Farmer, painter, illustrator, photographer, baker and sauce maker Sandy Chichester Rivkin has a busy life, but the co-owner of Entwood Farm wouldn’t have it any other way. In 2008, Rivkin and her husband relocated from a large plot of land in Virginia to a small plot in Hinesburg. “We had a big farm in Virginia and it got to be too much,” she said. “We had one child down there but we have a daughter here and she said it was her turn for us to live near her. We wanted to get back to New England, anyway.”
Rivkin’s daughter found the couple a small house in Hinesburg, and although the pair swore they weren’t going to return to farming, they soon bought chickens and installed a greenhouse and an ever-growing array of raised beds. They started attending the farmers’ market with their eggs, as well as breads and jam which Rivkin made, but they eventually left because they found they were spending the entire week preparing for it and it took away from other things they wanted to do such as volunteering for the food shelf. Rivkin still sells eggs to those who come by the house and makes sauces which she gives to family and friends. The couple tries to avoid processed or commercially canned food so they spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
Rivkin considers herself lucky to have avoided traditional 9 to 5 jobs. “I’ve had a different kind of schedule,” she said. Moving to Vermont has also helped free up her time because she no longer has to milk goats twice a day. That’s why the couple renovated their Hinesburg garage, so Rivkin could have a studio and get back to painting. She has shown a few paintings locally but would like to have a gallery exhibit one day. Back in Virginia she began doing photography as preparatory work for her paintings and also for social commentary and those photos began to take on a life of their own so she exhibited those, as well as her oil paintings.
Rivkin’s background is as a biological illustrator. She has done a number of illustrations for books published by Princeton University Press, including one called The Sensuous Seas which was written by marine biologist Gene Kaplan. Rivkin started working on a series about endangered species but she had to put that project on hold and turn down another book illustration offer while she works on a genealogy project. Her goal is to find an author with whom to collaborate on a book cataloguing the native flora of Vermont.
Rivkin enjoys all the art media she uses. “I like the illustration work because it’s defined and therefore easier,” she said. “When you’re sitting down at a canvas and starting a painting it’s a whole other story. Illustration work is really satisfying because you have something when you’re done and then getting it published is very gratifying.”
Rivkin doesn’t think her combination of skills is all that impressive. “If you’ve lived for 80 years, you’ve had time to do a lot,” she said. That may be true, but in Rivkin’s case, those 80 years have truly been productive ones.