Summer Reading: Top 5 Books by Farmers

When I was a teenage my favorite summer activity was reading. Whether on a rainy day like today or out on the beach, I usually had a book in hand. Now that we farm,  I rarely have time to read during the growing season, but come winter I try to pack it in and read everything I can.

Some of my favorite books from the last few years have been written by farmers. This list, in no particular order includes some of those I’ve most enjoyed. Whether you are interested in growing your own food, aspire to be a farmer in the future or  read to understand a different perspective, I think you’ll enjoy the following books. You’ll find most at your local library or independent book store.

Gaining GroundGaining Ground
Written by Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows Farm in Virginia this is a tale of English major turned farmer. Pritchard’s casual and endearing way of writing will have you sympathizing with the challenges he faces turning a multi-generational crop farm into a grass-based livestock operation and you’ll laugh out loud at his misadventures. Jake worked at Smith Meadows back in 2008 during a year-long apprenticeship that brought him back to Apple Creek.

The Shepherd’s Life
If you’re a farm newsletter subscriber then you’ve had the bookreview_shepherds_lifechance to read excerpts of this book. The author, James Rebanks describes his home in England through a historical context that weaves together land conservation, modern challenges and a perspective of shepherding that stretches back through multiple centuries. Rebank’s captures the essence of farming and the relationship between shepherd and sheep in a powerful way. I’ll let you read it and see how well he puts it!HSC

Turn Here, Sweet Corn
This book follows a family farm, Gardens of Eagan through its formative years. Author, Atina Diffley does a delightful job of writing a memoir that is as much about her own development as that of her farm. Along the way, Diffley shares the struggles farmers contend with- land development, resource extraction, natural disasters that are well out of their control and illustrates just how important communities can be during these events.

Locally Laid
If you want to know how it feels, sounds and smells to start a large-scale pasture based Locally Laidegg operation then read this book! Author, Lucie Amundsen writes with humor and wit that belies the difficulties she and her husband Jason have faced in becoming the largest pasture-based egg operation in the upper Midwest. In her book, Amundsen introduces readers to the important concept of “middle ag,” which she believes can be a key economic driver vital to the revitalization of agrarian communities across the country. The book follows Lucie and Jason as they hatch the idea for their new business and through the first year or so as their plans get scrambled (puns all intended). This book made me laugh out loud and if you’re considering starting a farm, I’d consider it mandatory reading.

Dirty LifeThe Dirty Life
In many of the books included in this list you’ll begin to understand the powerful pull of farming. For some, it is a life they were born into and for others it is an adventure that may feel a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. Kimball does an elegant job of describing how she went from big-city reporter to living in the Adirondacks and operating with her husband one of best known and largest “full-diet” CSA farms in the country. The book follows the farm’s first couple of years as Kristin and Mark find land and begin asking neighbors to commit to purchasing all their food from the farm, by buying a share per person. I won’t spoil the ending too much to tell you- it works and the farm now sends shares as far south as New York City.

Turkey Time

After a great season here with plenty of grass, sun and blue sky we are looking forward to the cooler days. With that in mind, it is time once again to order your holiday turkey. All turkeys for Thanksgiving will be available FRESH!

Pick-up dates will be Saturday, November 18 inside Fort Andross at the Brunswick Winter Market or on Tuesday, November 21 downtown on the Mall at Brunswick Farmers Market. As always our birds are raised outdoors on certified organic grain and pastures.

We are no longer taking orders for turkeys, if you’d like to add your name to our wait list please contact us. Any extra turkeys will be available  on November 21.

July Newsletter

Summer lasts only about a 100 days (and not all of those sunny) and so this is our busiest time of year. We’ve been busy making hay, watching our new farm emerge from the forest and moving animals to maximize the lush green grass. Hay has been slow and steady with great yields due to our application of fall manure and this spring’s mix of rain and warm temperatures.
IMG_7863The land clearing began just about 2 weeks ago and we’re looking at 13 acres or so of future pasture and silvopasture. Jake and I spent several evenings walking the land and choosing a mix of big and small trees to leave for shade and future timber. The result will be a mixed hardwood forest with enough openings in the canopy to allow grass to grow while offering some shelter for our animals. We have been very pleased with the crew from Comprehensive Land Technologies.

