Farm Apprentice Merrifield Farm
- Date Posted July 09, 2018
- Location Cornish, ME
- Category Agriculture
- Job Type Internship/Apprentice
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 (just us in it) surrounded by wooded hills and miles of old tote roads to explore. Barn and outbuildings, art studio, cell phone reception, washer, dryer, shower, full kitchen etc. 5 miles from town with a population of 1302. 50 mins 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 movie. 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 (there's a rope swing right down the road). 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.
Internship Starts: Mid July (flexible)
Internship Ends: Mid September (flexible)
Number of Interns: We currently have five lovely apprentices working on the farm! We could use one more to join the team for a few months during the busy season.
Apprentices will live on the farm in Cornish, and work on both the land in Cornish and on land 15 minutes away in Porter. Molly and John-the parents- run the home farm in Cornish. This land has been in the family for hundreds of years and is extremely fertile, rock free, beautiful soil! They are experimenting with simplifying their operation as Johnny ages (he’s a buff 75 year old and going strong). Their main crops this year will be 40,000 sunflowers for bouquets, pumpkins, and blueberries. Mol runs the sunflower business and does a lot of tractor work and sometimes helps John with the rest when she is feeling nice.
They sell mostly to local farm stands and orchards wholesale. Grace-the daughter-runs the farm stand and land in Porter. She free leases the land from a nice family up the road (the farm stand was passed on to her sister and her when they were in college by a local guy who had been farming there since the '80s. The farm land in Porter produces most of what we will need for the farm stand, Portland Farmers’ Market, wholesale, and restaurant accounts (Flatbread Pizza Company is one of our favorites), but we do buy in some produce for the farm stand from other local farmers who grow different things then us, like strawberries.
Our main crops are 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 brussels sprouts, eggplant, and swiss chard. 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. Our entire field is set up with black plastic mulch and drip irrigation, which saves on water use and weeding. 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. The stuff we use isn’t real heavy duty because we would need a license for that. We use commercial fertilizers along with tons of cow manure, make our own compost, and plant a cover crop to be tilled in each spring as a green manure. We try to buy in organic produce for the farm stand when possible so that our customers have more choices.
Currently, our area couldn’t support an all organic farm stand. If we only sold to people in the city and to restaurants we could charge more, and hence be certified organic, but we are interested in serving our immediate community. We’d like to show the community that farming is an economically viable livelihood, and provide local, healthy food that’s accessible to everyone. 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 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, cross-country running, etc.) Farming is physically demanding, but even more so mentally. Cultivating and picking in the hot sun require stamina and rhythm. 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. A strong work ethic and love for physical labor is ideal, and equally important is a good attitude and a ridiculous sense of humor! Farming is hard, but very satisfying work.Educational Opportunities:
We don't require any past experience farming, so we will patiently teach any new skills needed for a 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 works alongside apprentices, demonstrating by doing, but will also be doing the majority of the tractor work and marketing/driving around. John and Mol usually show apprentices how to do a task and then leave them to it. 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. 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.
A bit about our different styles of teaching/working: Although Grace is a relatively young boss at age 25, at this point she has had over six 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. Mol is the most fun to work with because she is silly, and you get to pick sunflowers all day with her, but she also keeps it real and doesn’t deal with any bullshit. Johnny 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 everything 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 set some time aside for lessons). We act like one big family farm, and not separate ones. We share equipment and labor, 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 the stand. Things can get crazy around here during harvest, but we will always try to make it fun and educational. You may even get kidnapped by Mol and her buddies and end up floating down the river in an inner tube!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. All meals are included, as well as all the veggies from the farm you want to eat! At the end of the season we will give a small bonus based on how the season went and what we can afford - this will hopefully allow apprentices to have an easier transition onto their next adventure after the farm.Housing:
You will have a cabin or school bus to yourself, and full run of the kitchen, living area, washer and dryer, and bathroom in the 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. Eating habits vary from season to season depending on the crew; usually breakfast is a fend-for-yourself affair, we eat lunch 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. 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 is a daily part of your life, we’d rather you found a different match. In 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 (basically, we ain’t your mama!).
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 the 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!
Also, the other daughter/Grace’s sister, Ruby and her guy Gid are getting married in August this year! They are getting married on their farm, so we will help them with all the flowers, food, decorating, etc. September slows down as everyone heads back to school, but we still have some busy weekends with pumpkins. 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.