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Patch Farm is located in Denmark – the lovely Lakes Region of Maine.
The farm sits atop a hill with a beautiful view on roughly 67 acres, 20 open fields/house lot and the rest in woods.
We live in a traditional New England farmhouse built in 1820 with ample room for apprentices – who also have their own living room. While Denmark doesn’t have a whole lot going on (one heck of a gas station: JimBob’s and the Denmark Arts Center) we are less than 10 minutes away from Bridgton, a wonderful lake town with a great pub, (2!) movie theaters, swimming spots, (a lot of!) ice cream shops, antiques, and cafes, along with some great spots to grab some grub.
We would love to find full season apprentices (April to mid-November). We believe working a full-season gives folks the best picture of our small farm and gives them a full understanding of our fields/animals and preparation for a farm/field management position elsewhere (our second-year apprentices help us manage our farm, develop field plans and run work days). We find the prime time for learning takes place in the early spring and early fall, when the farm work is slower. Year-round opportunities are a possibility for the right individual and can be discussed mid-season.
Patch Farm is located in Denmark – the lovely Lakes Region of Maine. The farm sits atop a hill with a beautiful view on roughly 67 acres, 20 open fields/house lot and the rest in woods. We live in a traditional New England farmhouse built in 1820 with ample room for apprentices – who also have their own living room. While Denmark doesn’t have a whole lot going on (one heck of a gas station: JimBob’s and the Denmark Arts Center) we are less than 10 minutes away from Bridgton, a wonderful lake town with a great pub, (2!) movie theaters, swimming spots, (a lot of!) ice cream shops, antiques, and cafes, along with some great spots to grab some grub.
Patch Farm is a highly diversified farm. Our operations include:
- Crop Production: This year there will be 1.5 acres of annual vegetable production. We have three high tunnels in which we farm year round. Along with the high tunnels, our outdoor fields are no-till, using a combination of tarping, cover cropping, intensive management, heavy-compost, broadforking and layer mulching. We have a 1 acre field that will not be in production crops for 2021, but will be heavily cover-cropped and prepped for 2022. We have three culinary and medicinal herb gardens, raspberries, rhubarb, asparagus and a smattering of fruit trees which amount to around 1 acre of cropping. We use reusable landscape cloth instead of black plastic, minimally irrigate our lands and start our own seedlings. We also dabble in bio-dynamics.
- Animal Production: Year-round we run a flock of roughly 300 laying hens who seasonally rotate around our pasture in movable chicken coops. In addition to the layers, we raise around 600 broilers and roughly 50 turkeys whom also rotate our pastures. All of our poultry is certified organic. In a mix of pasture/forest rotation, we run anywhere from 20-30 heritage breed non-certified-organic hogs, whom are born here on the farm as we have one boar and three sows. For house production, we have a small herd of dairy goats and one Jersey milking cow who provide ample milk, aid in pasture management and entertainment. There are also several beehives that we tend throughout the season and two Great Pyrenees’ livestock guardian dogs.
- Marketing: We market our products through a small CSA program, two farmers’ markets, restaurant sales and a small roadside farm stand.
Patch Farm is a family farm: Brandon and BrennaMae owner/farmers, Nancy (mother/mother-in-love) bee-keeper and herb tender, Ainsley, 7-year old daughter, tomato harvester and mayhem director and Finnian, our 2-year old son and general merry-maker. Our children work alongside us and those who work with us.
We are indeed certified organic! Our hogs, cows and goats are non-og for a variety of reasons but are all treated as if they are certified organic.
We are looking to fill two apprenticeships. Both of our apprentices will help with daily vegetable tasks and animal chores, our homesteading tasks (cooking and preservation of food, farm and land maintenance), all farm tasks like irrigation, transplanting and moving animals. If the right individual comes along, we can tailor tasks more towards animals or vegetable work, depending on interests.
- Setting up fencing systems
- Moving fencing/netting
- Building/fixing any infrastructure
- Tending to young’ns (goat kids, piglets, chicks, etc.)
- Milking, egg cleaning
- Moving fencing/netting
- Mucking out goat pens (every 2 weeks or so)
- Critical daily tasks (water, feed, collecting eggs, checking in, etc.)
- Milking, egg cleaning
- Moving fencing/netting (are you sensing a theme here?)
- Bringing animals to the butcher
- Putting up hay for winter
- Prepping animals for winter
- Milking, egg cleaning (the pattern continues!)
- Daily chores (think: the pattern continues)
- Harvest and sales data review
- Annual animal planning
Apprentices will have the opportunity to learn and take some leadership in basically every part of our vegetable operation from seeding, transplanting and weeding to harvesting and processing along with selling at farmers’ markets.