Moving animals is a daily activity. Not every animal group moves each day, but each day there is a group to be moved. Our goats have been doing their annual road crew work, controlling the bittersweet along the road edge and clearing along the stone walls. The cows, seven of whom will calve in the fall are getting wider and wider with all the fresh grass they are consuming.

We hope you’ll come out and see us this weekend for Bowdoinham’s annual Open Farm Day & Art Trail which coincides with Maine’s Open Farm Day. We will be open from 9AM-1PM offering tours (including a look at our newly cleared land) and a pop-up farm store. What should you expect? Check out our previous Open Farm Day post.

Copy of Open Farm Day 17-2(1)

You can now order your Holiday Birds! Our Thanksgiving turkeys arrived this week and they are the most feisty birds I think we’ve every had. In just a few short weeks they will head out on pasture where they will be eating a mix of clovers and grasses supplemented by certified organic grain until they are ready to grace your table. We are raising two groups of geese this year to expand availability. Our summer geese have been acting as night watchmen, protecting our chickens from a Great Horned Owl that lives on the farm. The owl’s nocturnal visits usually come at the cost of a broiler so putting a pair of geese in with the broilers scares off the owl.
Follow these links to reserve your turkey or goose.

Copy of Christmas in July-2-1Christmas in July! We are offering 20% off all our sheepskins and goat hides July 22 – July 29. You can visit us at market or order online– use code JULY17.

MARKET SCHEDULE
Tuesdays 8 AM-2 PM Brunswick Farmers’ Market on the Mall Brunswick
Saturdays 8:30 AM- 12:30 PM BTLT’s Farmers’ Market  Brunswick

May Newsletter

Yellow Egg Spansion Instagram-2Thank you for a great start to the season! Our crowdfunding campaign was successful due to your support. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress throughout the season. Several of you asked about the nest box technology we’ll be using. One of the companies that makes the “Roll-away” nest boxes we’ll be using made this neat video that explains how they work and the benefits for both hen and farmer.

 


We, along with the animals are impatiently awaiting the April showers to give way to the May flowers. We had a group of ewes escape their winter paddock over the weekend and that taste of grass has ruined their appetite for hay! Since our animals are used to be out and moved around, you can imagine that being in their winter paddock for the last few months has gotten really boring. The goat nursery is anything but with 25 kids running around. Rainy days find the kids jumping on overturned tubs, on their mom’s back or snoozing in the hay. Its a great place to spend a few minutes relaxing at the end of the day. IMG_6260We had our final lamb of the season and he has joined one of the most varied and personable groups of lambs I’ve met. One stand-out is Bill, his mom Barracuda is pretty infamous as she is loud and bossy. But any complaints I’ve had about her have been silenced by the sweet presence of Bill.

IMG_6177We are launching a Market Share CSA. The program is modeled after a traditional CSA where the farmers receive payment upfront in return for a share of the harvest throughout the season. In Apple Creek’s model you will receive a 10% bonus for every $100 share purchased. So a $110 market share will be priced at $100, a $220 market share for the price of $200 and so on.  When you purchase a Market Share you’ll receive a card loaded with your share amount to use on whatever products you’d like throughout the 2017 season. The card can be used at any of our markets including the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Farmers’ Market and the Brunswick Farmers Market.  More details and the sign up for can be foundhere.

