Jamie Nadler and Madison Warren were in Italy together pursuing their master of arts in food studies: policies for sustainable production and consumption when they realized that they shared a common dream. 

Creating a farm.

But it wouldn’t be just a farm. No, Jamie and Madison wanted to create an agriturismo, which is an Italian concept that involves any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. 

All roads lead to the farm

Jamie has been farming on and off for the past decade. She started working on farms when she was a teenager and continued throughout her college years while she was studying to complete her degree in environmental science.

“I would never claim that I grew up farming, but I was always a kid who dug for worms and loved vegetables,” Jamie said. “The first time I worked on a farm was in high school, and all of these sparks were flying for me, but I kept hearing that it wasn’t a realistic option for a career. But I always found a way to come back to it because it’s what I love to do.” 

Prior to attending culinary school, Madison worked in project management. She was one of the first hires at SoulCycle and was responsible for opening up over four dozen locations across the country. While she’s worked at a number of start-up companies, her true passion lies in cooking. So she pivoted her career path and attended the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. 

Starting her own farm was always on the list of things that Jamie wanted to accomplish, so when she met Madison and realized that they shared a common dream and were both armed with the necessary background and skill set, it seemed serendipitous. 

“The health of the soil and the health of people are the same thing, and we have to treat them the same,” Jamie said. “Madison and I started talking about our dreams, and we realized that we should be working together on this.” 

After graduating from culinary school, Madison worked as a private chef and in restaurants, but neither really stuck for her. “I couldn’t find my rhythm in a restaurant. You’re in a room far away, and you don’t actually get to experience people’s joy as they’re eating. You have no idea if they’re connecting with the food or how they feel about it,” she said. “I love the ability to be next to the guests and tell stories about the food and take them on that journey. That piece is so special to me.” 

Madison’s favorite part of coordinating shindigs is getting to be creative and utilize the food in whatever way she wants. Much of her work is very structured and operational, so being able to let loose in the kitchen is incredibly fun. “I didn’t know I was a creative person until I found cooking, and now I realize that’s all that it is. It’s just art, creativity, and being adaptable.” 

Madison has spent the winter cooking and curating recipes that she’s looking forward to using during the summer. Sometimes Madison doesn’t know what vegetables she’ll be working with until the day of, so having a list of tried-and-true recipes that she can pull from is incredibly beneficial. 

“Vegetables are the coolest canvas because they’re not only tasty, but they’re also so beautiful. I really like to think about each dish, not just how it’s going to taste, but how is it going to look on the plate? How excited are you going to be when you see it? How does it play with all of the other things happening in the meal, like what’s at the table, in the background, etc? I really appreciate the creative aspect of planning a meal.” 

Farming sustainably

Dancing Greens is a no-till farm, and Jamie focuses on maximizing soil health wherever possible. The goal is not to break up the microbiology that’s living in the soil, so she also utilizes crop rotation and cover cropping to further enrich the soil. 

“We try to encompass circularity as much as we can,” Jamie said. “We have a compost system and we put that back into the soil. We’re constantly building soil biology instead of depleting it.” 

For Jamie and Madison, farming sustainably is the only way to do it. 

“When I was studying for my degree in environmental science, I became really aware of the interconnectedness of agriculture and climate change. That’s been my motivating force,” Jamie said. “I love growing food, and the only way I want to grow is sustainably.” 

Dancing Greens doesn’t use any inorganic chemical inputs, such as fertilizer or pesticide. Instead, it utilizes non-invasive techniques to help protect the natural ecosystem. Additionally, since it is such a small plot of land, it also uses techniques such as solarization and tarping to turn beds over quickly and grow a higher diversity of vegetables. 

The spring months were spent seed starting and preparing for the upcoming season. Jamie joked that she was acting a bit like a plant throughout the month of April, meaning that she was waking up and getting back into the swing of things. 

She’s the main farmer at Dancing Greens, but she does have help from her partner, Andy, when she needs it. 

Right now, Madison’s days are spent in the kitchen testing out recipes and reading cookbooks. Additionally, Madison handles much of the back-end operations of the business, so in the spring months, you can usually find her elbow deep in the email inbox or in a spreadsheet. 

“While Jamie’s really busy with prepping the farm during these months, I’m focusing on a lot of partner outreach, communications, budget projections, and social media,” she said. “You know, all of the stuff that has to get done on the computer.” 

What is a shindig?

On its website, Dancing Greens Farm defines a shindig as a large, lively party, especially one celebrating something. Shindigs are a place to connect deeply with food and with other people, and they are a curated space for conversation, education, and delicious food. 

So why the name shindig? Why not just call it a party or a gathering?