- Greenhouse work (seeding, watering, up-potting, etc.)
- Field prep work (landscape cloth, mulching, laying compost, irrigation)
- Direct seeding some crops
- Perennial crop maintenance (pruning, weeding, etc)
- Transplanting seedlings & direct seeding
- Help pack/attend farmers’ markets, wholesale, etc.
- Harvesting, washing and packing of vegetables for sale
- Annual crop maintenance (trellising, pruning, weeding)
- Putting fields into cover crops
- Winter root harvest, processing and storage
- Planting next year’s garlic crop
- General clean up from the season and tarping
Winter (if applicable):
- Greenhouse greens harvesting
- Field maps, field planning
- Seed inventory and ordering
- Harvest / Sales data review
It is up to you as the applicant to let us know where your specific interests and areas of learnin’ you’d like to focus on!
- A driver’s license is preferable (driving market truck)
- Ability to lift 50 pounds (we got grain bags on this farm!
- An understanding of the ebbs and flows of family life
- Possess a responsibility for their own learning; able to ask questions, be self-motivated and curious
- Patience: farming with animals and children requires an even keel, understanding and an uncanny ability to stop, take a deep breath, and reassess.
- Flexibility: physically and mentally. Farming with diversity means even scheduled tasks can be changed on the fly.
- The ability to work in all kinds of weather: heat, sun, rain, cold. This means being prepared physically with sunscreen, proper clothing and water, but also being mentally prepared to work in less than ideal conditions.
Much of our schedule is determined by the season (less work in the spring, more in the summer, a little less in the fall) and is determined by the sun (think: in October we can’t start working at 6 AM anymore… and in November it gets dark at 4, so we stop then!). That being said, apprentices will (at peak season) work a 5.5 day week. We generally start working an hour after sunrise and work until early evening – roughly 6 AM- 5 PM, with a 1 hour lunch break and a mid-morning 15 minute snack break. We are open to accommodating long weekends or a brief vacation, barring that we have advanced notice – farming is hard physically and sometimes mentally, and we all have to have each others backs (in the form of a vacay!) from time to time. As far as physical demands, we will never ask you to do something you’re not physically capable of, and will work with you on proper lifting/body mechanics if you are initially uncomfortable performing a new physically demanding task.
You will be expected to help out with household chores, sweeping and cleaning your room and common area, and help in the kitchen: cooking one night a week, cleaning up after dinner, sweeping and removing house compost. While we will never ask you to babysit our children, if they ask to hang out with you during work hours (and you are comfortable with that) they might end up working with you, and only you.
While we often work side-by-side with our workers. Our apprentices, once trained, will be expected to do some tasks alone (or in management of WWOOFers) such as: harvesting, weeding, trellising, tending animals and post-harvest handling of product. We generally work as a full crew in the mornings and often split into solo tasks in the afternoon. Our apprentices must be able to work alone as we farmers often find ourselves busy with office work, obligations off-farm or working full-time as parents.
As mentioned above, we are into hands-on, learn-as-you-go teaching. Part of your farming time will be spent with at least one of us, but there will often be times (especially as the season progresses) that we may have you doing tasks by yourself, or leading WWOOFers who may be at our farm. We have a fairly extensive library of farming books for you to access and we’re more than willing to take the time to have discussions about anything you’re interested in. Depending on your learning style, we can also have sit-down teaching sessions if that works better for you. Basically, we’re flexible and teaching is a big focus of how we operate with apprentices and WWOOFers. We find most individuals find success in learning when they ask questions and ask for opportunities – for while we farmers like to teach, we aren’t mind readers and won’t necessarily teach one what they are looking for unless they ask (i.e: crop rotation, our way of mulching, specific medicinal qualities of culinary herbs, under-water basket weaving etc…) and we hope all apprentices take part and responsibility for their learning process.
We do have a Learning Plan that we start with each apprentice, outlining learning goals, timeframe for those learning goals, and ways to reach those goals. We use this to guide us through the season and as markers for farm check-ins.
Additionally, we will provide you with time to attend all of MOFGA’s Farm Training gatherings, which take place across the state.
We are! BrennaMae does help out on a near-by organic maple syrup operation during the maple season and Nancy is a substitute teacher. We are also raising children, which is quite honestly a full-time job in and of itself… and can sometimes take us from the field-work unexpectedly.
Each morning we have kitchen-table check-ins with daily and weekly tasks, in which you might be asked, “what would you like to do today?” Typically the mornings are dedicated to working as a group, doing large harvests and transplanting led by farmer, though as the season progresses apprentices will often evolve into leading fieldwork and harvests. Afternoons are typically where we do solo work, and whenever a new task is asked of an apprentice, we will be there to help teach and guide you. As the season progresses apprentices will find themselves doing more independent work.
