Tag Archives: Forever Farm

Forever Farm Party at Balfour Farm!

Join us at Balfour Farm in Pittsfield, Thursday, August 10 5-8pm, as we celebrate the growing success of farmland protection in Maine! We’ll have tasty food, and local beer + wine (and non-alcoholic drinks, too!). Listen to music, see the farm and learn about MFT’s work to protect Maine farmland.

Free! All are welcome! Bring the whole family!

 

427 acres of farmland protected in New Gloucester

On June 30, 2017, MFT purchased a conservation easement on a 427-acre farm on North Pownal Road in New Gloucester. Forrest Waterhouse, was born in the historic farmhouse on the property in 1920 and passed away 96 years later in the same home.  His wife Ruth maintained the iconic fences along the road. By selling an easement, the current generation fulfilled the older generation’s desire for the property to always remain as a farm.

The easement area includes 99 acres of open land, and 190 acres of farmland soils. In addition to the farmhouse, the property includes two large barns and a number of storage buildings.

The Waterhouse Farm was operated for many years as a dairy and transitioned to a beef cattle operation in the 1970s. Much of the beef is currently sold wholesale to the Boston area, and they intend to transition to selling more to local markets in the near future. The farm manager, Larry Peaco, who has been working on the property for over three decades, has a strong forestry background and manages the 328 acres of woods.

The property provides scenic views from North Pownal Road, which bisects the farm. Because of this and its location in a rapidly developing area, the agricultural easement  includes an Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV), which is an extra measure intended to ensure the farm remains in the ownership of an active farmer. Funding for the easement came from MFT and local land trust partner Royal River Conservation Trust, who will hold the easement on this farm. “The Waterhouse Farm is an iconic piece of Maine scenery, and lies between two of the Royal River Conservation Trust’s primary focus areas for land conservation — Pisgah Hill in New Gloucester, and Runaround Pond in Durham,” said Alan Stearns, executive director of RRCT.   “We’re working hard to save, and to connect, some of these large unfragmented landscape blocks, to keep woodlots and farms productive while also retaining habitat connections.  It’s encouraging to see the Waterhouse Farm thriving, with significant new investments that will help modernize the operations.”

FOREVER FARM: Hapworth Farm

Wayne Hapworth, left, stands with his son Kevin Hapworth in one of the buildings that stores their hay bales on the Hapworth Farm in Winslow. 

BY CHELSEA HOLDEN BAKER

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MADELINE ST. AMOUR

Most mornings Wayne Hapworth, 69, is at the Flatlanda’ Diner in Fairfield by 9 a.m. It’s a routine that gives him a reason to get cleaned up; in a farmer’s life, a fresh change of clothes only lasts so long. By the time Wayne arrives for breakfast he has already milked one hundred cows after catching his usual four or five hours of sleep.

Wayne’s wife Linda always said she didn’t want their farmhouse to smell like a barn and Wayne has continued to honor that request in the four years since her passing, leaving his boots and barn clothes by the door when he enters, and keeping up his morning routine of shaving and showering for breakfast.

But the visit to the Flatlanda’ is an homage to Linda too. In their 45-year marriage Wayne and Linda spent many mornings at Bonnie’s Diner, a farmhouse turned restaurant that stood close to Hapworth Farm in Winslow, sandwiched between the mighty Kennebec and its smaller tributary, the Sebasticook. Although the restaurant is now out of business, the signs are still up; Wayne passes the ghost of Bonnie’s on his way to the Flatlanda’ in Fairfield.

Now Wayne meets up with Sheila Pepoli, the woman who nursed Linda between cancer treatments, the woman Wayne called when, after Linda died, he was staring at a washing machine, wondering how to use it. For 41 years, Linda managed the Hapworth home, put three kids through school, and ultimately returned to school herself, earning an associate degree and taking up a job at the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar in Augusta, all while running the dairy, keeping the books, and—for twenty years—milking beside her husband every morning.

Of course, when there is a death in the family of a farmer, the chores don’t stop. Wayne and Linda’s daughter Suzanne picked up the books and farm management tasks where her mother left off. Wayne’s righthand man—his partner—is his son Kevin, who was there working alongside him, haying, and milking and maintaining while grieving Linda’s death. The farm has two other part-time milkers: one for the morning, one for the evening. The Hapworths do the work of many men on a farm of 400 acres, plus additional leased fields.

