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.


Season Finale

This is it! The final week of the 2022 CSA season. Can you believe it is already here? I certainly can’t. The season went by in a blur, but has had it’s share of highlights. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude, so wanted to reflect on all that went well.

While not all of our experiments were successful, some produced great results. We learned quite a bit and have been making notes about what to repeat in the future. We have a list of successful interplantings (scallions and lettuces were perhaps #1, with trellised cucumbers and parsley a close second) and our mixed cover crops provided great coverage and lots of mulch each time we cut them back. We’re looking forward to seeing what the soil feels like in the spring when the full effects of this boost in organic matter should begin to be felt. I’m grateful for all the insects and microbes that work so hard to build the soil in this way!

Despite the incident with the sheep and the chard, the chard made a comeback! It grew back more beautifully than before. We were thrilled to be able to include it in the final two CSA distributions and it’s looking like there will be plenty to continue to stock the farmstand for the next few weeks.

Our little student-built farmstand at Sweetland School turned out to be a great way to introduce the neighborhood to Hope’s Edge produce. We saw many long-time customers, but also met some new ones who hadn’t previously known about us. We are grateful for the student builders as well as our many loyal customers! It took a lot of labor to keep this little stand running each week, but the community response made it feel worth the effort. (Admittedly, we are relieved to relax into the on-the-farm farmstand location for the remaining weeks.) We’ll be open daily from 7am-7pm in the CSA shed. We hope you’ll visit!

Speaking of the students, we have been continually grateful for the energy, enthusiasm, and tremendous help the Sweetland students provide at the farm. Each week they arrive, ready to tackle whatever projects we’ve planned and often additional ones that we hadn’t dreamed of getting to! Mondays are always fun, productive days and we are so glad to get to spend them with this amazing group.

Finally, a huge hug of gratitude to all of our wonderful CSA members. You were all willing to take a chance on us this season. Your support, encouragement, and presence at the farm truly made this all worthwhile. I’ve loved getting to know each of you in the little moments of passing. You’ve shared stories, ups and downs, excitement and exhaustion. Thank you for being an integral part of the Hope’s Edge Community. We couldn’t do it without you!