Roque Farm

The farm is located on a private island off the coast of Downeast Maine; it is a 15 minute boat ride to the island, and a 10 minute drive to the nearest town. The main island is 1600 acres, of which approximately 50 are in pasture or hay fields. There are two large barns plus several smaller outbuildings, 3 owner houses, and 3 staff houses, all located on the north side of the island. The rest of the island is wooded, with a few dirt roads and many hiking trails. Biking, hiking, and kayaking are popular for recreation.

Currently there are no year round opportunities for 2021, but we are considering it for the future.  Ideal time period would be for April to October for a minimum of 2 months, maximum 6 months

The farm is located on a private island off the coast of Downeast Maine; it is a 15 minute boat ride to the island, and a 10 minute drive to the nearest town. The main island is 1600 acres, of which approximately 50 are in pasture or hay fields. There are two large barns plus several smaller outbuildings, 3 owner houses, and 3 staff houses, all located on the north side of the island. The rest of the island is wooded, with a few dirt roads and many hiking trails. Biking, hiking, and kayaking are popular for recreation. 

It is a diverse working farm with the mission of meeting the food needs of the owners and staff; we do not sell to the general public. Year-round we keep a herd of sheep for meat and fiber, three dairy cows and a bull, 4 horses, 3 goats, and 55 laying hens, and seasonally we raise 10 pigs, 200 broiler chickens, and 20 turkeys. We have a ¼ acre garden including 24 raised beds, a main garden, several herb and flower beds, and a small apple orchard; we preserve via canning, freezing, and drying. We produce our own hay and rotationally graze sheep, broilers, horses, and cows. Poultry is processed on island and pork, lamb, and beef are sent off-island for processing. We make butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. We produce our own lumber and there are always some building projects in the works. We use machinery mostly for haying and moving manure and compost. For the future, we are hoping to build a high tunnel and looking into beekeeping. 

It is a private island and travel is by boat to and from the island, so getting feed and animals across the water involves much more labor and logistics than on the mainland. We are maintaining one of the few island farms still operating in Maine; it has been farmed for over 200 years. There are some unique and protected ecological sites on island, as well as a mile-long sand beach.

We are not certified organic; the garden is managed following organic standards, but the animal operation is conventional.  The animals are fed conventional grains and we use conventional treatments and medicine when necessary. We use conventional fertilizer on the hay fields some years. We do not use pesticides or herbicides on the garden or fields.

The apprentice will help care for all the animals on the farm and will help in the garden with planting, weeding, harvesting, and processing produce. There are many skills to learn here and most will be taught, depending on the timeframe that the apprentice will be here–  including but not limited to–milking cows, making butter and other dairy products, operating different types of tractors and farm equipment, haymaking, rotational grazing practices, fencing and small carpentry projects, processing poultry, preserving vegetables and fruits, and horsemanship.

We require a drivers’ license and the ability to perform physical labor 8 hours a day in any type of weather. Must be able to lift 50#, as handling bags of grain and hay bales are daily tasks.

We expect an apprentice to work 10 days out of 14, for 6-8 hours a day, depending on what is on the agenda for the day. Scheduling of days off will be discussed with each individual apprentice and will work around the staff’s time-off schedules. Most of the work is outside and requires physical labor of varying degrees. We would prefer someone who is capable of working independently some of the time, and who may want to take on some special projects of their own interest that would be valuable to the operation.

Some non-farm assistance may be requested, this may involve running errands or assisting with food deliveries or recycling. We are a small team and everyone pitches in to some degree in all areas to help the whole operation run smoothly.

We have 6 full time island staff plus a seasonal farm assistant, all with a variety of skills to teach, and all will provide some instruction in different areas. The co-caretaker, farm manager, and farm assistant will be providing most of the instruction via working together, instruction, independent projects, and recommended reading. Apprentices will be instructed and supervised until they demonstrate the skill level to work independently, and then there will still be several people available to answer questions and continue to move the apprentice towards new challenges and skill sets.

