Know your farms
The Blue Hill Peninsula is full of amazing farms that grow delicious food. The Co-op is proud to partner with these farms and we want everyone to see how amazing they are. With that in mind, we visited with our cameras in hand.
Clayfield Farm, East Blue Hill
In the small village of East Blue Hill, only a few miles from the Co-op, off the main way and a bumpy ride down a dirt road, you can find Clayfield Farm. On top of a rocky hill, the farm sits, far away from the rumble of the busy road, between the peaceful woods and quiet fields. Phil Norris and Deborah Wiggs have been running the farm since 1992, growing kale, cherry tomatoes, corn, carrots, garlic, apples, and lots and lots of lettuce.
It's not always easy, the clay-rich earth that gives the farm its name is not the most ideal mixture for gardening and needs a lot of organic material to supplement the nutrients. This doesn't stop Phil and Deborah from committing to natural farming, leaving aside the commercial fertilizers and chemical pesticides that might make their farming easier. They take pride in doing things the traditional way. And, of course, you can taste the difference in their scrumptious produce.
There are four large fields at Clayfield Farm, one of which equipped with a greenhouse that can roll on tracks to cover different crops depending on its need. There is also a slope that holds several hugelkultur beds. This traditional German method consists of raised beds built on top of rotting wood. The wood creates a dense base of nutrients, air pockets, and moisture that the plants can feed on for years. Clayfield’s hugelkulturs are still new and experimental but at the moment have grown the most incredible sunflowers.
Speaking of flowers, this is another field that Clayfield Farm is excelling at. Their beautiful flower beds produce blooms of every color. These flowers are sold at the Co-op and farmer’s markets through the warm months. This is Debrah’s side project, while Phil uses his spare time working as the town’s tree warden. While we were visiting the farm he was in the process of building picnic benches for the town park. They were made from a two-hundred-year-old oak tree that had fallen in one of our local cemeteries. The Clayfield family also includes two farm dogs, Layla and Zanzibar, and an intern who lives in a year-round cabin on the property.
5 Star Nursery & Orchard, Brooklin
Brooklin is home to a lot of trees. As with most of Maine, you can’t throw an organic apple without hitting one. But, some of those trees are sweeter than others, and none more so than those that grow at 5 Star Nursery & Orchard. Started many years ago by Leslie Cummins and Tim Seabrook, it is now owned by Tim Skillin and Molly DellaRoman, who bought the business in 2017. Molly has worked in farming for the last fifteen years while Tim comes from a career in the pharmaceutical manufacturing world. It’s easy to see that they love the orchard they have taken over.
There are over two hundred fruit-bearing trees at 5 Star. Peaches, apples, plums, and pears of several heirloom and native varieties. They have also started strawberry and elderberry plants, which will not come into maturity for a few years yet. When we were visiting the farm for this shoot, Tim and Molly were hard at work, picking ripe peaches from the trees and preparing a large order for delivery. The sun was beating down on the orchard, insects were flying around lazily, and the fruit that had fallen to the ground was perfuming the air with the sumptuous smell of ripe peaches. It was a relaxing atmosphere, not without the knowledge that all farming comes with challenges, hard work, and the ever-present time frame of ripening food.
Anyone who has eaten fruit from 5 Star can easily taste the superiority of their trees and the hard work that has been put into their care for years. As the orchard has been a presence in our community for quite some time, it is wonderful to see it in the hands of Molly and Tim. It’s clear that they will carry on the legacy of 5 Star with the care and skill it deserves. On a personal note, in the past 5 Star and the Blue Hill Co-op have co-hosted an annual cider pressing. Molly and Tim are excited to keep up the tradition and we have set the date for October 20th. Check the events page for more information!
If you’re interested in seeing more about life on an orchard, check out their amazing instagram page!
Backstage Farm, Penobscot
With just an acre in production since 1992, Elena Bourakovsky and Bill Raiten lovingly tend their small patch of earth with their mission; to live their dream, to homestead and earn a living on a small farm. For such a small size farm they amazingly grow bountiful crops of vegetables, raspberries, peaches, cherries and currants to make jams, jellies and many other value-added products. Bill had tried farming previously, moving from New York City to New Hampshire in the 1960’s and loved the homesteading way of life but was too busy with Theatre and his passion for directing and teaching to stay in one place. When he was invited to live and direct a play in Leningrad, USSR in 1989 to further his New Surry Theatre’s mission to Promote Peace, he met Elena, the Costume Designer in the Komedy Theatre. She was then invited to teach at the University of Maine and they eventually got married and moved to Blue Hill. Backstage Farm began as their garden in 1992 (it didn’t have a name then) and eventually produced so much food that Bill and Elena realized they should offer this bounty to their friends and neighbors. Thus began Backstage Farm and a line of Moxie products, such as lacto-fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha as well as garlic scape pesto and various low sugar jams. Elena continues to develop new products and designs all her whimsical and funny labels.