Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Lydia Hansen Benedict married Jeff Benedict at the ripe age of 19....almost. She spent the next 19 years of her life almost entirely in New England: first in Southeastern Connecticut, then Boston, and then back to Connecticut. During that time, she graduated from Mitchell College in New London, CT, and went on to obtain a BA in English from Northeastern University.
Early on, her passion was writing children's fiction. After taking courses from the Institute of Children's Literature in West Redding, CT, she published in 1995 her first short fiction story "Gift from the Heart." But a year later, her first son Tennyson Ford was born; Jeff started law school; and Lydia began working on her Master's degree in Education. She attended classes, and taught as a substitute at Brookline High while still a fulltime employee of Northeastern University. Meanwhile her husband took law classes at night. Tennyson was always with one of them.
In 2000, Lydia's second son Clancy Nolan was born and in 2001 the family returned to Connecticut so Jeff could run for U.S. Congress. A month after his campaign ended, Lydia had her first daughter Maggie May. Jeff's political career was over, but Lydia's was about to start—albeit unintentionally. When the superintendant and school board lengthened the school day without parental input, Lydia wrote an essay "Extending the School Day Won't Improve Learning." It appeared in a Connecticut newspaper on April 10, 2005, and life was never the same. Her words gave voice to hundreds of parents that were just as opposed to the unilateral plan that threatened to further decrease children's time outside the home.
Overnight, a grassroots movement to reverse the school board's plan erupted. Lydia ended up the leader, a move that put her head-to-head with a powerful superintendant. Lydia spoke at public meetings, created a parents group, and continued to write. Before long, the school board reversed the extended school day initiative, and the superintendent resigned. But not before the head of the town's Democratic Party asked her to run for the school board. Despite being pregnant with her fourth child, Lydia ran what became one of the most publicized local campaigns in Connecticut history. Even Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now U.S. Senator Blumenthal) campaigned with her. (link to article in theday.com)
On November 9, 2005, Lydia came up a few votes short. But her campaign was the catalyst for big changes in the town's school policies and led to new blood on the school board. Her husband said it was a blessing from heaven that Lydia got the changes she was after without having to join the board. He was probably right. Soon after the election, Lydia had her fourth and final child: Clara Belle.
Before long, food and women's health were right up there alongside education as the three passions consuming Lydia's time. She was on a quest to eat better, feel better and teach better. That meant some changes for her family, too. The changes started in the fall of 2007 when Lydia and Jeff left New England for a Civil War-era farmhouse nestled on 20 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
There Lydia began to build and re-build the place she now calls home. Beginning with some beds of tomatoes and cantaloupe, Lydia is ever expanding her gardens to include cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, peas, green beans, popcorn, watermelon and several varieties of squash. Additionally, there are fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
Passionate about local, organic food, Lydia spends many hours in the garden and subsequently in the kitchen alongside her children freezing, canning, and otherwise preserving the food she grows. Her face is now very familiar at the local farmer's market as she and her children shop there weekly.
In addition to creating an organic farm, she helped design a timber framed schoolhouse, which was built on her farm by a restoration carpenter from Connecticut. The building is replete with children's antique desks, lots of windows that look out on the mountains, and the smell of pine and maple. Inside this custom schoolhouse, Lydia and four tutors (math, science Spanish, and music) provide her four children with an amazing education. Though school is officially out during summer, the learning continues in the garden, the kitchen, and with the animals that now include chickens, guinea hens, and horses – not to mention cats and a dog.
Life on the farm has coincided with Lydia's quest to educate herself quite extensively on issues of women's health. Through extensive study that consisted of lots of reading and in-depth conversations with doctors, Lydia came to appreciate that modern medicine's tendency to over-prescribe rather than look for the root cause of illness is only furthering the declining health of our nation.
Rockspring Farm, as Lydia likes to call it, is a busy place of learning and refuge. Lydia would say that the only thing she is lacking at Rockspring Farm is sleep.