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Pine Root Farm
15-acre vegetable farm in its second season of operation, run by 24 year old with 15 years farming experience. Grow all our own produce for farm stand and local wholesale accounts. Involved with food banks and schools.
Fun loving family, friendly community. 30 min to Portland and coast, 45 to White Mountains. You’ll experience it all, and end the season ready to take over!
I am looking for two apprentices, one for our whole season – mid May to Nov. 1st – and one for our busiest months – mid June through mid September.
Pine Root Farm is located in southwestern Maine, on route 113 in the village of Steep Falls. The farm is backed by ninety acres of pine forest owned by our family. The Saco River flows through town and behind the farm, and we’re close to many ponds, lakes, and mountains in the area. Our nearby communities are rural but have great resources and good restaurants, and Portland is only thirty minutes east. The White Mountains are about forty-five minutes west of us. We have an overabundance of canoes, kayaks, and some mountain bikes, which makes outdoor adventures on your day off very doable, and Portland has a lot to offer.
Pine Root is a fifteen-acre vegetable farm in its second year of operation. Our primary marketing strategies are direct sales to the public at a farm stand on site, and wholesale accounts with local restaurants, schools, and other farmers. We grow all of our own vegetables, buying in berries and other fruit until we can grow our own. We use a mix of tractors and hand tools to plant, weed, and harvest.
We cleared the land two years ago, and after a summer of pulling roots and improving the soil, grew our first crops last year. We are also building a twenty-eight by thirty-four foot farm stand and home that we hope to be able to sell out of this June and move into fully in late fall. As this is only our second season, there are a lot of projects and ideas in the works but that may not happen while you are working with us. In the next five years we’d like to build two greenhouses to extend the season and allow for plant sales; plant blueberries and fruit trees in an orchard; complete and certify our kitchen and start marketing our own value added products; and further build relationships with our schools and other organizations to provide educational opportunities and access to local food. Our apprentices in the past have shared their own passions and expertise, and we hope to hire two this year that are interested in some or all of these goals.
We are not organic, and will likely not seek certification in the future, although our practices can sometimes come close. The community we live in and my experiences growing up on a conventional family farm have informed this choice. We serve an economically diverse area, and being able to supply affordable, healthful food to all is gratifying and important.
We also believe farming can and should provide a good living for families in Maine, and want to show other young people this. Going organic would not be economically viable at this time. Instead, we are working on becoming a sustainable farm and business, meaning that we’ll take a hard look at our sprays and practices, but also try to close systems on our farm, work towards net-zero energy, and become a larger asset to the community.
Whether or not you want your own farm in the future, or just want a summer adventure, you will get the full picture of the work and skills it takes to run a small vegetable farm. We involve our apprentices in every major task, and if you have a special interest, such as tractor work, we try to provide extra time.
Our season starts in early spring, when we start seedlings in our greenhouse. As soon as the snow melts (usually April, but with the eighty inches we’ve gotten, it might be later), we amend our soil and prep the fields. We use black plastic mulch and drip irrigation for the majority of our crops. In late May we start planting; most crops we transplant with a water wheel behind a tractor, but some we direct seed or hand plant, especially succession crops. We take advantage of quieter weeks before and after planting to do various farm projects like deer fencing, carpentry, or landscaping.
In June, we open the farm stand with the start of strawberry season. We pick or buy the berries from a friend’s orchard and resell them. We have a few of our own crops to harvest early, such as greens, peas, and radishes; mostly, we’ll be weeding and tending crops. July, August, and September are our busiest months, with harvest in full swing, the farm stand hopping, and wholesale accounts increasing. By late September most summer crops will have dropped off and our first pumpkins and squash will be ready. We wholesale the majority of these to other farms and orchards. By November first, our fields will be clean, planted into cover crop, and the firewood in.
Farming is physically challenging, but what can surprise you is how mentally challenging it is as well. We work long days and do a lot of repetitive tasks. Knowing yourself and what you need – from how much water to drink to how much time to yourself – is really important. A strong work ethic, positive attitude, and ability to work as a team and alone are key. Being friendly and a good marketer can make or break us with the farm stand and wholesale accounts.
Rising and quitting times vary with the season, but expect to work an average ten hours a day, six days a week. You will get a full day off each week, usually early in the week as weekends are busiest. Depending on how long your stay is with us, you will also get a couple of extra days for vacation. Commitments, such as a wedding, should be arranged at the earliest possible date, even during the hiring process.
