In a world where the t-shirts you got 20 years ago are in better shape than the ones you picked up two years ago, it is refreshing to stumble across someone who does things the good old-fashioned way.
This delightful lack of progress is what I found when I paid a visit to Mary Perry’s Winterberry Farm in Belgrade, Maine.
And I found it quite…well…enchanting.
Set just off busy (by Maine standards) route 27, Mary’s 40 acres of organic fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and livestock sit serenely atop a hill where she welcomes the community to wander, get involved or even get just a little muddy.
Having moved from Connecticut to Maine nine years ago and taken up homesteading in its purest sense – a simpler way of living based in agrarian self-sufficiency – Mary soon discovered a need in the area for buying food and other products locally.
Mary learned to farm organically for the family’s food through programs at MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association) and would set surplus by the side of the road with a jar for people to leave money. The demand was clear and a business was formed so Mary and her three children (Kenya, now 14, Gil, now 10 and Sage, now age 4) could pay their bills.
Through it all, and a “tremendous” expansion of the farm and the business, Mary and her children have kept things pure, simple and….well, organic.
As I walked around the farm I imagined their lifestyle and how hard they must work to keep the farm so healthy and well-tended. MOFGA sends them two apprentices each year but apart from that the work is done by Mary and her children – and it is all done by hand.
One of the first things I noticed at the farm was a lack of heavy machinery. That is because there are no tractors, just horses. And everyone has their responsibilities and chores.
While I was there I saw Sage feeding the turkeys and helping out in the barn. Gil was also working in the barn. Kenya is responsible for the sheep and shears them herself. Mary then transforms the fleece into yarn.
Her 20 week CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) begins the second week or June and has “around 70” generous shares.
Mary thinks that people have come to truly understand the importance of local, organic products and feels there is no need to debate the future of farming.
“I’m not sure there’s a choice there,” she said, “if we don’t want to die.”
Looking around the farm and talking to Mary about her lifestyle, I can tell that while the work might be hard it is honest and her choice to be there is simple.
“I can’t imagine anything else I’d want to be doing.”
Sounds to me like a giant step backwards – in the right direction.
Good for her…and the community!
Mary has a nice website at http://www.winterberryfarmstand.com – check it out.
And here are some more photos -