1. What teacher do you remember most?
Art Department Chair Mr. Fox is probably the most influential teacher I have had. His lessons were not simply based on an understanding of the fundamentals of drawing, color theory, or composition. He showed me how the "creative process" is the most powerful tool that one can possess. Being able to stare at the blank canvas in front of you, and dare to put something of your own down, takes courage, deliberation, and an understanding of responsibility. One starts a painting – or anything - with a vision in mind, but once underway, they may see that certain things must be let go, and focus shift to other parts. The artist has to be willing to get rid of an idea that they may have loved in order to make something great. At a certain point, the painting has a life of its own, and one must be willing to see that and allow it to go in the direction it needs. I use these lessons in continuing to create paintings, and now in writing books, but it is also valuable insight that guides me in every life decision I make.
2. What inspired you to found Blue Ledge Farm?
When my wife, Hannah Sessions, and I started Blue Ledge Farm 17 years ago, we found ourselves staring at a metaphorical blank canvas, and with the same creative perspective I learned from Mr. Fox, we set about building a business. We were 23 years old when we dreamt up this vision of making artisanal cheeses and milking goats. Some of our inspiration was rooted in our year living abroad in Italy, where a love of food was solidified. We also wanted to work for ourselves and work with our hands. Being creative people, we couldn't just milk goats - we needed to create something, and so the cheese was born. Cheese-making is part science and part art; there are laboratorial aspects to the process to ensure consistency, food safety, and a knowledge of cheese, but the artistic part is when one decides when and how to tweak the process in order to make something new, or something great.
At its very core, Haverford creates a place that values learning. But more importantly, it develops a community where young men can be the best version of themselves and have extraordinary teachers and coaches to inspire them, nurture their intellectual curiosities, and guide them in becoming good people.
Greg's paintings: "Portrait of Ayrshire Cow," "Portrait of Chickens," and "Portrait of Scapeland Farm."
3. Can you talk about your artistic endeavors – your painting and writing?
In both my art and writing, I have tried to represent my farm, the Vermont landscape, and even the cheeses we create. Vermont is a beautiful place to live and I use the parts of the world I inhabit as my subject matter. I paint scenes from my farm, of the goats and the cows that provide milk for the cheeses. In 2010, I had a show in a gallery in Manhattan titled "The Milk is the Medium," consisting of a series of still-life paintings of our cheeses. The paintings were both representational as well as conceptual. In my novel When Everything Was Possible, just released in December, I tell a fictional story about a young woman who hikes The Long Trail, a path that stretches across the spine of the Green Mountains in Vermont, and then apprentices at a goat farm and makes cheese.
4. What lessons did you learn at Haverford that you carry with you, still?
Because I was a lifer at Haverford, the list of lessons I learned from my time there is quite long. I'd like to think that Haverford taught me first and foremost to be a critical thinker. It was always stressed to me the importance of formulating one's own thoughts. Haverford instilled in me an independent love of learning, one that is steeped in having an inquisitive and open mind. I also think that Haverford's emphasis on character and integrity made a deep impression on me. These lessons are still guiding me each day in both my personal and business life. At its very core, Haverford creates a place that values learning. But more importantly, it develops a community where young men can be the best version of themselves and have extraordinary teachers and coaches to inspire them, nurture their intellectual curiosities, and guide them in becoming good people.
Greg Bernhardt '95 was a Lifer at Haverford. After graduating from Bates College in 1999 with majors in both studio art and creative writing, and spending a year abroad in Florence, Italy, Greg moved to Vermont. In 2000, he and his wife, Hannah, started Blue Ledge Farm, a family-owned and -run goat dairy and cheesemaking operation in Leicester. When not running the farm, Hannah and Greg paint in their studio (see more at Blue Ledge Gallery). Greg is the author of When Everything Was Possible, published by Haybine Press in December 2016.
Pictured above: Greg Bernhardt in front of the cheese cave at Blue Ledge Farm
- The Big Room Blog