Farming Status and Plans
Farming status:Part time
Description of farming status, plans, and practices:
I am currently managing a small organic vegetable garden, a flock of 15 laying hens, and a 7 acre property, that is being run as a bed & breakfast. The owner hired me to take over those duties after the death of her husband, but has decided to reduce the scope of her business, and so my skills and salary now exceed her needs and budget. My specific agricultural interests include season extension practices, high-nutrient vegetable production, providing organic vegetables to low-income populations, and education and outreach with new and aspiring farmers.
Description of marketing method:
restaurant sales have been my primary markets, but I have also supplied farmers' markets, retail outlets, food pantries and soup kitchens. I've never operated an on-site farmstand, but only because my growing sites weren't amenable to that marketing method.
Does this farmer have a business plan?In progress
Preferred location:Southeast, Greene, Ulster
Desired acreage:1-5, 6-10, 11-20
Infrastructure required:Onsite housing, Barns or other facilities for storage of equipment, livestock, and crops, Farm equipment, Water access, Fencing, Electrical Access
Description of buildings required:
simple housing with a kitchen, plumbing and electric
wash/pack area with access to refrigeration
root cellar/ dry storage for crops
NRCS-qualified composting facility
Description of farm equipment required:
as available - I have access to or own outright a significant number of agricultural tools and equipment
Description of water access required:
as needed to feed the arable land with drip irrigation/fertigation
Description of fencing required:
as needed for livestock containment and crop production
Crops and Livestock
Primary crops:Vegetables, Fruits, Ornamentals, Other Crops
Tenure options desired:Farm Management, Other Tenure Agreement
Description of tenure options desired:
I'm interested in a management position that includes on-site housing, with the focus of my tenure being the design and implementation of a management system that creates opportunities for future managers after my retirement.
Will this farmer's operation qualify an eligible landowner for an Agricultural Assessment?Yes
Experience & education:Farm owner, Farm management, Farm employee
I have been a gardener almost all my life. I started my first garden when I was 8, when I decided to quickly clear a small patch of ground with nothing more than a pack of matches, as I had recently seen my neighbor do. Fortunately the fire chief, who owned two of the adjacent fields, lived at the farm where we got our milk, just a short walk up the street. When the fire trucks left a few hours later, I had managed to successfully rejuvenate almost 12 acres of his hayfields for the coming growing season. In the almost 50 years since, I’ve managed to refine my technique.
I started growing professionally in the late ‘80s. I had a modest home garden, and I was working as a waiter at a B&B in Camden with a small dining room that was open to the public for dinner. The chef, Gerry Clare, was driving to Boston every few weeks to buy ingredients that weren’t then readily available in Maine, and I suggested that many of them could easily be grown for far less than the cost of driving. I expanded my garden and established plantings of Thai basil, edible flowers, and salad greens, and soon my produce was featured on the menu - there were days when I was able to provide at least one ingredient on every dish we served. The last year of operation at the B&B, I waited on a young couple who were interested in buying a restaurant in the area, and they happened to order the salad - which was entirely harvested from my garden. The woman asked where we sourced our greens, and I explained that they were mine, at which point she gave me her card. The next season, I was hired as a waiter and gardener at Primo in Rockland, where I worked for Chef Kelly for 10 seasons.
I ran my own 3 acre organic garden in Friendship, Maine for 15 years, selling artisanal organic produce exclusively to restaurants. My primary interests were Asian and European crops, heirloom and unusual varieties, edible flowers, and baby salad greens. My produce was served at many of Midcoast Maine's finer restaurants during that time, including The Whitehall Inn, The Belmont, In Good Company, Cafe Miranda, Amalfi, Rock City Coffee, The Pinecone, and Francine Bistro, and has been featured on menus in Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City. Once I started working at Primo, many of my gardening efforts were focused on developing that property - the results are still evident 20 years later.
