The Annual Letter from Farmer Tom

Transformation is the essence of farming

To all our supporters, past and present, near and far – 

After 22 years of growing food for our community, Hope’s Edge Farm continues in its transformative phase. Transformative in many respects. First of all, Holly is in a process with Maine Farmland Trust and Georges River Land Trust to insure that this land will remain farmland forever. Knowing that this beautiful property, which has fed so many, will have the potential to continue to feed families for generations to come is, for me, heartwarming. I feel that this is an act of generosity to an entity that has itself been so generous.We hope to provide more information about this later in the year and someday will celebrate it.

Another transformative aspect for the immediate future concerns my own personal relationship to the ongoing working of this land. For 19 years of the last 20+, I have been focused on growing food for a CSA. For this year, I am choosing to scale back production – growing primarily for local food banks. This means growing fewer crops on fewer acres, thus requiring less labor. This decision is not coming out of the blue, but has been ruminating in this skull of mine for several years. It comes as an ongoing question of how I might farm in a sustainable way as I move into my 70s.

As many of you are aware, in 2022 I chose to take a sabbatical from the Farm – bicycling across the northern US from late June until early September. Part of the impulse behind this crazy venture was to give myself the opportunity to contemplate my farm future. In my absence, Jason Rawn and Rachel Olsen chose – on a trial basis – to take on the day-to-day running of the Farm, reinstating a smaller version of the CSA and market stand. Despite their minimal experience and the pressures of a hot, dry summer, they were able to produce a respectable harvest, feeding their CSA members produce and beauty into the autumn. This experience, although rewarding (particularly with respect to relationships formed with their shareholders) and educational, crystalised for them the fact that running the Farm long-term was not in their future.

As for me, pedaling a bike for an average of five hours a day gave me a lot of time to think and it became clear, as the miles passed, that I want to focus more on growing for a less advantaged and perhaps food insecure population. It wasn’t clear exactly how I would do this, but I have settled on the food bank option for now. 

Plans for the Farm Going Forward

Since beginning this venture as a much younger body, it had been my hope that by this point the “right” individual would come forward to take over the management of the Farm. Now, as the time of my stepping back has arrived, it has become clear that this unique arrangement that Holly and I entered into 22 years ago, requires a unique individual(s) to step into this position. Holly and I will work actively this year to find that right individual and to come up with a plan for the Farm that incorporates all that we appreciate most from the last 22 years…especially the community that has developed here. We will be sure to keep you posted on these developments, and on the progress with the land trusts.

Final Thoughts

Recently, I have estimated that, up to this point, Hope’s Edge Farm has produced at least 250 thousand pounds of vegetables and fruit, plus lamb and flowers. In the words of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn, “This food is a gift of the whole universe. The earth, the sky, and much hard work.” With these words, he is giving recognition to the seen and unseen forces which sustain our lives (and the life of the planet). The “hard work” he refers to was accomplished by all those who toiled to produce the quarter of a million pounds of produce: Holly as the landowner, co-workers, apprentices, volunteers, and myself. The “Earth and Sky” gives a bow to physical nature – sun, soil, rain, plants, microbes, etc. And “the whole universe” (as I interpret it) recognizes the non-physical realm of Spirit. In Biodynamic terms, this would be the elemental beings of earth, air, fire and water and spiritual forces– love being just one example. 

Finally, I want to recognize you and the thousands of consumers who have partaken of the food produced from these soils over the last two decades. This list includes the CSA members (from 2002-2019 and from 2022), two local restaurants, three schooners going out of Rockland, the Good Tern Co-op, AIO Food Bank, and market stand customers. I wish to thank all of you for supporting us through the years. I have said it often that growing for a community we know is so much more satisfying than growing for the general marketplace. I realize that this message will only reach a small number of all of the above cited beneficiaries, but I believe that gratitude is another one of those spiritual forces and so, whether you read these words or not – the force will find you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Musings from Tom