PATE NEW FLAVORSWe have TWO new pates in our line-up! Our new beef liver pate and chicken liver mousse, like all our value-added products are made by Jenn Legnini of Turtle Rock Farm using ingredients grown here in Maine. We plan to have fresh chicken mousse available weekly and frozen beef pate throughout the summer.

facebook_-1554629396In the agriculture community the idea of “scaling-up” – whether it means getting big or “right-sizing” your operation- is frequently discussed. What “scaling up” commonly refers to is a farm diversifying its market channels to include not only direct to consumer sales (CSA, farmers’ markets, farm stands) but also wholesaling products to local foods stores, supermarkets or distributors.  I think many readers will be familiar with the phrase of Earl Butz, “Get Big or Get Out” which became the rallying cry for commodity agriculture and large scale farms. I worry that this “Scaling-Up” idea may be construed as the same idea with just updated marketing. It also concerns me that by simply saying we are scaling up our farm, our customers would think we’re just getting bigger, not getting better. So, I began to mull over how we might clarify increasing the size, scale and efficiency of our farm.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 11.30.54 AMOur aspirations include marketing some of our products through wholesale channels, hiring apprentices or other help while providing an income to both of Jake and I to work full-time on the farm. But our pressing concern is supplying our existing markets in Brunswick. To do so, over the last three years we’ve been “growing out”- increasing our number of ewes and does for breeding, adding a 100 or so more broilers to our poultry. We’ve done this to such a degree that we’ve also grown out of our existing barns!

Between 2014 and 2017, all of the farm operations were based on land leased from Jake’s family.  In 2014, as part of our future farm vision, we purchased an adjacent 70-acre property that we call “North Ridge”. This property is where, this year we plan to build a hoop house for our chickens, a large barn for our sheep and goats, a hoop barn for equipment, hay and feed storage and our farmhouse. These plans also include renovating our existing two-car garage to include a farm store, egg processing room, walk-in freezer and cooler. Over the last year we worked with The Resilience Hub in Portland to design a site plan illustrating our vision.

Plan Including Bowdoin
Our entire property which is split between Bowdoin and Bowdoinham
Site Overview
Site Overview
Perm Plan Detail
Detail of Site Plan with buildings and labels

This plan is an extremely helpful tool, so let’s talk about what is included:

  • A clearing project that will remove trees from two existing, fenced paddocks as well as the sloped areas located along the road frontage. This will create additional grazing areas for cows, sheep and goats.
    IMG_4082
  • A Hoop house will serve as a winter shelter for our chickens. At present, we are limited to just two portable coops (pictured below) which house 125 birds each. Building the hoop house will allow us to increase our flock to 500 hens. This means more eggs at market (HOORAY!) and the ability to supply new markets such as CSA and local food stores.  The hoop house will include such amenities as running water and electricity so that we can provide water indoors without having to carry 5-gallon buckets of water over mud, ice and snow. We are launching a crowdfunding campaign through the platform, Barnraiser to kickstart this project. To view the project in full please visit: http://www.barnraiser.us/projects/apple-creek-farm-hatching-an-expansionCopy of Egg Spansion 940x700
  • A Barn will provide more space for our breeding does and ewes. We need this to separate groups for flushing, breeding and lambing. As you can see in the photo above (Detail of Site Plan) there will be several paddocks where we can sort animals by their body condition, age or other factors. The new barn will allow us to feed everyone under cover which is particularly important as the Spring and Fall tend to be longer and wetter. Winter has come to include wider variations of temperature which are tough on the animals and making feeding outdoors (without wasting grain in the rain or wind) rather difficult.
  • A Hoop barn will create storage to keep our tractors, balers and other equipment out of the weather, stack round bales of hay under cover to reduce spoilage and work on equipment out of the rain.
  • A Farmhouse is a key component of having the farm infrastructure move to this location. The house will be modest and designed with aging in mind.  We look forward to having a guest room for friends & family to come and visit!
  • The Garage renovation will create space for a farm store, which we plan to open in Fall 2017. The store will be modest, open once a week and be the meeting location for farm tours and on-farm events (coming in 2018). We’ll also build an egg processing room where we can wash, grade and pack eggs. Perhaps my favorite addition to this space will be a walk-in freezer. Presently we rent very affordable and reliable freezer space in Bangor. Over the last three years we have used this space to store and build our inventory for Brunswick Winter Market. Though inexpensive, it has taken an increasing amount of time to manage inventory and transport product to and from the facility. Building a freezer on-site will help us spend more time on the farm and more storage for our products. A walk-in cooler will be used to store fresh product which is frequently requested at market. Building a walk-in will mean we can sell fresh chicken at both farmers’ markets during the summer and direct from the farm. It will also mean all Thanksgiving turkeys can be picked up FRESH!You may be asking, “what about the land you’ve been using?” We will continue to lease 70 acres of land from Jake’s family, the land that we call “the home farm.” Located there are the sheep & cow barns where we will continue to house our finishing lambs and kids and our cow/calf pairs. Since our farming methods won’t be changing we will still be using all of the land on both “the home farm” and “North Ridge” as well as leased land off the farm.

