Wolfe's Neck Farm: Connecting Food & Community

Wolfe's Neck Farm: Connecting Food & Community

Wolfe's Neck Farm: Connecting Food & Community

Words & Photos by Jennifer Hazard

Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport, Maine is near and dear to my family’s heart. The expansive, 626-acre organic farm is located off a long dirt road beside the Casco Bay. We had our first local camping experience here, which was nothing short of dreamy with ocean views, big fields to play in, and fresh eggs cooked on the camp re for breakfast. During grade school field trips, my children and I visited the main barn, where we muddied our Bean boots, and tended to chickens, sheep, pigs, and turkeys. In summer, we treated visiting friends to generous farm- to-table dinners featuring local chefs, and danced to bluegrass music under the glow of twinkling lights.

Wolfe’s Neck Farm is special to us, and many families in the community because the non-profit is so generous with its bucolic space. When asked what motivates the farm to give back the way they do, Executive Director Dave Herring says, “We have this amazing natural resource here. The farm was always intended to be shared with the community in ways that are meaningful and respectful.”

The stunning, saltwater farm and its grounds were originally owned by the Smith family, who purchased the land in 1946. The Smith’s, who were from Philadelphia, planned to use the farmland as a vacation retreat, but soon realized the land had potential for much more. The family experimented with tree farming, raised cows, and in the 1950’s they built the Recompense Campsite, an oceanfront campground which still thrives today.

The Smith’s eventually began an organic beef operation in the late fifties, which would grow to over 600 head of cattle. The cattle used only feed from the farm and from leased fields nearby.

In 1985, the farm was sold to The University of Southern Maine, but after a difficult tenure, The Wolfe’s Neck Farm foundation decided to refocus the farm’s goals.

Today, Wolfe’s Neck is thriving in ways no one ever imagined. Their focus, according to Herring, is to connect people to food, and sup- port sustainable farming practices statewide. In addition to its camp- grounds, miles of open trails, school programs and farm-to-table events, Wolfe’s Neck Farm also offers an impressive Teen Ag Program, an outdoor curriculum for local teenagers that teaches basic farming practices. The crops the teens grow are donated to several nearby food pantries, sold at the farm stand, and offered to local residents in shares through community supported agriculture (CSA).

Caroline Wild, who joined the first Teen Ag crew in 2012, and later be- came a Farming Program Assistant, says the experience taught her so much. “The farm has been the place where I grew up and learned what I wanted to do in life; I have made lifelong friends here and have been mentored by some truly amazing people.”

Wolfe’s Neck Farm’s giving spirit thrives due in part to its hardworking and lean staff of nine, who focus on marketing, education, community outreach, and the daily needs of the farm itself. The staff works along with a board of 18 people as well as a host of dedicated community volunteers. This year, Herrings says, the board has stepped up to strategically guide the organization.

“We’re working on a 5-year plan that impacts how we do things. Our goals include engaging people of all ages and expanding our existing programs. We want to see our summer camp evolve, and continue partnerships with chefs, farmers and local food purveyors. Above all, we want to reinvest in the property to support future growth.”

One of the ways the farm is working to grow is a new partnership with Stonyfield, who is known for their organic yogurt. Herring says a board member encouraged himself and the Director of Sustainable Agriculture at Stonyfield to get together to discuss a long-range vision. The meeting resulted in a plan to create a training program for organic dairy farmers throughout New England. Herring says the program dedicated Wolfe’s Neck Farm to a higher cause— training the next generation of dairy farmers. “We’re hoping the dairy training program will have great effects on the local economy, our community, and our health,” he says. The goal is to have four trainees and herds started by summer 2015.

While Wolfe’s Neck Farm works to maintain its growth in the long term, the staff is currently preparing for another season of giving. The non- profit donates their free-range turkeys to the chefs at Azure Café in Freeport for a Thanksgiving dinner that is held at the town’s community center. The free event is attended by hundreds of people. And in Dec- ember, the farm celebrates the holidays with a Night Tree event that encourages families to explore the trails and leave behind decorated pine cones for the animals.

These events highlight what Wolfe’s Neck Farm is really all about — bringing people together, sharing the farm’s bounty, and celebrating the beauty of Maine’s seasons with friends and neighbors.

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Learn more about Wolfe's Neck Farm at www.wolfesneckfarm.org