We pay $550-800 a month depending on experience and length of stay commitment. Room and board is included. We farm first for ourselves, so unless noted, all farm products are grown first for the entire household to eat and enjoy.
Our farmhouse is set up so that the side of the house workers will be living in essentially functions as its own house. It has everything except a kitchen, which is shared with the main house. We live in the main part of the house with our kiddos. There is one cat (TK) that meanders and sleeps about the entire household… that, naturally, she thinks she owns. As we all live together, you will be asked to chip in your fair share of the cooking (one dinner a week) and cleaning (of your space, kitchen and apprentice common space). We eat our own meat, but we have both been vegetarians for long periods of our lives, and are willing to accommodate a vegetarian diet. Breakfast is on your own, lunches are eaten together (leftovers from dinner the night before) and dinner we all eat together a big tasty meal. Legal libations (byo) are okay in moderation, but we are a 100% tobacco free property.
A visit is not necessary but can be helpful. If a visit doesn’t work, we would require at least a conversation or two on Skype. There is no official “trial period,” however, if it becomes evident that it isn’t working out for whatever reason, we reserve the right to let you go.
Do you have a written Farm Employees manual? What is your process for evaluating work and giving feedback? What is your process for disciplinary action if necessary?
We do not have an employees’ manual. Over the years we have had a lot of comings and goings on the farm, and have managed employees at other retail businesses. When it comes to evaluating work and feedback, we teach, discuss and give feedback on tasks on a daily basis – sometimes on the fly, and other times as a solo-check in. We check in with our apprentices at the beginning, middle and end of the season, to ensure that they are learning what they are interested in, answering any questions about our business or giving feedback on how one can improve. We also listen to apprentices who have feedback for us.
In rare cases when we have serious negative feedback or need to ask folks to leave, we make sure to have discussions in which all parties will be heard. If necessary or desired, we are happy to reach out to mediation services to ensure all voices have the space to be heard.
BrennaMae is from Minnesota, and Brandon is from Maine, and we met while attending college in Boston. After farming for a bit in Washington State, we took a WWOOFing trip to New Zealand and hopped around vegetable and dairy goat operations. We’ve been back farming in Maine since 2012, with two seasons working on other farms and participating in the MOFGA Journeyperson program, and since 2014 we’ve been farming full-time as Patch Farm. Nancy, BrennaMae’s mother, joined our farm in the summer of 2015 and tends the bees, among many other things. Our daughter, Ainsley is seven and our son Finnian is a hair over two. Our long-term goal is almost complete self-sufficiency, but we know that might not happen until we’re close to retirement, so we take small steps each year toward that end-goal. We’re both of the mind-set that the larger society is going to collapse at some point in the not-so-distant future (we’re sort of kidding about that…but maybe not really) and so we’re very interested in our local community alongside our own scene here at our farm. That being said, we’re both quite easy-going for the most part, and more than anything else we try to have a good time each day. We are always striving to build our culture into a place where all persons can thrive – we are BIPoC, LGBTQIA+ friendly, we believe that we humans are part of nature, not just observers and participants of nature.
Farming, like anything, can wear on you if you let it, so we try not to. While our list of things we enjoy does not include long walks on the beach, it does include listening to NPR, dancing to (good) music with our children and toying with our cat among a litany of other endless topics – which could include conversing with you over dinner some day!
Please describe any ideological and/ or political views that may affect an apprentices experience on your farm. How would you navigate if apprentices’ views are different from your own?
We are a very socially liberal and progressive folks and tend to lean that way on most issues. Consequently, someone who is on the other end of things might not jive with us so well. On the other hand, because we’re extremely open and accepting, we certainly wouldn’t turn someone away because of a particular ideological or political view. Working with us, you won’t find many conversations to be overtly political, so it’s unlikely that many serious issues would arise, but we do welcome conversation and discussion, and like we stated previously, are fairly open-minded.
By participating in the MOFGA apprenticeship program you agree to uphold the “MOFGA Apprenticeship Program Core Values”. Please briefly describe how these 4 values are exemplified on your farm.
At Patch Farm we value the pursuit of holistic sustainability. This doesn’t just mean making sure that our beneficial insects, microbes, plants and animals have a healthy habitat, but the humans on the farm, too. Through honest and effective communication, teaching moments and the motivation to see apprentices from all walks of life succeed, we hope to facilitate one hell of a season of learning while fairly compensating the folks of the farm through learning, a stipend and laughter.