And now they have Sheila too, who jokes that she’s part-time because she doesn’t work on Sundays. Her reverence for the Hapworth clan is clear as she describes father and son, tearing up in the process: “I’ve never worked with two kinder and more honest men in my life, than these two guys.” Sheila tends to the calves—born continuously throughout the year—and provides some social sustenance for Wayne as well. They meet at the diner to strategize and plan their day, peppered with interruptions and friendly jabs from friends, neighbors, fellow farmers, and family members. Wayne introduces his cousin by saying: “Sandra spent a lot of time on the farm growing up. We used to saddle up the heifers and go for a ride!”

But on this November day, much of the talk is about football, not farming. One of Kevin’s sons is an athletic prodigy, currently a football star leading his team to the state championships.

inside the largest barn
on the other side of the post supporting the Forever Farms sign is one that reads, Hapworth Dairy Farm Est. 1897
Lee Hapworth holds a photo of himself as a young man, standing in front of the round bales hat were remarkable for their time
Kevin Hapworth

The call of farming holds no sway for the grandkids. After Kevin, 48, there is not another Hapworth to pick up the fifth-generation legacy.

Back at the dairy, taking refuge from the cold, Wayne jokes that his ancestors must have broken a wagon wheel on their way south. He shares a picture of his great-great grandfather Zelotes Hapworth—born in 1844—standing in the spot where the driveway is now. Wayne says, “Every generation you manage to add a little bit to the equation.”

Now the question is: Who will do the adding? “The hard work is done,” Wayne says. “The barns are built, the land is there, the account numbers are there; whoever comes behind us doesn’t have a free ride, but the hard work is done.” Wayne makes it clear that while farming still isn’t “yard work” the physical labor is easier than it used to be thanks to advances in the industry and improvements in equipment.

Hapworth Farm itself has often been a site of quiet innovation. Wayne’s father built a milking pit in their parlor—an ergonomic design that puts the milker at shoulder level with the cows’ udders—that was ahead of its time. And Wayne’s Uncle Lee recalls that Hapworth Farm had the first round hay baler in the state, which turned out to be something of a roadside attraction; cars lined up along the field to watch the action.

People in the dairy industry like to say that there are only two people in the country who understand milk pricing and they’re never allowed to fly together. The work of the farm is not just labor, but finance, management, marketing, and even advocacy. It is a remarkably complex industry, but Wayne has never shied away from that complexity. For many years, he was the president of the Boston Milk Producers. Wayne has worked on farming legislation between milkings, he has tried joining coops and diversifying with beef and hay products; he has been always ready to experiment and pivot. The Hapworths are nothing if not resourceful.

Wayne says that the secret to success is simply repairing everything yourself. And he means everything, from fences to engines. Everyone laughs when Wayne says, “If you want something fixed you just tell Uncle Lee it can’t be repaired!” Uncle Lee Hapworth is 86-years-old.  When he was growing up on the farm with Wayne’s father, there was one tractor, one car, and one engine between the two. The brothers used to swap out the engine from the tractor to their cut-down Model F Ford on Saturdays; a couple hours of work was worth the weekend joyride.

In recent years, Wayne and Kevin erected two new fabric barns (another forward-thinking choice that others are now following) to house both cattle and hay. The distinctive semicircles striped in white and green echo the colors of the new Forever Farm sign. Linda’s parting message to Wayne was that he could not let the business fail and forsake the work they’d done together or the work done before them.

It is clear Wayne does not want to be the family member who breaks the chain. Houses and barns have come and gone, but the Hapworth ethic lives on. While the next owners likely won’t share his name, Wayne hopes they’ll share his and Kevin’s commitment. In honor of Linda, Wayne placed an agricultural easement on 160 acres of his land, ensuring that the land will always be available for farming; he closed the deal with Maine Farmland Trust in May of 2014. Wayne says he’s amazed how often people say they’re glad the land won’t become a housing development or a box store. The hope is that the farm will offer a viable life for a new couple to take on, in the spirit of Wayne and Linda.

At 69, Wayne is the age at which both his father and grandfather passed away. The generations seem to live with him, and within him. As a dairy farmer, Wayne tends to mothers daily, now without the mother of his children by his side, but with their son. Each day the Hapworth’s gentle stewardship of land and life is a tribute to Linda and what they all built together, now carried on as a Forever Farm.

an update: before this piece went to print, the Hapworth family made the difficult decision to cease dairy operations due to a confluence of factors, including the plummeting price of milk. The family continues to farm, focusing on beef and hay, and has not ruled out a return to milking if conditions improve in the future.

