Do you ever have those moments where you LITERALLY fist-pump with victory? I did that last weekend when I went to visit a farm in Winthrop.
You see, I didn’t know I was going to be visiting a farm. It was pretty much an accident. I mean, it really was an accident.
Long story short, I decided to buy a couple of chickens. (Don’t underestimate how much cost/benefit analysis has to go into buying laying hens…) and found the phone number for a lady in Winthrop who had some available. I called her, and got her voicemail.
“Hello, you’ve reached MoonShadow Farm…” I literally stopped listening and started getting super stoked. A farm! Not just people with chickens!
Of course, I snatched up my camera and enthusiasm, and ran out the door.
Farm Name: MoonShadow Farm
Primary goods: Beef, rabbit meat, goat meat, eggs, chickens, meat birds, guinea hens, vegetables, etc.
Sell to the Public?: Yes, right on premise.
My personal favorite part of the farm: The fact that the farm space was organized for maximum efficiency.
Most interesting part of the farm/event: The Highland skulls scattered about.
When I showed up, I had the NBC (Neurotic Border Collie) in the back with the dog kennel for picking up the chickens. I had my camera. I had my boots.
I did not prep Christine (One of the two farm owners) for the fact that I was going to invade her farm for the next hour and a half, and bombard her with questions. She was insanely good-natured about it.
I noticed a pasture just before the farm with several Scottish Highlands in it. I put two and two together when I pulled in the driveway and there was a skull on a post in the garden. I thought this was fascinating, and a great way to pay homage to the animal you’ve eaten. It looked pretty rad.
Christine met me out front and promptly brought me into their farm stand. I call it a farm stand, but in fact, it’s a store. On the freezers, all of the meat pricing was written. From goat to rabbit to chicken to pure-bred Scottish Highland beef to fresh eggs, it was all laid out.
We meandered around the barnyard. The Belz family has a young daughter, who has a fairy garden in the midst of out-buildings, a hot-house, chicken coops and a grape trellis. I was surprised to find out there were rabbits in one of the mini-barns.
Christine noted that the first time they processed a rabbit, she couldn’t eat it. I asked her how she dealt with caring for animals, and then having them processed for consumption and she thought for a moment and said, “You just have to get over it.” Wise words, and it’s true. I found her to be very in touch with her animals, but also very much assertive in the fact that they are her livelihood, her family’s livelihood, and ultimately, meat.
I asked her what she did with the grapes, which were still clinging to the vines even in the cold weather. Grape jelly, possibly wine, I was informed.
(Is it just me, or are the squiggly parts of a grape vine the most adorable thing ever, or what?)
One of my favorite things about small-operation farms is the fact that every inch of space counts. MoonShadow Farm was organized to not feel cluttered, but to be efficient at the same time. No space was wasted.
You could tell her animals know where their food comes from. As soon as Christine walked me through the pastures, (there were several.) the animals wandered over. Goats and cows alike stumped through the grass over to us, waiting patiently.
Scottish Highland cows come from… You guessed it… the highlands of Scotland. This means they are extremely rugged animals. They can withstand great cold, and are considered a breed which does not require much help when they calve. They are well-adapted for the climate in Maine, even winters. This is why you will see the breed frequently in New England.
I asked Christine how many she had and she goes, “Oh, somewhere between fifteen and twenty, it varies.” I liked her answer. I also like her philosophy on raising the animals with minimal human interference. She doesn’t over-vaccinate them, she doesn’t over-anything them. They get food, water, and space. And respect. Even the goats looked pleased with their pasturemates.
The farm has been running for three and a half years. I was pleased at the amount of insight Christine was willing to give into anything and everything, she was happy to showcase her farm. The family encourages visitors, and embraces the idea of getting to know one’s farmer.
It was a bit sad to see the true turn of the season, however. As we walked around the farm, evidence of the harvest season was everywhere.
During the growing season, one can find all sorts of vegetables at the farm stand. If you’re in the Central Maine area and looking for beef or chicken during the winter, MoonShadow Farm is the place to go.
Oh, wait, did I mention? They have bees!
For some reason, I get super stoked with farmers have bees. And they have four very good sized hives. I asked how many bees she thought they had, but Christine told me her husband, Keith, was more of the beekeeper. I would estimate… many. Many, many.
So what did I get for an overall impression from this farm? In terms of quality meat, which has been respectfully treated and processed as cleanly and reliably as possible, I can not say I’ve been to a farm that has surpassed MoonShadow Farm. Small farms are well-known for being able to control how their animals are raised. I saw cows in huge pastures, free-range hens, and meat-birds with enormous amounts of room to wander around. (Even though they were inside, they don’t have enough feathers to want to be outside this time of year and I can’t blame them…) This farm affirmed how much I appreciate – and I hope everyone appreciates – how much work goes into raising one’s own meat.
Wait wait wait, did I mention? As the nicest parting gift ever, I was given a mug from the farm. Yet another reason you should stop over at the farm.
CONTACT INFO FOR MOONSHADOW FARM:
Chrissy & Keith Belz
563 Lewiston Road, Winthrop, ME
Store hours: Weekends, 8-4; Weekdays, by chance or appointment
Want to see the rest of the photos from my trip to the farm? Click here!