STRAWBERRY SEASON IS NEARLY UPON US!
I said that out loud, just now, and very excitably. The Neurotic Border Collie seems slightly alarmed.
But annnyway, strawberries! Soon! No more buying stupid California berries, thank goodness. Because honestly, I can’t live without strawberries, even mediocre ones.
And gee whiz, just in time for strawberry season kickoff, I’ve got a post that’s gonna make you all mouth-watery: Stevenson Farm, located in Wayne, Maine!
Farm Name: Stevenson Farm
Operated by? Ford and Tom Stevenson
Primary goods: Strawberries (Duh), corn, peas, tomatos, MUCH more (PS. They do pick your own strawberries and peas, beat that!)
Sell to the public? Chyah! Two farm stands to choose from!
My personal favorite part of the farm: The elaborate irrigation system.
Most interesting part of the farm: Watching Ford in the middle of the field talking on his cell phone seemed amusing/ironic.
Right right, so there are your details. Let’s get to the fun stuff.
Wayne borders the town I reside in. That being said, I didn’t know it really existed more than to drive through it on my way to Augusta. So when Ford was giving me directions (After I boasted my local housing situation…) I was just saying, “Yep, got it, sure.” Frankly, I didn’t want to sound ignorant but I had no idea where it was.
Luckily, it’s easy to find. The hard part was once I got onto the farm, I didn’t know where to go. So I called Ford.
“Hi, it’s (The Maine Farm Chick.) I’m on the farm, where are you?”
“I can see you! Just come straight down the road ahead of you.”
“Sure!” I look ahead, and there’s a fork. Swallow my pride and ask for clarification? I THINK NOT!
So after a bit of backtracking in my little not-farm-road-friendly car, I finally meet up with Ford.
And man, it is COLD compared to the warm days we’ve been having recently. I see all of the fields (acres upon acres upon acres) are glinting in the morning sunlight. They’re completely frozen.
I think to myself, “Maybe this is a REALLY bad time for me to show up, right as their entire farm is frozen and probably ruined…”
This has, apparently, been done on purpose. Farmers anticipating a late or unseasonable frost will water their strawberries to protect them from the cold. Counterintuitive? You betcha.
But essentially, the water, once frozen, creates a protective cocoon around the small, just-forming buds. The way that Ford was testing to find out if they’d survived was by splitting open some buds with his pocket knife. If the inside was brown, they were in trouble. If it was yellow, most likely they’d be fine.
As Ford is explaining this, his brother pulls up on a four-wheeler, hauling feed. I look around, having not noticed any animals aside from an enormous German Shepherd (A retired police dog Ford has taken on as a friend.) But as soon as the four wheeler shuts off and Ford’s brother gets out, I hear the unmistakable lowing of cattle who know their owner.
Cows, I’ve decided, are peculiar animals. They’re curious about everyone, but trusting of only their own people. These cows knew who had pulled up, and were eager to express their enthusiasm.
Fords son, Tom, runs the corn operation. The two of them farm dozens of acres of produce. To me, that is insane. To them, it is their life.
Tom is obviously very busy. I’ve come to the farm at a time when they are attempting to save their livelihood. An unseasonable/unexpected frost, on top of a week of 80-degree weather, has totally thrown off the crops. Tom and two of his workers are covering the corn in black plastic, to act as a sort of greenhouse; Absorbing the sun, protecting from the cold.
Oh, did I mention it’s incredibly windy and trying to put a sheet of 100×3′ plastic down evenly is about as easy as trying to take an elephant down with a spitball?
I steal just a few minutes of Tom’s precious time. (Paraphrased for brevity.)
“So are you finding that the demand for locally grown food has increased with the Buy Local movement?”
“I’m not entirely sure. But I have found the cost to raise crops has gone up, while the price of corn has stayed the same.” Story of our modern era, no?
We discussed how Tom is amused that his two farm stands, Stevenson Farm Stand and Levesque’s Farm Stand are supplied by the same farm, yet people swear the corn tastes different at each one. He snickers a bit at this.
Ford then tells me he’ll give me a tour, so I hop in his truck (Gratefully, because it’s freezing outside.) and we drive around the farm. He explains his irrigation system, which is extremely elaborate.
There are three ponds on the property which supply the irrigation systems. They are lines running underneath the beds of the crops, and they supply water underneath the plants as opposed to on top of them. It’s quite elegant, and I feel as though if I try to get too in depth I will misinform you.
Needless to say, there are tanks like the below picture all over the farm:
After an explanation of how he rotates his fields so he can ensure proper soil nutrients for his crops, Ford makes it clear he has work to do, so I walk around and snap a few more photos. The scale of the farm, when I consider two people do most of the work on it, seems incredible to me.
So what did I get as an overall impression from this farm?
Everything is neatly set up. This is not a farm where stuff just accrues and it looks messy and unkempt. This is a well-thought out, well-distributed farm. The veggie club *Yes, there is a veggie club, check out the website at the end of the blog post for info!* enables people to do a CSA-type deal, and the fact that they are able to bring such a varied spread is wonderful.
What was the biggest impression?
Frankly, Ford was incredibly knowledgable. If I were to type everything Ford told me, this would be a fifteen-page paper, and I would need to do a lot more transcribing. I tend to gloss over technical aspects of things because they take some time to describe, but Ford was a wealth of knowledge. He honestly cared whether or not I understood a concept. He was happy to tell me everything I needed to know and more. To me, that made an enormous impression.