July 23, 2010Vol. 12, No. 7

Where Children and Veggies Grow

The farm store at Winterberry Farm.

by Esther J. Perne

Sunday, July 25 is Open Farm Day across Maine, a unique and wonderful opportunity to enjoy scenic rural settings and to sample life on a working farm where children romp and smiles prevail and everyone pitches in to help with the hard, hard work . . . and gets to enjoy the rewards. Dozens of farms will greet visitors of all ages on July 25, including one very special place in Belgrade. . . .

It's a hot day on Belgrade's Winterberry Farm, but the breezes play across the 40 acres of livestock pastures and organic gardens and it's cool inside the 150-year-old barn where customers measure and weigh their generous weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) allotment . . . and invariably peek around the corner to see who's in the stalls. It might be Nestor, one of the farm's three working ponies, a duck who's waddled up from the pond to visit the laying hen flock, or, if they aren't out doing their job of rooting the fallow field, the pigs.

Mary Perry

"This isn't just ours," says owner Mary Perry while encouraging visitors to look around. "We're like a community farm. I love to have people come and get their hands in the dirt." She also loves to have them wander down to the gardens, admire the calves and sheep, and let their children run and play. What's it like to visit Winterberry Farm?

Nestor peeks out the door at a visitor.

Well, let's start at the attractive roadside stand which advertises "Pies! Pies! Pies!" and is full of much more in terms of baked, preserved and fresh garden goodies. Out back, toward the imposing, historic barn, past the rope swing that kids can't resist, and the frisky Australian Shepherds, Skip and Rosemary, and the trademark 1952 Ford truck, guests are halted by a garden devoted to banks of flowers which delightfully block the view.

But don't stop there . . . the view of fields, woods and, way in the distance, Great Pond is amazing: a greenhouse bursting with heavily-laden tomato plants, a turkey pen, beehives, a pasture where sheep and cows and ponies graze, and beyond the vegetable gardens, long, straight rows of carefully tended plants, enough to feed 65 CSA shares, two apprentices, Mary, and her three children: Kenya, age 14; Gil, 10; and Sage, 4.

Now that guests have glimpsed the lay of the land, let the real visit begin: a garden tour, a hand wool spinning demo, a walk through the barn, a stop in the shade, fresh veggies and pies to buy, a few shaggy heads to pat, maybe some work — a little weeding or something — to experience.

Come and enjoy a day on the farm, Winterberry Farm on Route 27 in Belgrade.

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