For over 30 years I worked in the restaurant/hospitality industry. I have worked BOH, and as a manager, but most of that time was as a server, sommelier, and bartender. I was even, for a brief time, a kitchen steward at Cooks Illustrated - essentially an on-call position so their dishwashers and cleaning staff could spend time with family on holidays and vacations.
I moved from Maine several years ago to be closer to my parents as they were getting older - first to Boston, then Rhode Island, and finally back to Connecticut where I grew up, where my father still lived in the home beside the fields I burned as a child. During that time, I became involved with working in agriculture as it pertained to the nonprofit world - building a school garden and working at a soup kitchen bringing fresh produce to food insecure and homeless residents in the Back Bay, volunteering and consulting at gardens associated with the Rhode Island and Connecticut Food Banks, and working with and consulting for young farmers in southern Rhode Island and Connecticut.
While assisting my father as his health declined, I also worked at Horses Healing Humans, an equine therapy facility founded by one of my sisters in Stonington CT. My duties included building and designing a vegetable garden that supplied produce for their major annual fund-raising event, a "Farm-to-Stable" dinner that has served as many as 100 guests. We also staged several smaller events with the same theme, to celebrate the patrons and staff of the organization. In addition to growing and sourcing ingredients, I was responsible for menu planning, cooking, and organizing service at these events. We also ran an AirBnB service in support of the facility, which until this year included a cottage with 3 bedrooms, as well as the two bedrooms and a suite on the property. I was responsible for daily management at the cottage and interim management at the farm. In the years since my father's’ passing, as we have been working to settle the estate, I have been volunteering at the Giving Garden in Mystic CT, where Craig Floyd manages a 2+ acre vegetable garden on the Coogan Farm property of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. All of the produce is raised by volunteers, who took a piece of neglected land and with a tractor and hoophouse, and in only three years, created an organic garden which last year raised over 18,000 pounds of fresh produce for the food insecure of New London County. During that time, I also helped establish a seed library at the Wheeler Library in North Stonington CT. In that effort, I conducted a monthly lecture series
at the library for farmers and gardeners, with topics including garden planning, seed starting, pest control, fertility management, cover cropping and rotations, specialized tools, and post-harvest handling - we talked quite a bit about seed saving as well.
5/2019 - present
Property manager/gardener at Thyme in the Country B&B
1/2011 – 4/2019
Farm & garden consultant for schools, nonprofits, and private homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island
Vegetable garden design/build service for private, commercial and nonprofit entities, specializing in low-carbon-footprint, high-yield, economical and sustainable custom design solutions, and incorporating season extension and nutrient dense production methods
Recent projects include:
Consulting on garden design and construction at Windham-Durham Community Garden to support food-insecure residents and senior citizens in the community.
Creating season-extension structures for a private home in Deep River CT.
Consultant/volunteer at The Giving Garden at Dennison Pequotsepos Nature Center, raising organic produce for the New London County Food Pantry
5/2014 – 1/2015
Alternative Food Co-op Wakefield, RI
- Responsible for sourcing, marketing, promoting, and utilizing local organic and sustainable produce
- Worked with farmers and gardeners from Rhode Island to Hawaii to provide best available produce at a fair price to local retail market
Founded South County Responsible Agriculture Project;
- A facilitator for new small farms and non-profit farms to make connections, improve efficiency, and promote sustainable agriculture in Southern Rhode Island.
- Work with new young organic farmers on marketing, operations, and strategy, in order to preserve and promote organic vegetable production in Southern Rhode Island.
- Work with small farms associated with the Rhode Island Food Bank, promoting sustainable intensive growing practices and bringing nutrient-dense fresh produce to low-income residents of Rhode Island.
