Contact informationFarm Address:
20 Farm Lane
Cornish, Maine , 04020
Primary Contact: Grace Pease
Internship informationGeneral Farm Description: Update: We have one position open running from now through the first week of September! It's a short stay, but through the fun, busy harvest season! No weeding! Synopsis: Two generations of farmers working together in beautiful south western Maine. About 30 acres of mixed veggies, as well as a blueberry crop, and small cut flower operation. Marketing methods include a farm stand, local restaurants, wholesale accounts, and Portland farmers' market. Opportunities to learn how to drive a tractor, work with local food banks and a prescription food program, and explore your own projects. Great family to live with! You'll learn everything about a small business and farming, and end the season ready to take over! Physical Setting: The home farm in Cornish: Paradise - like the Ponderosa in Bonanza! Log house with 3 porches overlooking a 14 acre field of intervale land - great, rock free soil. Another 60 acres of woods. Nice brook on one side, ridge on the other - a small valley surrounded by wooded hills and miles of old tote roads to explore. Barn and outbuildings, art studio, cell phone reception for most carriers (but no internet), washer, dryer, shower, full kitchen etc. 5 miles from town with a population of about 1,300. 50 minutes to Portland and the coast. Many lakes and rivers nearby - swimming hole at farm for naked nudeliness. 2 canoes and 3 kayaks. Free four day pass to local music festival in July (our apprentices decorate the stage, and help with setup). We’re in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, about 30 miles west. We get together often to attend MOFGA workshops, tube the river, roller skate, or go to the drive-in movies. Beautiful and happy place to be! The farm stand and fields in Porter: The acreage and farm stand are on the corner of Cross Rd and Route 25 in Porter, Maine, a fifteen-minute drive from the home in Cornish (the awesome place you will be living with the family and other farm apprentices). The farm stand is right next to the Ossipee River. The area is full of lakes, rivers, beautiful woods, and towns with character. We cultivate about fifteen acres here, sometimes more. It took us a while to get used to farming right along a main road in the public eye, but we enjoy being able to show the customers how and where everything happens. The farming community in the area is a close group - we share a lot of our equipment, labor, and expertise. Great neighbors and friends.
CRAFT Member Farm? No
Internship Starts: 6/01/2020
Internship Ends: 10/01/2020
Number of Internship Available: 3
Application Deadline: 6/1/2020
Minimum Length of Stay: Ideally, we would like to have two full season apprentices and one partial season apprentice. Full season would be from Mid-June to September, partial would be from late July to the end of August, or beginning of September. We have some flexibility with start and end dates.
Apprentices will live on the farm in Cornish, and work on both the land in Cornish and on the leased land 15 minutes away in Porter:
Grace, Noah (her partner) and Parker (returning apprentice and field manager) will be your main bosses, and run the farm stand and land in Porter. They lease the land from a nice family up the road (the farm stand was passed on to Grace and her sister when they were in college by a local guy who had been farming there since the ’80s. The sister, Ruby, now has her own operation, Pine Root Farm and Market in Steep Falls, a few towns away, and still works very closely with the family during the growing season.). The farm land in Porter produces most of what we will need for the farm stand, Portland Farmers’ Market, wholesale, and restaurant accounts, but we do buy in some produce for the farm stand from other local farmers who grow different things than us, like strawberries and greenhouse tomatoes. Our main crops are field tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, lettuce, summer squash/zucchini, beets, carrots, broccoli, kale, winter squash, etc.- classic roadside stand veggies – but we also grow funky stuff like cut flowers, herbs, eggplant, and swiss chard.
Molly and John – Grace’s parents – run the home farm in Cornish. This land has been in the family for hundreds of years and is extremely fertile, beautiful soil! They are experimenting with simplifying their operation as Johnny ages (he’s a buff 76 year old and going strong). Their main crops this year will be pumpkins and blueberries. Mol used to run a big sunflower business, but is now going to focus on a lot of tractor work and sometimes helping John with the rest when she is feeling nice. They sell mostly to local farm stands and orchards wholesale. You’ll hang out with Mol and John, but you won’t be working for them on a regular basis.
