Sweet Relief Farm


Sweet Relief Farm is a small diversified crop, herb, seedlings, mushroom, and poultry farm on the Saco River in Steep Falls, Maine. Being a small one-acre market farm, on 40 acres of woodland, apprentices learn all aspects of our sustainable farm production methods and our marketing programs including our small CSA models, wholesale accounts, and at our local farmers’ market. Our weekly work hour requirement is just 30 hours.

We hire apprentices from late April through late October.

We prefer season long apprentices, but can accommodate a minimum 2 month stay up to six months.

No year-round opportunities.

Sweet Relief Farm is located on 40 acres along the Saco River in Steep Falls. Of that forty acres we grow diversified organic crops on 1 acre, which includes a greenhouse and a tunnel house.

We live in a small village, with supportive neighbors. We run a local farmers market, are involved in the local food pantry, and sell to a local non-organic farm.

It is in a lovely spot in Maine with lakes and rivers, and just 40 minutes from Portland. We are near the New Hampshire line, and near the White Mountains, so there is plenty of activities to do during the weekend break.

We grow most vegetable varieties, plus herbs that we also dry, and shiitake mushrooms on oak logs. We also raise layer hens, meat birds, turkeys, and the occasional pig. We have a fairly large seedling production, sold through shares, farmers markets, and wholesale to stores.

We grow sustainably, using no-till methods, little tractor input, companion planting, diversified planting, and jadam fertilizing practices.

We market through the CSA model, at a farmers’ market, wholesale to a few places and restaurants. We offer WIC and Senior Farmshare Programs.

Yes, all our crops and mushrooms are Certified Organic through MOFGA.
Our livestock is raised organically, but not certified. Most of the livestock is generally grown for homestead use.

This list includes what they will learn by doing, but in no way indicates full responsibility, which will be shared or done primarily by the farm owners.

SPRING: May-June
Seedling Production in the greenhouse:
-learn how to and seed, germinate, transplant and label seedlings
-learn how to and water, protect, hardening off plants
-learn about the seedling marketing strategies: shares, wholesale and direct
-learn how to and load, display and sell directly at the farm and farmers’ market
-learn the production and management system dealing with dates, quantity, etc.
Crop Production in the fields
-learn how to and transplant/plant seedlings and seeds
-learn how to and prep beds by prepping soil, adding amendments, & fertilizers
-learn how to and make compost
-learn how to and protect plants, with mulch and/or row covers
-learn how to and harvest, clean, and post management of in season crops
-learn the production and management system dealing with dates, quantity, etc
-learn about the seedling marketing strategies: shares, wholesale and direct
-learn how to and load, display and sell directly at the farm and farmers’ market
-learn how to and package produce for wholesale
-learn about companion plants and plant them
Mushroom Production in the woods
-learn about mushroom production and management
-learn how to and inoculate oak logs
-learn how to and stack oak logs

SUMMER: July-August
Continuous Seedling Production for Crop Successions, and begin winter hoophouse
-learn about winter greenhouse production
Crop Production in the fields
-continue planting out succession crops
-learn how to and harvest, clean, and post management of in-season crops
Mushroom Production in the woods
-learn how and soak logs, and restack
-learn how and harvest mushrooms
-learn about CSA’s, and harvest and package for them
-learn about Senior Farmshares, and harvest and package for them
-learn about food pantries and harvest, package for them, and attend
-learn about WIC, SNAP, and Maine Harvest Bucks
-learn about and care for laying chicken, optional
-learn about raising meat birds and turkeys, and care for, and slaughter, optional
-learn about coop care and assist with cleaning

FALL: September-October
Greenhouse Winter Production
-Prep beds in the greenhouse and tunnel house for winter growing
-Plant and maintain winter crops in greenhouse and tunnel house
Field Crop Production
-learn and prep beds for winter, ie. Mulch, Cover Crop
-final fall harvests
-learn and split wood on the wood splitter, stack wood
-continual care of laying hens and turkeys
-learn about turkey slaughtering rules
Building, storage
-learn and help with fall cleanup and equipment storage

Mostly a desire to learn, flexible especially with dealing with the weather, cooperative to work as a team member, lift at least 40 lbs., and love of the land, outdoors, or food.

The work week will be Tuesday-Saturday, with Sunday and Monday off. Since we are a small farm, the hours will only be 6 hours a day or, 30 hours a week. The stipend is free room and board and $75/week. We are flexible on hours per day, and week days, if the apprentice desires to get a local part time job.