“The whole point of this is to make it as fun, joyful, and exciting as possible. At the root of what we’re doing, we want to educate people in a cool way, but we don’t want that to be what people think they’re coming for. We want this to be an immersive experience that makes you start to think differently about how your food is grown and where it’s coming from without realizing that you’re doing that. A shindig is a full-on celebration, so that’s where the name came from.”

Dancing Greens’ season really gets going in June. It starts with some events in New York City, including bringing the farm to Brooklyn with a shindig dinner experience at Frank’s House on June 11. It will move to the farm on July 13 for a shindig dinner experience partnering with Roots Rising, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower youth and build community through food and farming. A full calendar of shindigs and workshops is available on the website. 

“When we started this, we were just thinking of the most simple way that I can grow food, Madison can cook it, and how we can use it to bring people together,” Jamie said. “It’s so much more than a dinner. It’s an immersive experience.” 

A big tenet of what Dancing Greens wants to do is centered around partnerships and collaborations with other farms, chefs, makers, and doers. On its website, it has a section titled “those we admire,” that lists individuals, businesses, and organizations that have inspired Jamie and Madison. 

“One of the first pages we created on our website was the ‘those we admire’ page. We added anybody that we came across that we thought was incredible because if we found them, we want other people to find these folks, too,” Madison said. “Everybody needs to know about the awesomeness that’s happening in the region.”

Most recently, Dancing Greens has partnered with The Farm New Marlborough in Massachusetts to expand its vegetable-growing space. Dancing Greens will also be selling its goods at the farm store alongside the meat and eggs that are produced at The Farm New Marlborough. 

“Farms and chefs can’t work in isolation. Many cool people are doing lots of fun things in this area and we’d love to find ways to collaborate with as many of those people as possible,” Jamie explained. “We want to think outside the box with our partnership pieces as well. Can we work with artists or musicians? Farming is such a great space to bring lots of people in, so that’s something we’re trying to do more of.” 

Fostering connection 

At its core, Dancing Greens Farm hinges on the importance of bringing people together. 

“It’s different from going to a restaurant. The community building piece is really nice. Meeting new people and sharing this type of experience together is a core of what we’re trying to do,” Madison shared. 

Jamie and Madison have no shortage of respect and love for one another, which is likely what makes them such a powerful team. 

“I love working with Madison. We’re a really strong team, and it’s rewarding and great,” Jamie said.

Madison agreed. “Working with Jamie has been a highlight of my life. I will say that there’s nobody better to have on your side.” 

Beyond that, the biggest reward for Jamie as a farmer is growing her own food and helping to create a space that is warm and welcoming to the community. “The feedback that we’ve gotten from people at the end of the night is amazing. People have come to Madison and said, ‘that was the best meal I’ve ever had.’ It’s incredible to be making memories like that not only for us, but also for the people coming to our farm.” 

Madison has found it very rewarding to change people’s minds about food and open up their palates. She said that many people think they don’t like vegetables, but by the end of a shindig, she typically has guests come up to her to gush about how much they enjoyed them. 

“Being able to change people’s minds about certain foods has been so fun for me as a chef,” she said. 

Juggling the present with the future

Running a business has its own set of unique challenges that present themselves over and over. For Jamie and Madison, wearing so many hats has proven to be both rewarding and challenging all at once.

“People tend to dissociate the farm from the business, which isn’t the case. It’s one entity. Our to-do list never shrinks,” Madison laughed. “We check one item off but add five more.” 

Despite this, Madison and Jamie both agree that this is the most fun they’ve ever had at a job. Doing all of the work that’s associated with a business – paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork – is “so much more enjoyable” because they’re building their dream. 

“It makes it all worth it,” Madison said. 

Looking long term, they have their sights set on expanding the farm to look like a full-fledged agriturismo. They want to have a large farm with not just vegetables but also animals, an orchard, and a place for people to stay the night. 

“We really believe in this dream, and we think that people would be really receptive to having something like it here in the Northeast,” Jamie explained. 

One of their other goals is to keep their agriturismo-style getaway accessible price-wise. “I spend a lot of my day in the financial planning and budgeting area trying to figure out how we model something that can be accessible to as many people as possible,” Madison said. 

But for now, Jamie and Madison are looking forward to this season on the farm. “If any businesses or creatives are looking to collaborate, we’d love to chat! We have a lot of great events lined up this summer, and we can’t wait to be fully immersed in our second season on the farm!” •

To learn more about Dancing Greens Farm, visit its website at dancing-greens.com or visit it on Instagram @dancinggreensfarm. Check out the shindigs calendar at dancing-greens.com/shindigs or visit in person at 214 Blue Hill Road, Great Barrington, MA.