On both farms, we will plant and cultivate with a tractor, but most of our work can be accomplished by hand at this scale. Most of our crops are started early from seed in our greenhouse, while some things are direct seeded into the ground later in the season. Most of our field is set up with black plastic mulch and drip irrigation, which saves on water use and weeding. We recognize the environmental impact of plastic use, and are experimenting this year with biodegradable mulch.
We are not organic, but we recognize the benefits, and try to minimize the amount of non-organic methods used. We use organic and non-organic spray sparingly on vine crops and corn. We use commercial fertilizers along with tons of cow manure, make some compost, and plant a cover crop to be incorporated each spring as a green manure. We do not use herbicides, which means lots of good old-fashioned hand-weeding and cultivation. We try to buy in certified organic produce for the farm stand when possible so that our customers have more choices. Currently, we don’t think that our immediate area, which is rural and economically depressed, could support an all organic farm stand. If we focused on serving different markets, we could transition to organic production, but offering food to our immediate community is one of the things we love the most about farming. We’d like to show the community that farming is an economically viable livelihood, and provide local, healthy food that’s accessible to everyone. We’re always open to learning and adapting, but most importantly, in our minds, is that we are sustainable, and have actually survived (so far) doing what John’s family has done here since the early 1700’s. We are very open about our practices with our apprentices and our customers and are happy to explain ingredient lists/timing of application/the choices we make/etc. to anyone who is interested.
Spring starts with greenhouse work and preparing the ground for planting.
Most of the planting happens in late May, but there will be successions of crops to plant though June and early July. We plant by hand and with a tractor. A lot of hand weeding and cultivation with tractors happens early in the summer.
We open the stand and start going to farmers market in Portland in June as soon as strawberries are ripe, picking them at a neighboring farm, or buying them in already picked. Pretty soon most of the crops have come in, and we split our days between harvesting, weeding, pruning, running the stand, making deliveries and going to farmers market twice a week. We also set aside time to make some value added products, like jam and pickles, for the house.
In August, things get very busy with the arrival of corn and tomatoes; everything is popping in the fields, the farm stand is full of customers, and we need three people in market for the lines! This is when we rely on our apprentices the most and will ask a lot of you physically and mentally! September slows down as everyone heads back to school, but we still have some busy weekends with pumpkins.
Fall can be cold or hot and people can be burned out from the marathon of August, so we try to cut down on the working hours
We close up the stand and stop going to farmers market by Halloween once pumpkin season is over. Our goal is that you will end the season knowing how to run the stand by yourself having learned what it takes to care for and market the vegetables, and feeling comfortable operating machinery, maintaining irrigation, dealing with pests and disease, etc. If you have the desire to farm in the future, you’ll be well on your way.
The farm stand is open seven days a week, 9am-6pm. We often start work a couple of hours earlier in the morning, especially during the busy month of August. If we need to work extra hours in the morning or after closing we’ll make sure to pace ourselves or take extra time at lunch to regroup. Apprentices get one day off a week, and full-season apprentices get a week-long vacation to be used all at once, or split up over the season.
Non-farm work that might be asked of apprentices include help with community events during the summer (a wedding, a music festival, a community farm day, perhaps some work with local food banks) – these should all be fun and tie back into the farm experience in some way or another.