February Newsletter


Lambing is underway! So far lambs have been arriving every 12 hours and wow, that would be amazing if that pace kept right up.

2016-annual-report-pg1In case you missed it- our annual report is now available. For those of you unfamiliar, the report is our opportunity to share the year’s numbers and statistics through infographics. We had an amazing season despite the lack of rain and our thanks goes out to all of you for purchasing our products and coming out to markets. We have finalized many of our poultry orders for 2017 and geese will be BACK!

open-farm-day-17Please mark your calendars and plan to join us at Open Farm Day. This year’s date will be Sunday, July 23rd. The date coincides with the Maine’s state-wide Open Farm Day as well as Bowdoinham’s Farm & Art Trail. As in the past a local foods BBQ will be held in the afternoon. The farm will be open from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm for tours, an opportunity to meet the animals and to visit our pop-up farm store.

If you’re looking for a unique addition to your Easter celebrations you can find it at Wilbur’s Chocolates in Brunswick or Freeport. Janet learned the art of making these ornate “panorama” decorative eggs from  Jake’s great grandmother, Lucienne Galle. The eggs are filled with tiny figures and each is accompanied by a story about the animal inside, imagining a life on Apple Creek Farm. You can read more about this tradition in a past post, Eggs of All Sizes.

shopWe’ve added an online store for our sheepskins and goat hides. While these are available at the farmers market year-round the online store will be stocked with an entirely different inventory. Our hides are tanned by the kind folks of Vermont Natural Sheepskins and by the traditional craftspeople of Buck’s County Fur Products.

 

December Newsletter

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/e78a51caed3156f56ccbae5c2/_compresseds/4a177e2e-5cc8-431b-bd2a-846f0265777a.jpgWow December! It has been cold!!
We can tell just how cold by how frosty an animal’s nose and whiskers are, or by how much ice is on Jake’s beard by the end of chores. We keep everyone warm with plenty of water, extra bedding and as much food as possible. Our 2017 laying hens arrived just as the temperatures dipped really low, so they are in the basement until we can add extra insulation to their brooder trailer. These gals (a mix of barred rock and black sex links) will be laying by summer. In the meantime our hens are laying surprisingly well despite having the weather and daylight against them. For us, the chief advantage of this cold weather is that we can pack for market on Friday night, enabling us to have a bit more time to linger over our coffee on Saturday mornings.

 

This Saturday, December 24th we will be at the Brunswick Winter Market inside Fort Andross. We’ll have all three types of pate made by Turtle Rock Farm— chicken, turkey and lamb. These are delicious (if we do say so ourselves) and handy during the holiday visiting season.

In addition we will have our inventory of sheepskins & goat hides. All sheepskins will be on sale, just in time for any last minute gift giving.

The farm has had a very successful year, thanks to our supportive community & customers! Look for our annual year-end report in the next few weeks. We’ll be sharing our plans for the farm’s expansion to our adjacent land!