From The Earth
I grew up working in the garden with both of my grandfathers. I loved working alongside them and developed an early respect for our earth and a genuine interest in horticulture. Through quiet observation, my fascination grew with each seasonal cycle. After the leaves fell each Autumn, I’d turn to my mom's landscaping books and winter seed and bulb catalogs. I memorized latin names and growing methods for my favorite plants, particularly those in our hardiness zone. I’d pick favorites and sketch landscape designs, always tucking in an herb garden into the perennial border. In early Spring, I'd cut a new planting bed with my mom to practice dividing Siberian Irises and Daffodil bulbs. We had great fun hunting for little red seedlings hiding in the carpet of evergreen pachysandra under Pepere’s huge Japanese Maple. We transplanted these seedlings to my parents’ landscape where these tiny, fragile descendants would grow over decades into living monuments of the care we took that day.
In high school my passion for plants expanded to the always-better-than-the-grocery-store produce that would come from our family gardens. I took the few elective culinary classes that were available and added classic cookbooks to the rotation, experimenting at home with riffs on the recipes learned in class. I thought I would go on to Johnson & Wales to become a chef. In my sophomore year my aunt took me to a food festival in Providence, which showed me the dizzying depth of creativity, technique, and ingredients. I met Julia Child! She signed my copy of her cookbook! I was determined to feel the same exhilaration I saw in those cooks, proudly presenting their joy of discovery.
Cooking seemed to be a clear career path that could allow me to explore a burgeoning passion and discipline. Looking at the world around me, farming seemed more like an unsustainable relic of what people used to do before modern agribusiness took hold; I convinced myself I would always be able to dig in my own garden and landscape to scratch that itch.
But harsh reality set in, as I learned what life was like for a chef, and I got scared: working nights and weekends, opposing schedules from my family and friends. I had witnessed how difficult that flip was for my dad, a policeman in Acushnet and a 2nd shift dye chemist at a textile factory in Fall River. I convinced myself that making food for my family and friends would be enough. I went on to study Biology and Biochemistry. After college I moved to Boston to dive headlong into a successful career in clinical research management.
When I lived in Boston in my 20’s, I was the proud caretaker of a little 16 by 24 foot patch of earth, number M20, in the heart of the historic Fenway Victory Gardens. Plot M20 was perfectly positioned at the end of a path with terrific southern exposure, protected from the street and city. Walking down the path, hauling garden tools and small, mail order perennials, working in M20 satisfied the need to get my hands in the earth; to nurture life. I grew both edible and decorative plants, including a few special young trees with the goal of growing them to move to land of my own someday. But as time went on, the trees grew larger and they pushed back on that intention and, again, my life plan shifted. After 7 years, I had to give up M20 when I moved out of Boston into Brookline (and married Esther!). I still didn’t have a house or land of my own, so those trees were transplanted and now thrive at my parents’ home.
I continued to cook for family and friends. I discovered and fell in love with better beer at places like The Publick House and, naturally, I began homebrewing and fell deeper in love with beer than I had previously with food or farming. I also began dreaming of how I could bring all my passions and talents together in a harmonious way that made up for the compromises I had made until then. Esther was a fearless entrepreneur and endlessly supportive of realizing a vision to build and operate a farm & brewery together. Trillium was born! At least the vision for what it could one day become had taken form. We didn't have a farm in our family, nor the money to buy one. We did, however, have a mortgage and a son and a daughter on the way. Still, this future felt right. We took the leap and committed the entirety of our mid-30’s married couple life savings to Trillium. With the tireless help of friends and family, we hacked a brewery out of a run down 2,300 square foot space in Fort Point Channel, opening our doors for the first time in March 2013. There was no clear path to a farm, but we had our definitive starting point. Everyone’s life goal needs a first step and we trusted each other enough to take it together.
Five years go by in the blink of an eye after you open a brewery, and our lives have evolved in a way that we never could have imagined. After all this, I know that none of my previous decisions to step away from cooking or farming were actually compromises, but rather a certain prioritization to foundational dedication to family and patience. Being true to what I needed had in turn allowed me to become what Trillium needed from me. And with each passing day, we can more clearly see a path to Trillium becoming the New England Farm & Brewery of our dreams.
- Jean Claude Tetreault