Educational Opportunities: We don't require any past experience farming, so we will patiently teach any new skills needed for the job. We enjoy passing on all the skills and information we can, and encourage apprentices to pursue their own interests and passions and share them with us; learning is a two-way street. Grace, Noah, and Parker work alongside apprentices, demonstrating by doing, but will also be doing the majority of the tractor work and marketing/driving around/bookkeeping. A lot of our work will be done together, but apprentices should feel comfortable working on their own for a day, for example while Grace is out delivering to restaurants, Noah is cultivating, and Parker is at market. We do want to be clear that you will be doing hard, monotonous work, like weeding or picking, for long periods of time. That’s the reality of farm work, and you’re learning if it is something you REALLY want to pursue. One of our main goals is to make sure you are getting what you need out of the apprenticeship, so we will try our best to explain as much as we can about the way we do things as we go. For us to be able to make that investment in you as an apprentice, there’s a certain level of investment you have to make in the farm, which comes in the form of hard, sweaty work. A bit about our different styles of teaching/working: Although Grace is a relatively young boss at age 27, at this point she has had over eight years of experience managing apprentices, and has learned a lot from this. She is patient and a good communicator and teacher, but can get stressed out some days in August. Noah is quiet and competitive, but is also nerdy and loves to talk about farming and forestry. He has Resting Angry Face, but he’s not mad, just focused. Parker is kind and patient, and is a great teacher because she’s been an apprentice herself. She’s graduating this spring with a degree in sustainable ag, and knows a ton about the science side of farming (soils, diseases, pests, etc.). Parker is an encyclopedia! She’s a pacesetter and fun to work with because she’s a positive team-player that never complains. You might also work with Johnny, who is a sweetheart, but a terrible communicator, partially deaf, and can be a tough cookie to work for. If you can understand his thick Maine accent, you can learn a lot from this dude. Everyone loves him, while simultaneously wanting to strangle him. It’s a strange and beautiful thing! We try to involve apprentices in every aspect of work on the farm, and take into account their interests (if you really want to learn how to operate the old antique tractor, we’ll do our best to set some time aside for lessons). We share equipment and labor with other local farms, so some days you will be part of a larger crew, some days a smaller crew, some days you’ll go to farmers’ market with Grace, or run register at the stand. Things can get crazy around here during harvest, but we will always try to make it fun and educational. A bit about our family, background, farming experience, philosophy, goals & interests: Grace is very passionate about farming; she enjoys working outside all day and loves teaching the skills to others, but most of all, farming makes her feel connected to the people in her community. She went to college in Vermont, where she studied medical anthropology and public action with a focus on global health. She has done a lot of traveling (in Madagascar, India, Thailand, Uganda, Burma, Nepal, etc.) to work/volunteer with NGOs addressing community health issues, and is particularly passionate about refugee issues and reproductive health. She is currently enrolled in midwifery school, where she is learning the art and science of being a midwife and attending births in the local community. Grace met her partner Noah when he apprenticed on the farm seven seasons ago...ooh la la! Noah has a degree in political science, but has never used it. What do people do with a degree in political science? He gets more hot and bothered about forestry and perennial fruits than annuals, but he’s learning to love the craziness of veggie production. He’s farmed with Grace in the evenings and on weekends since they started dating, but was able really become part of the team last year. When he’s not driving around, staring at pumps that won’t start, or trying to understand basic accounting, he likes futzing around with skidders, draft horses, and antique walking tractors. Parker is a soon to be Umaine grad who grew up in Pennsylvania. She spent last winter WOOFing in Columbia and plans to do more traveling. This will be her third year farming at Merrifield, and we’re lucky to have her! She’s taken on more responsibilities each year, and this year will be doing much of the filed management. She’s passionate about farming, food security, and cooking and is trying to make Grace and Noah better farmers by reducing plastic use, exploring different crops, and trying out more effective weed management strategies. While we admire organic farming, we don’t think the market is strong enough in our immediate community to support us going organic at the moment. Instead, we focus on providing sustainable, affordable, healthy food to as many people as we can. We believe that farmers have a lot of opportunities to effect change in the health and economic wellness of their towns. We work with our local food banks, and four summers ago Grace implemented a prescription produce program with our local health clinic (the clinic can now write prescriptions for families with low incomes and diet-related illnesses to come to the farm stand and pick up a box of fresh fruits and veggies!) The first summer we donated all the food, but one summer we were able to get some funding, and would like to work out a way of expanding the program to other farms in the area. If you have a special interest in the issue of food security, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to help us think up ways in which the farm can better serve everyone in the area!