We fully train apprentices, but like to see them become more independent and responsible, as their skills develop.

We are a small farm, so apprentices will learn everything we do. We teach as we work and we will at first be working with them directly. Later as they develop skills, we will work with them daily, but each of us may be doing separate jobs. Work check-ins, supervisory comments and feedback, will happen throughout each day. They will check in and report on the day’s work at lunch break and at the end of the day. I provide to them an overview of the daily and weekly work goals, so that we can work together as a team.

We have an extensive library of gardening/farming materials, and we can develop a reading plan once the apprentice’s goals are established. Discussion time will be allotted each week, if it doesn’t happen spontaneously, as we work. They will be free to attend the MOFGA farm training projects.

Yes, I am a full-time farmer, and my husband also has a wood craft shop at the farm, that apprentices can learn this skill.

We will work with the apprentices daily in some capacity. Either working right along with them or assigning and supervising their work.

Compensation is free room and board, $75/weekly, flexible schedule to enable part-time off farm work, produce and mushrooms from the farm. Everyone starts at this level.

The apprentice housing consists of a separate camper, near our major field and greenhouses. They are responsible for cleaning the camper and informing us of any problems. They will do their own cooking. I will shop for them once a week, so encourage them to do menu planning, using available crops and farm foods, and then create a shopping list, thus they are able to ensure they can cook within their dietary preference. The food budget ranges about $50/week. Smoking is not allowed in the camper, the fields or the greenhouses. No illegal drugs are allowed, and no underage drinking is allowed.

Apprentices may use our land for tenting as well, if they prefer. At times the camper cooking space may be shared with a wwoofer, who sleep in a nearby bunkhouse.

We prefer a visit, which helps everyone, but a facetime/skype interview is also fine. We always hope for the best, and make accommodations to help the apprentice adjust, but if it feels like it won’t work out, that is acceptable for all. We look forward to the first week as adjustment and trial period.

No employee handbook. We work closely with the apprentice, and can evaluate work daily, and enable to give feedback immediately. Discipline begins with talking out problems. This initial meeting will be recorded, so expectations are clear. Sufficient time is provided to correct the problem. If problem is still reoccurring, apprentice will be asked to leave.

Two of us, Mike and Julee, live and run the farm, although occasionally our adult children and grandchildren are here, enjoying the land or helping to farm. I, Julee, have farmed for more than 20 years as a profession, and my whole life as a backyard gardener, after 15 years of work at Cooperative Extension, helping to develop the first Master Gardener program in the state. We believe in caring for the beautiful and sacred land on which we are now living, so use sustainable, organic and permaculture practices. I take a few days of each summer to go camping with my children and grandchildren, since camping, hiking, kayaking are my favorite things to do off-farm, as well as dancing.

Mike also has raised a vegetable garden most of his life, but on this farm, his expert attention goes to growing Shiitake Mushroom, Building, and running his wooden crafts business. In his spare time, he loves to play guitar.

Our views: we are quite left leaning and I am a Baha’i. We only share conversations on these topics, if it is acceptable by all, usually they initiate. We focus on our work, organic and food philosophies, and teaching, thus we are not engaging in much conversation on our differing views. However, we are very acceptable of all views, and listening to what others have to say.

Education and Relationship Building: we continually educate and build our relationship as we work together through conversations and sharing. We inform them of all MOFGA educational opportunities and help them in any way possible to attend.

Equity and Inclusivity: we accept and encourage all folks, from whatever background and beliefs. Working with the wwoofing program, has enabled us to experience such wide backgrounds, and enabled us to have successful seasons with a variety of folks and their backgrounds.

Environmental Sustainability: since we are certified organic, we are always following the guidelines in these terms. But we also employ other methods that we teach of permanent raised beds, mulching, and no-till. We use very little plastic and compost on the farm, all taught to our apprentices.

Safe and Fair: We are always looking out for their safety, and taking to take precautions whenever needed. It is a bit easier here, because we have little machinery to use. We follow state guidelines, and communicate regularly on tasks through a written manner, in which they can also question. We respect their space and boundaries by providing them with separate housing and honor any need they have to work independently or to take time off.

Mal Leighton | Former apprentice reference
[email protected] | 207-318-6255

Jenifer Drake | Former apprentice reference
[email protected] | (949)514-5178

Spencer Colburn, Past Assistant Farm Manager | Personal reference
[email protected] | 207-838-1715

Sweet Relief Farm

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