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.