5/2011 – 1/2013
Primo Restaurant Rockland, ME www.primorestaurant.com Chef Melissa Kelly
- Server, host, purveyor
10/2010 - 4/2011
Southwark Restaurant www.southwarkrestaurant.com Philadelphia, PA
- Server - noted several times in local reviews
White Dog Cafe www.whitedog.com Philadelphia, PA Chef Andrew Brown
- Interim General Manager
- Consulted on operations and training of new GM with owner Judy Wicks and Chef Brown
- Performed operations and financial analysis resulting in favorable transition of ownership and management to new entity
- Implemented new security policies resulting in 15% reduction in “undocumented shrinkage” in bar and kitchen
Le Bec Fin www.lebecfin.com Philadelphia, PA Chef George Perrier
- Dining Room Captain, bartender, fromager, vegetable purveyor
- Specialized in table greeting, server training, cheese service and dining room management
Primo Restaurant Rockland, ME Chef Melissa Kelly
- FOH Factotum, produce purveyor
- All front of house positions (Server, host, food runner, bartender)
- Assisted in training of staff, including Aloha POS system
- Helped to design, construct, and operate 3 acre organic garden and greenhouses.
Amalfi Restaurant Rockland, ME Chef David Cook
- Primary Server, produce purveyor
- Full-time lunch and dinner server from opening day
- Helped to design and establish service systems for dining room and bar.
- Assisted with construction and maintenance of dining area.
The Belmont Camden, ME Chef Gerald Claire
- Head Waiter, produce purveyor
- Full time server with occasional bartending and hosting duties - Assisted in training of new staff. Responsible for staff sales reports.
Second Read Books and Coffee Rockland, ME
- Seasonal Barista, produce purveyor , cook, salesperson
- Helped to construct and operate full-service coffee bar/used book store/live performance venue
- Helped to prepare and serve meals and hot and cold beverages in busy retail environment, as well as train and supervise new FOH and BOH employees
Several food service-related jobs while I pursued my
1982-1985 University of Massachusetts Boston, MA BA, Creative Writing
Managing Editor student literary magazine “Wavelength”
1976-1981 Northeastern University Boston, MA BS Plant Biology
I have continued to take college-level continuing-ed courses throughout my adult life as time and interest allow.
Established small organic farm in coastal Maine in 1994, supplying chefs from Maine to Florida with specialty organic produce for 15 years.
Helped to design and build award-winning (Horticulture Magazine Community Service Award) gardens and greenhouse for Youthlinks, a local nonprofit providing service/learning opportunities for at-risk teens and food for low-income residents in Knox County, Maine.
Volunteer on-air disc jockey at WRFR-LP, one of the first (legal) low-power community radio stations in the United States.
Chefs' assistant and purveyor at The James Beard House for 7 course Maine Lobster Dinner with Sam Hayward, Jerry Claire, and Jasper White
Volunteer cook and cooking instructor at Haley House (Boston South End) and St Peters’ (Cambridge) Soup Kitchens, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner meals to greater Boston homeless population .
Adult-ed teacher at various venues throughout New England, leading classes in Organic Vegetable Garden Design and Planning, Garden Tool Selection and Maintenance, Power Tools for Women, Food and Wine Pairing, Food Service for Fine Dining, Fine Dining for Dummies, and Taxonomy for Homeowners
In collaboration with Haley House of Boston, designed and built organic vegetable garden for William McKinley South End Academy, raising produce used for vocational training classes, and garden to augment school curriculum, for special-needs students
Worked with the Charlestown Community Garden on design/build and operation of community garden serving low-income clients in Charlestown and Westerly RI resulting in 75% increase in garden output over previous year totals.
Member of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Slow Food, Northeast Organic Farmers Association, Philadelphia Horticultural Society, Kitchen Gardeners International, Bionutrient Food Association, and frequent contributor to Market Gardeners’ Success Group, Lean Farmers, Four Season Farming, and Farm to Chef groups on Facebook
Over 35 years of food service experience, including service, cooking, baking, and kitchen and dining room management.
Over 20 years of organic vegetable production primarily for restaurant chefs, specializing in exceptional heirloom, Asian, and European varieties grown with deep-organic methods and minimal fossil fuel dependency
Collaborated with other volunteers to establish a seed library at the Wheeler Public Library in North Stonington, CT, including a monthly lecture series where I orchestrated various discussions on seasonal farm and garden topics.