acres at Greer Farm
05.09 Picking berries, mingling with the farm animals, and swimming in the lake are just a few of the activities offered at Greer by Dave Shafer

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Eva has made her own mark on the property. "Cooking and flowers are her passion," Sid says. This explains the 3.5 acres of landscaped gardens with everything from 100 varieties of roses to lilacs, caladiums, and lilies.

Both of the Greers are passionate about sustainable agriculture, which means farming in a continuously prosperous yet environmentally responsible way. They've had great success with it. Visitors flock to the farm every summer beginning in May for blueberry picking, followed by blackberries through July and figs in August. "We planted some grapes and raspberry bushes in the winter and different fruit trees," he says. "It will take a few years to see how they grow. But the blackberry and blueberry crop looks to be really good this year."

Berries are only the beginning. Everywhere you look, there's something edible. Take a few steps and you'll spy asparagus, cabbage, and sauerkraut. Go in another direction and find heirloom tomatoes, basil, summer squash, and white eggplant. And then there are the fruit trees: cherry, fig, apricot, and apple.

All of these fresh foods come in handy for Eva's cooking classes. Each month, she hosts up to 10 people at a time for instruction on culinary delights featuring produce from her farm. This summer, check out classes such as "Sweet & Savory: Cooking with Greer Farm Blackberries and Blueberries" and "Mouthwatering Salsas." Students are encouraged to get as involved as they like. "Sometimes people don't like to be all that hands-on," she says.  Some students kick up the participation level only when they sit down to eat the fruits of others' labors, paired with plenty of wine.

Berry picking and cooking classes are great and all, but the best part about visiting Greer Farm is the sleepover. About two years ago, the Greers built four log cabins that have air conditioning, kitchenettes, big bathrooms, flat-screen televisions with satellite, and wi-fi. (That wireless comes in handy. Cell service is iffy at best.) The cabins, complete with cedar swings, overlook the lake, which is stocked with sunfish, Florida bass, crappie, catfish, and coppernose brim. Guests can fish, kayak, rent bikes, hike or run on the numerous trails lining the farm, and "have their own little petting zoo," as Sid puts it. Old structures—some dating back to before the Civil War—litter the grounds, including an outhouse that now houses a croquet set and a sampler that reads How To Be a Mean Mother.

"Camping" takes on a different meaning at Greer Farm. Thanks to indoor plumbing, cooking lessons, CNN, and a bocce court, it's palatable to even the girliest city slicker. And Sid says people leave inspired to look for their inner farmer. "The No. 1 thing people tell me is that I'm living their dream," he says. "They say that when they come to the farm, they feel like they're a part of it."