The life adventure of Rob Farley began in a Suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with my birth in 1961. A connection to the outside was quickly established with trips to the parks, biking on neighborhood trails, and camping trips with the family. We moved around a bit as a family and when I was a teenager, the family ended up on the beaches of South Carolina. There the sport of surfing became my passion. Solitary sports have been my preference because of the freedom they provide and the ability to connect with the raw power of our natural environment. Surfing changed to whitewater kayaking in college, when I left the beaches and a moved back to Ohio.
I attended Kent State University where my interest in the environment took off and my sense of adventure expanded. I took part in many outings with the Biology Club, Outdoors Club and the Geology Club, including trips to the Florida Everglades, the Keys, the shores of Lake Erie, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—which included camping, hiking, bird watching, spelunking, whitewater rafting and kayaking. I did get a degree in Geology, which again had great field trips and a summer camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Then there was a course in Environmental Conservation which changed the way I looked at the world forever.
Once out of school, I went to the woods again – two years as a migrant camp work. That is outdoor education and summer camps. The Nature Classroom program for elementary schools had me working at two camps in Ohio and five camps in Massachusetts from the Berkshires to Cape Cod. Squeezed between these camps were summer camps in the Adirondacks and Vermont – do you think that had an influence on me? Connecting kids to nature and seeing their eyes light up at new discoveries brought me even closer to the earth. Seeking out educational opportunities since those days has been an important part of my work.
After two years in the woods, I headed to the Jungle of … New York City – you know it’s time to get a serious job. Ever heard of a fish out of water? Well I learned maybe it’s not about the job but the quality of life! Guess where I landed? Moving to Vermont was the best thing I ever did – no looking back. My career had several environmental consulting jobs, but the last time I was looking for work, I put the thought out there that working with drinking water supplies would be a nice change. The State of Vermont, Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation, Water Supply Division is where I have been since. Be careful what you wish for!
My professional career has always involved outreach and education—starting with Nature’s classroom, then to professional level training in OSHA requirements, Kayaking, Red Cross, and University Lab courses in Geology. With the State of Vermont this outreach included Drinking Water Fair activities, Geologist in the Park for Earth Science Week and the organization of the Science on the Green – an opportunity for schools to visit the state complex and participate in workshops/field trips offered by State Scientist. Part of sharing the sport of mushing is to teach others about it.
Vermont, a beautiful place to grow roots, if only the right lady is out there for me! A nice person on a Vermont farm sounds perfect. Elly, a fourth generation farmer’s daughter, finds guess who? She also put the thought out there that as a child she was only able to have two dogs, while her sister had five – what an injustice! She stated: I am going to have a whole bunch of dogs when I get older. How perfect! Little did she know! We waited until we built our house in 1994 before we started getting dogs. We had nine dogs by 1999 when our daughter, Sage, came along. Two more dogs before our son, Graham, came along in 2002. No more kids but the dogs keep coming.
Mushing is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle! I have always picked the sports that are not done by the masses. In many sports a people can excel to professional status very quickly, but mushing has so many layers that this is not possible. You may be able to excel at races without much experience when you use others’ dogs, but to breed and train your own dogs will take a lifetime. Once you stop learning, your career is finished. There is so much to figure out: What do I feed them? What traits in the dog will serve their performance? How do I train them, so they do what I ask of them? What am I actually teaching them? How do I control this sled? How do I get down the trail safely? It is always a learning experience. For me I want to keep the sense of adventure alive. I define a good season as: many runs on different trails, sharing the sport with others, a race or two, long runs 30+ miles, a camping trip and time out with the family. If the dogs and I have had a good time on the trail, then it has been successful.
TO LIVE MORE SIMPLY IS TO LIVE MORE PURPOSEFULLY AND WITH A MINIMUM OF NEEDLESS DISTRACTION, --DUANE ELGIN.
We try to live a modest life with in the means of our income and are not looking for a whole lot more. We fit in our house well and resist the pressures to add on to give us more room. We grow what food we can, heat with wood, reduce/reuse/recycle as much as we can, carpool/bike and recognize that all the little things we do taken together makes a big difference. We value family experiences and not things. The Best Things in Life are not Things! We understand our place in our community, in the world, and the universe—and know we are all connected. Check out more of these philosophies at the Vermont Earth Institute,
With all of these experiences by far being a family man is the most rewarding. To find the one special person that will share all of this and to rediscover the world around through your children eyes is a blessing to cherish. We balance each other well; I am the adventurer, Elly the homebody, Sage the quit sponge, Graham the physical bouncing boy. Sage and I have the conversation like, will the earth survive without people, a bike ride and discovering piano together. Graham and I connect on a skateboard, being Cub Scouts, wrestling, working and talking. As a family we stay connected to the environment with climbing peaks, heading to the beach, music festivals or working in the garden. One thing that I want to keep in mind is that these are the best days of my life. I would be a shame to let them pass by and to look back at them and make that conclusion. Be in the present!