September 24, 2022

It has been three weeks since I cycled up the Morse Road, thereby completing the physical act of crossing the USA along a northern thin line. As I mentioned in my last entry (9/14), I had hoped to re-enter slowly, giving myself the time to process, internally, the magnitude of this accomplishment. Unfortunately, my re-entry has been anything but slow. In the three weeks since my return, I have had to bury a ewe and a lamb. The first group of returning sheep escaped, eating all of the garden’s chard, thus exposing the weakness in the existing fences and requiring me to spend some days reinforcing them. In addition, my old 1965 David Brown tractor, which I’m depending on to make hay in the next weeks, has developed a problem that is requiring my attention and my time. My eldest sister has, in the last week, become seriously ill with cancer, and even though we have not been close for a good many years, her illness and possible death weigh on my soul. These are only a few of life’s demands that I am confronted with upon returning from my two-wheel journey.

Still, there have been quiet times in which I have had the mental space to contemplate the accomplishment of riding a bicycle across the country. One of my recurring thoughts runs as follows: It cannot be denied that my legs and my legs only carried me across the country. It was “my” body that pedaled every one of the 3,000+ miles across 12 states from coast to coast. BUT (and this is a big BUT), I cannot claim to have done this journey alone. As I have recounted throughout these entries, there were many individuals who helped me along the way. “Angels” I have called them. These are angels who made themselves visible through this or that “person.” In this entry, I wish to recognize some other people (angels), some whom I can name and others who remain anonymous, who have partnered with me on this journey.

The first group of individuals who were essential to my being able to do this ride, were those angels who held down the fort here in Maine. These are people who took on the responsibilities that I left them with in order to be away for two and a half months. Deb, my partner, was left with the care of the home we share (which at one point required her to address a potentially dangerous situation with regards to our solar batteries, calling in other angels – Vern and Cory – for their expertise). Rachel and Jason, who took on the vegetable growing operation without perhaps realizing what they had actually taken on. Dave (Rachel’s husband), Brien, and Bobby, who showed up to keep the fields mowed in my absence, often confronted with faulty equipment. Magnolia, Rachel and Dave’s 9-year-old daughter, who all too often had to entertain herself while her parents were busy doing farm work. 

In addition, there were those “angels” who took on the responsibilities of tending sheep. At the Bok farm – Gideon Bok and Bridget, Chris and their two young children (city folks introduced to the hardscrabble life of caring for a flock of young lambs and ewes who paid no attention to the fences we had set up), who had to bottle feed and provide veterinary care for ill lambs and who had to deal with the death of three lambs and a ewe – a hard introduction to farm life (death). The older flock of ewes were cared for by Peter, Graziella, and, primarily, their daughter Suneva, rotationally grazing these older “ladies” in a droughty year when green grass was at a premium. 

There were those who followed me on Strava from afar, giving me “kudos” along the way. Too many people to mention, but if you’re reading this, you know who you are.  None of the individuals I have mentioned here pedaled even one turn of my bicycle’s crank, but I would not have been able to pedal even one turn of that crank without them. Every one of these individuals rode with me.

Similarly, there were faceless nameless people who were also accompanying me across the miles. These included the farmers and fishers who provided the food/fuel that powered my body, the truckers who delivered that food to the stores where I purchased it, the store keepers and check-out clerks, the campground attendants, the road maintenance attendants, the road maintenance crews, and on and on.

There were also the non-incarnated angels constantly at my shoulder protecting me from harm and guiding me home safely. The larger point I’m trying to make here is that an accomplishment like riding a bicycle 3,000 miles across a continent cannot be done alone. Looking at your own life’s accomplishments, you will come to the same conclusion. We are dependent on others to accomplish even the smallest of life’s tasks. Nothing that we do is done alone. We have others to thank for every aspect of our life. We owe a debt to other beings, some of whom we know, some whom we will never know, some who are incarnate, some who are not. We owe a debt to the Earth herself – the “mother” who daily sacrifices herself so that we may live.