singing to garlic: MAINE’S FARMER MUSICIANS BY CARRIE BRAMAN PHOTOGRAPHS BY MOLLY HALEY
Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis are the farmers and owners of Songbird Farm in Unity. Both Adam and Johanna worked on several farms before leasing ten acres of farmland in Starks in 2011. They farmed there for several years, always keeping an eye out for a more permanent piece of land. When they found a 41-acre turn-key farm in Unity through Maine FarmLink, they jumped at the chance to be closer to family, friends, and their Midcoast markets. Maine Farmland Trust purchased an easement on the farm, enabling Adam and Johanna to meet the landowner’s selling price and buy the property.
“We were excited about this spot because of its history as a certified organic farm– it already had a couple of big greenhouses, a walk-in cooler, and a germination room. This farm is also adjacent to some large fields owned by Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, and we’ve rented an additional 15-acre parcel from SRLT, which allows us to continue growing heritage wheat, rye and flint corn for our Pantry Share CSA. The trick was finding enough land to support our existing farm business model in a location with strong community and nearby markets. And we did!”
Songbird Farm specializes in growing heirloom dry goods, such as Jacob’s Cattle beans and Abenaki Flint corn, which they grind into cornmeal (and happens to make the best cornbread ever — stay tuned for Friday’s Maine Fare recipe!). By growing and milling heritage varieties of grains that are well-suited to Maine’s growing conditions, they’re helping to develop an exciting new market in New England for locally-grown grains and flours. They also grow a variety of vegetables for Maine markets with the help of two friends working a few days a week, Nate Wax and Danielle Plourde.
“As the Maine local food movement continues to develop, we hope to see more healthy, fresh, organic food headed to the plates of more of Maine’s population. We hope to work cooperatively with fellow food producers to add value and to build grower-driven markets, and to strengthen the connections between good food, open space and community.”
This June marks Johanna and Adam’s second season growing on their land in Unity.
“We have a sense of what to expect from the soil and the micro climate, but we’re also just getting to know the place. The exciting thing about having a mortgage is knowing that we can build that local knowledge for years and develop our business to reflect the strengths of this spot. We like how the fields slope gently to the southwest, how soil retains water during a dry spell, and how the breeze blows most of the blackflies away. Also, we get pretty awesome sunsets.”
“We love farming because we get to work hard, spend most of our day outside, and most importantly, because we get to produce something so simple, and also so fundamental, as good food.”
Adam and Johanna are also musicians, and play music all over the country as Sassafras Stomp. Adam is releasing a solo album this summer, and we’ll be joining forces to put together a whirlwind series of dinner concerts in Portland, Unity, and Blue Hill at the end of August. Keep an eye on our Events page for more details and tickets, online July 8th!