Young Dairy Farmers: Bo Lait

This is another story in our series about young dairy farmers in Maine. In many ways, dairy farms are the cornerstone of Maine’s farming community.  Dairy farmers steward large tracts of farmland for feed and forage, while supporting the feed stores, equipment retailers, and large animal vets that all Maine farms rely upon. Of the 400,000 acres of farmland that will be in transition over the course of the next decade, we anticipate that a large percentage of that land is currently in dairy farming. What will happen to that land, and the infrastructure and communities it supports?

While farming in Maine is growing, Maine’s dairy industry has not seen the same growth. The younger generation who are choosing to be dairy farmers are few and far between, often deterred by low milk prices and high start-up costs. Those who have bucked the trend and have decided to become either first-generation dairy farmers or to continue their family’s farm, have an important role to play in ensuring that dairy farms remain the foundation of Maine’s farming landscape.

While their decision to become dairy farmers was relatively easy, being dairy farmers is anything but. Without a background in dairy farming, their learning curve has been steep, and making it work is a constant challenge. “There’s so much to know when you’re running a farm. You’re a vet, plumber, carpenter, accountant, manager, electrician, mechanic… the list goes on. Most dairy farmers we know still claim to have only learned the tip of the iceberg, even with decades of experience under their belts. It’s no exaggeration to say we learn something new everyday, whether we want to or not.”

Luckily, Conor is no stranger to intense work, and feels uniquely equipped to take on the challenge. He says his experience in the Special Forces set the standard for the type of work ethic and drive necessary to start a farm from the ground up. “The biggest challenge is finding enough hours in the day to get things done,” said Conor. “Also prioritizing work and realizing that the biggest “fires” are the most important to put out first. Managing cash flow is also a big challenge on a dairy because the expenses are very high and the margins are small.”

Conor and Alexis sell their certified organic fluid milk to Organic Valley, a cooperative based in Wisconsin. “We were very lucky in that Organic Valley was looking to add new farms at the time we started, so we were able to sign our contract with them 6 months prior to our first shipment date.”

Right now they’re milking 38 of their 46 cows. “We’ve grown quite a bit over the last year and we think we’ll stay put at this herd size for a while. It feels manageable without being too crazy.” Their milk pool manager at Organic Valley has been a great resource for them as they’ve grown, and a great advocate as well.

The support network they’ve grown around them helps to temper the challenges  running a dairy farm, and the MacDonalds are thankful for the many people that pitch in, in all kinds of ways: “Between our co-op, other local farmers, family, friends and our wonderful, PATIENT neighbors who come over with a smile when the heifers have gotten out again,” said Conor, “I don’t think we could ask for more.”

Meet Your Farmers: High Hopes Farm

Meaghan and Ross Nichols are the energetic, hardworking couple who own and operate High Hopes Farm on a beautiful 120ish-acre piece of land in Bristol, just four miles from downtown Damariscotta. The couple purchased the farm earlier this summer, and already have a small, thriving operation with thoughtful plans for continued growth.

Meaghan and Ross both grew up in the area, and didn’t even consider looking at other farms because they knew they wanted to stay in their community.

“We chose to farm here because for years we had seen the farm, and it didn’t seem very active. This is our home town and I wanted to see this farm come back to life again,” says Ross.

When the couple bought the farm, MFT purchased an easement on the property, lowering the cost for the young farmers, and ensuring that High Hopes will remain available for farming for future generations. Young farmers like these two aren’t just feeding their neighbors; they’re helping to build a strong foundation for the local economy, stewarding the environment, and creating greater food security in their community.

“This farm provides an awesome habitat for all of my animals to thrive,” Meaghan says. “We have open fields, ponds, and woods. The location is also key; being right on the Bristol Road gives us an opportunity to sell our products via our farm stand, and avoid the craziness of packing up for farmers’ markets or other deliveries.”

She also loves that their location gives  customers a chance to see the hard work they’ve put into the farm, and to see their happy and healthy animals. Meaghan and Ross raise lambs, pigs, goats, turkeys, chickens and ducks for meat. Their animals are meticulously cared for and raised in natural settings, with lots of space to roam, fresh air, clean bedding, and even homemade sourdough bread scraps, thanks to Meaghan’s mom.