I am twenty-four years old, so it’s important that you are comfortable working for someone your own age or younger. You will occasionally work with my father, who is a classic old Mainer dude, and can be quite intense. My sister Grace or a friend in the community may also need an extra hand. Whoever you are working with is your boss for the day, and we all tend to do things differently, so I will help you negotiate that and make it as easy as possible. The majority of the time you will be working at Pine Root alongside me, but it’s fun to bounce around and learn new techniques.
You will learn everything by doing it. I will work with you until you feel comfortable performing the skill or task alone; I don’t work off the farm in the growing season, so I will be working with you all summer. Once you have gotten the hang of things, you will be able (and expected) to run the farm while I’m out on deliveries or on my day off. If you feel comfortable and demonstrate the ability to be a safe operator, I will teach you to use the tractors and other machinery. I don’t usually provide any book learning, but I can connect you to resources and community members, and if there is a MOFGA event you would like to attend, I’ll try hard to make it possible. We can also tour farms in the area. Learning is a two way street, and I look forward to what your experiences can teach me.
I farm full time from May through November. In the winters I work locally as a carpenter, hibernate, and occasionally build tree houses with my uncle.
We pay each apprentice $175 a week plus room and board, (for each apprentice we spend about $50 a week on food in addition to your stipend). You can expect a bonus at the end of your time with us – the amount depends on how well the season went. We don’t offer health insurance, but there is a great health center in town with a sliding scale program and specialty doctors in Portland.
We have a trial period of two weeks to make sure it’s a good fit for all; it’s very rare that things don’t work out if everyone is honest during the hiring process.
Pine Root isn’t set up to have anyone live on it yet, so you’ll be staying at our family’s farm in Cornish, a ten-minute drive from Pine Root. Merrifield Farm is a vegetable and flower farm surrounded by hills and brooks. It is home to my parents Molly and John and their apprentice, my younger sister Grace and her two apprentices, and myself and my boyfriend Gideon, as well as various passers-through. While we may be working together all summer, you’ll have a big group to come home to and we often help out at Merrifield (YRK 01), or at Grace’s farm (York 14). Check out the profiles to learn more about where you’ll be living, and search Merrifield Farm on YouTube for an awesome video.
Each apprentice has their own private space, either one of four cabins or our guest bedroom in the main house. If you’re with us for a full season you’ll have heat and electricity, otherwise the spaces are off the grid and first come first serve. Our main house is a big log cabin with three porches. You have full access to our kitchen, bathroom, living room, and laundry. We don’t watch much TV in the summer, but we do have a DVD player and our library in town keeps their wifi on 24/7.
We shop weekly and are happy to provide vegan and vegetarian needs. Anything grown on the farms is up for grabs as well, and we trade for yummy things at farmer’s market. Usually meals are an individual’s responsibility, but we cook together whenever anyone feels like it. Each summer our apprentices and family work out a system to handle household chores. Expect to pull your weight doing dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc even after a long day. We expect you to work as hard at being a part of the household team as much as you will at farming. Visitors are welcome, but please check in with Molly beforehand. We love visitors who work alongside you or cook a meal.
In terms of smoking, drinking, and drug use: if it interferes with your work or with anyone else’s, don’t do it. It needs to take place in your own space, not in the main house. If drinking or drugs are part of your daily routine, we are probably not the right fit for you.
Pets: We have five dogs, five cats, and two mini donkeys, so this year we are maxed out on animals and ask that you don’t bring your own. One of ours will surely adopt you and try to sneak into your cabin.
My father’s side of the family has been farming in our community since the 1700s; they used to take a horse and wagon to the Portland farmers’ market. My mother worked on farms in Long Island as a young girl and settled in Maine via an apprenticeship. My younger sister and I were homeschooled and grew up farming, working for our parents briefly until we found out that they didn’t stand a chance at market against two blonde kids with bowl cuts selling pumpkins. Since the age of eight we’ve run our own businesses. The summer before college I apprenticed on my friends’ organic farm. At age nineteen I took over a farm stand and five acres in a nearby town, my sister now runs the business with two apprentices. When I graduated from college and was still serious about farming in Maine, my father agreed to lease me fifteen acres in Steep Falls. This will be my second summer running Pine Root. Farming is way of life for me: I love how it allows me to be outside, work alongside my family, integrate with my community, and teach and learn from those around me. My other interests are sustainable design/build, going on adventures with my dogs and boyfriend, swimming, and eating ice cream twice daily at peak season (this last one is a requirement for my apprentices as well).
Are you interested in participating as a mentor and/or host farmer in MOFGA’s Journeyperson program for advanced training in organic farming?