Skills Desired: We do not require any specific certifications or skills, but a drivers’ license and past experience with physically and mentally arduous tasks are always a plus (e.g. other farm work, restaurant work, running cross-country, etc.) Farming is physically demanding, but even more so mentally. Cultivating and picking in the hot sun require stamina and rhythm. Every day there is a push to get everything done, and our expectation is that apprentices will work quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly. To keep the pace going, you have to be physically and mentally fit. If you are the mood swing type, an active addict, or suffer from occasional bouts of mental health stuff, farming will definitely trigger these symptoms. The economy of this farm has been heavily compromised by this in the past, and we ask that you take an honest look within and only apply if you have none of these, or feel open to discussing them with us in the interview. No judgement, just truth. We’ve all been there ourselves. A strong work ethic and love for physical labor is ideal, and a desire to farm in the future can help keep people motivated and focused. Equally important is a good attitude and a ridiculous sense of humor! Farming is hard, but very satisfying work. We would love it if you could visit the farm, as much for your benefit as our own, but it's not a requirement. We can hold an interview over the phone, or we can use Skype. We do not have a formal trial period, but we do see your first few weeks on the farm as a test of our compatibility. It is always a good idea to keep open communication about the fit and be honest, especially early on. The biggest things we have learned is to keep communication as open as possible, to check in often, and to deal with issues as soon as they come up. We have a written farm employee manual, and are happy to send this to applicants to look over. We want you to succeed on the farm, and will try to work with you to make this happen. If things are going well, we will tell you. If they are not going well, we will do the same and try to figure out what would work best to improve things. We will try to check in often, and make it clear what we need you to improve (for example, your speed in the field, your participation in house chores, your attitude towards customers at farmers' market). Depending on the situation, we will try to give ample warnings before any firing happens. Hopefully, you will let us know if there are any problems so we can all be happy.
Meals: Eating habits vary from season to season depending on the crew; usually breakfast is a fend-for-yourself affair, we eat lunch together at the farm stand, and dinner is when most of the communal cooking happens. All food is provided and volunteering to grocery shop has definite advantages. Grace was a vegetarian for 15 years, but now eats some meat; Mol doesn’t eat any sugar, gluten, or dairy; John only eats meat and potatoes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches … any other diets are easy to accommodate. We have a pond stocked with trout that we fish out and cook over a fire pit when we feel like having a party.
Stipend: Our apprentices receive free room and board on the farm and $200/week. We want everyone to be able to afford to do an apprenticeship and learn how to farm, so that is why we offer the $200/week; we hope it is enough to pay student loans, car payments, or other bills and not have to worry about draining your savings. Your housing and all meals are included, as well as all the veggies from the farm you want to eat! Just to be fully transparent about money things, we also hire local help when we need it, and they will be paid by the hour based on experience level. It could be frustrating as an apprentice to see a high school kid making more money per hour then you when you are doing the same work, but they are not getting room and board, or the attention to education that apprentices get.
Housing: You will have a cabin to yourself, and full run of the kitchen, living area, washer and dryer, and bathroom in the big family house. Some of the cabins have heat and electricity, and they are for full season apprentices. Some cabins are small and simple without electricity, and these are for summer apprentices. We ask that apprentices be out of the family house by 8:30 each night, and we like to ring a big bell as a reminder. Apprentices are welcome in the family house anytime in mornings – this is a good time to do personal laundry and carry out daily chores like running the dishwasher, etcn terms of the household duties, we usually meet as a group in the beginning, figure out which system will work best for everyone, and stick to it. The apprentices should organize the cleaning/chore schedule and police themselves, which requires a certain level of maturity and communication (basically, we ain’t your mama!). The rules about substances are: mild partying in your spaces is okay, but not at the big house, or with bosses, and not to interfere with work. If using substances is a daily part of your life, you need to find a different match.
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