I am the island co-caretaker in charge of farm and homestead operations. I do not “farm” full time but manage the overall farm operations and some of the logistics of the entire island operation. We have a full-time farm manager on staff that handles most of the day to day tasks, but I’m also involved on a daily basis. 

On a typical day I will spend at least an hour or more working with the apprentices, the rest of the day the apprentice will be working with the farm manager or assistant. We also have a staff meeting each morning at which time questions, concerns, and the daily and weekly plan are discussed.

We provide a $25/ day stipend to start, apprentices who show skill and a level of independence may receive an increase, especially if they are planning a longer term of commitment. Room and board are provided in addition to stipend. 

A bedroom in our staff house is included, with access to a communal bathroom, living room, office, and kitchen. The staff house is shared by the boatman, the farm manager, and farm assistant. There are no children in residence. Household duties involve helping with general upkeep of the staff house with the other staff living there. There is no smoking in the “farmhouse”, drinking is ok if moderate and after hours, and drugs are prohibited. 

Two communal meals a day are prepared by the staff cook with island meat, dairy, and produce.

We do not accommodate any dietary restrictions.

We would prefer a visit prior to starting. The island is a unique place and it can be difficult to give people a sense of it without a first-hand experience; we would like the apprentices to have a sense of it before committing to a final arrangement. We have a two-week trial period, during that time we discuss questions, concerns, and issues and assess whether the original arrangement will work for both parties.

We have an employee handbook for all island staff, which the apprentice will receive. Evaluation and feedback will be given verbally on a daily basis, unless a formal evaluation is requested. If there is an issue, there will be a formal evaluation and discussion of how to move forward; if the issue cannot not be resolved the arrangement will be terminated.

12 years diverse farm animal management (livestock, poultry, horses), 7 years as owner/ operator of a MOFGA certified farm (produce), 20 years organic gardening experience. I believe in sustainable, holistic, humane management of land and animals, and in providing a creative and productive space for plants, animals, and people to thrive. I have strong interests in rotational grazing, regenerative agriculture, and continuing to learn and build skills in all farming areas, as well as to educate others in my skill areas

We have a variety of ideological/ political views among our staff, all are welcome. However, we do not own the farm we are managing and thus are operating within the owners’ mission, albeit with the ability to influence it. We are open to differing views and would hope that an apprentice would be open to differing views as well.

  1. Education and relationship building: For the last 10 years Roque Farm has hosted interns and WWOOFers.  We are committed to continuing the farm as a space that encourages learning and growth. We have chosen staff who are also committed to learning and teaching. We have had several interns who have gone on to operate their own farms and we are committed to continuing to be a resource for those future farmers after their apprenticeships end.
  2. Equity and inclusivity: The only requirement we have is a desire to learn about farming practices. We have hosted interns from all over the US, from a wide range of backgrounds, and of different genders. The farm has been managed by women for the last 10 years.
  3. Environmental sustainability: As a farm operation on a private island, sustainability is always in the forefront of our planning and decision-making. We aim to be regenerative, sustainable, and productive in order for the farm to continue well into the future without causing harm. We have hosted numerous environmental studies on island to inform us for the future and encourage those in the environmental field ( ex: the island has worked with Eastern Maine Conservation Initiative, Maine Farmland Trust, and College of the Atlantic to host studies on bees, birds, plants, marine ecology, farming management, and electrical use). 
  4. Safe and Fair: The farm is part of the Roque Island Gardner Homestead Corporation and follows all applicable laws pertaining to employment. We are committed to providing safe and respectful working and living conditions, and providing fair compensation. Over the last 10 years we have had several interns return to join the staff or stay for a longer time than the original commitment. Emergency services are not as accessible as they would be on the mainland, and therefore we make safety a high priority.

Rosalind Diefenbach | Former apprentice reference 
[email protected] | 704-787-0157

Sam Diefenbach | Former apprentice reference 
[email protected] | 207-263-6072

Sonya Carver | Friend and Co-worker, Personal reference
[email protected] | 207-598-8846

Roque Farm

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