I visited High Hopes for the first time a few weeks ago. Meaghan and Ross were busy planting tiny tomato seedlings and there were only two goats and a small flock of chickens. When I went back to the farm last week, the scene had changed. They’ve added a flock of ducks, many more chickens for both eggs and meat, turkeys, a group of mellow roosters (not a mean one in the bunch!), and lots of sweet goats, and young pigs. Because MFT’s easement purchase helped to make the farm more affordable, Meaghan and Ross were able to buy some key pieces of farm equipment and some lightweight, movable fencing so they can easily rotate the pigs and goats onto fresh grass. All on the many farm animals are very well cared for by Meaghan, who admits that she can’t relax until she knows all the animals have everything they need.

While they raise their animals and plant a few crops, Meaghan and Ross are also fixing up the old farmhouse to make it livable. This summer, they’re staying in a camper, in a beautiful spot by two ponds, tucked back from the road, and are just happy to be on the land, getting to know their new property.
Ross says, “It has everything you want, open fields, woods, ponds and a huge barn. I have a mutual relationship with the land. I will do good for it as long as it does good for me!”

Meaghan agrees, “I love the pond and the rolling hills. I find the location of the house and barn, along with the location of the ponds, to be breathtaking. Every day I wake up and I can’t wait to go outside, start my animal chores and look up to see what colors will be in the sky that day. The sunrises are beautiful and always different. What a wonderful place to call home, and work!”

I asked them what they hoped the future of farming in Maine would look like:

“We hope farming looks just like this: small scale, sustainable, connecting community members to the farm where they purchase foods, teaching, keeping people close to us and the farm, and the farming operation small enough to do things right.”

Meaghan and Ross welcome visitors to their farm stand, at 777 Bristol Road in Bristol, where you can buy seedlings, plants, eggs and some veggies, as well as sign up for meat shares. You can even tour their farm and see baby goats!

Stay tuned for Meaghan’s amazing roast chicken recipe this Friday. To help support young farmers like Meaghan and Ross, become a member of MFT! Learn more about what we’re doing to protect more farmland, and get more farmers on the land HERE.

Frith Farm

Frith Farm: A FarmLink Retrospective

Daniel Mays realized he wanted to be a farmer while a graduate student in environmental engineering.  As soon as he finished his degree, Daniel began scouring real estate listings all over New England, looking for the right plot of land. He was happy to discover Maine FarmLink.

FarmLink is a program of Maine Farmland Trust that connects prospective farmers to farmland owners wishing to sell or lease their land.  In fall 2010, through FarmLink, Daniel found what has become Frith Farm: 14-acres in Scarborough, nestled among wooded house lots and new developments.

Scarborough is a community that has lost many of its farms. To stem this tide, the town has begun buying agricultural conservation easements that maintain farmland.  In this case, Maine Farmland Trust and the local land trust worked with Daniel to craft an easement that prohibits any future development on the property. The retiring family received market value for their property, but the price Daniel paid was reduced by the value of the easement, paid by the town. In other words, Daniel bought the farm at a far more affordable price—its “farmland value.”

Like many FarmLink success stories, the greatest benefits become evident once the new farm takes shape. Here, Daniel has restored a historic farm to vitality and productivity in just a few short years. He grows all manner of certified organic vegetables, as well as chickens, turkeys, sheep, and pigs—all marketed on-site through a 75-member Community Supported Agriculture program, or “CSA.”

Frith Farm

Daniel likes that his farm serves the local community, and that his customers can come to the farm and see where their food is grown. For Daniel, this proximity and interaction are real advantages of farming in southern Maine. “It’s close to my market. I don’t have to drive three hours to sell my produce, and I really don’t need to do any marketing,” he said.

The demand for local food in greater Portland continues to grow, and Daniel sees room for more farmers, provided that they can find land. In this part of Maine, many formerly open spaces have been eaten up by development. Those that remain are often prohibitively expensive.

That’s where Maine Farmland Trust can help. The Trust helps protect highly vulnerable farmland—often in conjunction with local land trusts—in ways that can lower the cost for incoming farmers.  Then FarmLink can help find the right farmers to work that land.

Without such programs, Daniel would not be farming at Frith Farm today. And the local community would be that much diminished.

For more information about Frith Farm, visit frithfarm.net

Looking for farmland? Ready to sell or lease your farmland? Go to mainefarmlink.org

Photography by Lily Piel

new member month!