Community Guide: Snug Harbor Farm
Story and Photos Provided by Stephanie Pilk
Driving along Route 9 in Kennebunk, you might just miss Snug Harbor Farm. But if you look closely, you’ll catch a glimpse of it’s historic outbuildings or one of the ponies grazing, and you’ll know instantly that there is a bit of magic on this farm. As you wander the property, including five greenhouses, a shop, a barn, nursery and growing fields, you’ll immediately feel the past all around you. The farm goes way back and there's evidence everywhere, including photos and notes scrawled on the boards of the milking shed walls.
The farthest back current owner Anthony Elliott has been able to trace the farm’s history is 1850, when a retired, Dutch sea captain, built the barn and house which currently is inhabited by the shop (and perhaps a ghost or two). At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Dutchman sold the property to Clifford and Belle for one dollar. It was a gentleman's farm where they raised their family. Clifford added the milking shed and two porches off the front of the house. The roadside stand was also built and was used to sell some of their vegetables, milk, as well as Belle's pies.
Tony Elliott found his way to Maine after studying agronomy, the science of raising plants as food, at Ohio State University. He felt immediately at home here and found himself far more interested in landscape design than feeding people, at that time. He was enthralled with the natural topography and used his designs to reflect the most compelling elements: stone and looming woods across wild fields, from highly cultivated into the wild.
Elliot, who humbly calls himself a “landscape gardener”, purchased Snug Harbor Farm in 1998 from Clifford and Belle's grandson to raise and collect unique plant material for his projects and clients.
Elliott's reputation as a skilled designer grew out of his love of the very classic English garden, which has evolved and morphed into his own New England Farm Garden style. Immersion into the tough climate and tricky growing seasons has informed his designs. He utilizes indigenous stone and more defined structure close to the buildings they surround, featuring halls and rooms, established with heirloom and privately cultivated plants, that lead out to wilder, more organically planted spaces. In addition to developing greenhouses he has also brought beloved birds and animals back to Snug Harbor Farm. Elliot has collected decorative peacocks, there are several varieties of chicken, ducks, pheasants and an aviary in the office that houses a flock of songbirds.
Tony jokes about being a “birdaholic”. .
“Hi, my name is Tony. It's been three weeks since I last bought a bird.” One needs a good sense of humor when staking your claim on working the land and raising animals.
There is a palpable sense of humor at Snug Harbor Farm. Visually, it lives in the fanciful topiaries, miniature horses, and a lively pack of poodles that devotedly follow their master around.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Elliott has broadened his horizons by raising bees and making his own delicious honey at nearby Ward Brook Farm. And he lovingly restored another house and barn for himself and a flock of Suffolk sheep. It turns out he does like a landscape designed around the function and beauty of a farm, most of all. It can be heart-stoppingly beautiful and provide all kinds of nourishment for the body and soul. It just takes a tight team and a little bit of time, blood, sweat and tears.
The future holds great possibilities and excitement at Snug Harbor Farm. The coming year is stacked with workshops and art openings featuring a wide variety of work appreciated by the unique eye of Tony and his well-chosen staff. They will teach lessons in bonsai, building mixed containers of plants, floral design, as well as paintings and pottery, making Snug Harbor Farm it's own cultural salon where art meets the land. Good things are growing at every turn.
Learn more about Snug Harbor Farm at www.snugharborfarm.com