WORKING AND VOLUNTEERING ON OUR FARM: The Fine Print

APPRENTICESHIP/WWOOF TIME FRAME:

March/April through mid October (not year round), Minimum would be 2 months – mid-June through mid-August & maximum would be mid-March through the end of October — We also accept WWOOF volunteers as space allows for a minimum of 1 week and a maximum of 2 months.

OUR FARM & COMMUNITY

Our 40-acre saltwater farm is located in Downeast Maine, in the town of Steuben.  We are approx. 25 miles east of Ellsworth and close to Schoodic Penninsula (20 minutes), Acadia National Park (1 hour), Campobello International Park (1.5 hours) – and the Petit Manaan Wildlife Refuge and Humboldt Research Center, in our hometown.  The active arts organization Schoodic Arts for All provides year round arts, music and theatre events in the nearby coastal town of Winter Harbor (25 minutes).  Eagle Hill provides environmental educational lectures and courses as well as arts activities year round just 3 miles down our peninsula.  Steuben has a year-round population of about 1200+ which swells in the summer.  Our land is primarily wooded and contains 1200 feet of shore frontage on Dyers Bay. Our home is surrounded by the main barn, our sugar shack, and young family gardens.  While our farm is diversified with small homestead vegetable gardens & fruit plantings, and assorted livestock (equines, poultry, dog & cats), we are primarily a sustainably-managed goat dairy producing high-quality and award winning  yogurt, chevre, artisan gelato as well as cheesecake and fudge from the milk of our Nigerian dairy goats.  We bake a full line of granolas and other “not too sweet” treats so on-farm processing is a big component of our work.  We market our products through two seasonal farmers’ markets, wholesale accounts, mail order and on-farm to our community and at our Open Creamery Days in May and October.

OUR FARMING OPERATION:

We have been farming since 1999, and were a MOFGA-certified organic farm from 2000 to 2010, with our dairy being certified from 2006 through 2010 (started and transitioned to organic in 2005). We have been based at our present location since 2001.  We are a small family farm/micro dairy. Our main farm-related income is derived from our award-winning dairy products, with other farm income sources being processing of granola and other treats.  We use an ATV to help with woods work and moving things from one end of the farm to the other – other than that, our mechanization is very limited.  We currently machine milk our herd of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats and will be milking around 32 to 40 goats in 2019.

TO CERTIFY OR NOT TO CERTIFY, THAT IS THE QUESTION

We are not certified organic, having given up our certification in 2011 due to downsizing of the farm and returning to off-farm employment following a divorce.  Other factors included increasing cost of organic feed inputs and desire to move towards sustainable management of the herd over strict organic certification considerations.  Things that have changed since we gave up our certification include no longer using certified organic feed/hay, though we strive to source gmo-free feed components for our animals. We also reserve the right to use wormers and/or antibiotics when necessary to preserve life.  We do not use either routinely or prophylactically. Last wormer was used with two of our 8 bucks Fall 2018 and with Does unknown. Last antibiotics used were Spring 2017 for a severe mastitis infection (1st since 2005).  We lost that herd member.  we also used antibiotics this spring 2019 for a herd member after an extremely difficult kidding. She lost that lactation and has since left the herd. There are no existing herd members that have been treated with antibiotics. We do use Pepto-Bismol for coccidiosis in kids as needed when there is a flare up.  We do not use treated feeds at all.  We herd our goats around our property most of the year when snow cover allows so they may get as much of their food as possible from the land and avoid being on the same ground, thereby reducing fecal-oral contamination and parasite build up. While the rules have surely changed since we discontinued certification for dairy herd management, these are the primary differences that would not be certifiable.  From a processing standpoint, we do process some value-added items that contain a combination of organic and conventional ingredients which are not certified.                                                                                                                                                        

WHAT APPRENTICES & VOLUNTEERS DO AND LEARN

Dairy & Other Processing including assisting with yogurt, cheese & gelato production; Animal & Dairy Goat Care including milking by machine & hand, attending to births, hoof trimming and maintenance care of kids and adult animals, breeding; Animal Harvesting; Market Preparation/Assist at Farmers’ Markets.

Our reference library on sustainable farming & building, livestock management, & gardening is open for apprentices to peruse and use.   While we have a small family garden, if this is an interest, we welcome help with planning and planting – and sometimes the garden will be part of a work block.  We also have two equines that apprentices, if interested, can spend time with – but this would more than likely be on their own time and not part of regular work blocks.

WHAT OUR VOLUNTEERS/APPRENTICES MUST HAVE

Sense of Humor, Good Attitude, Strong Work Ethic, Drivers License, Own Car, ability to lift 50 pounds.

 

WHAT WE EXPECT OF OUR APPRENTICES/VOLUNTEERS — AND WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT FROM US

We require a firm commitment for the time an apprentice is with us, preferably from kidding season in the Spring through Open Creamery Day in October.  Apprentices are scheduled to help with key work for 10 to 11 hours/day for 3 days a week and 3 days of 6 hours/day (around 50 hrs/wk) with one definite day off (typically Sunday) and the weekly schedule can vary – generally apprentices will have quite a bit of free time four days a week to either explore the farm, go for a swim or kayak on our shoreline or take in the area.  More hours are expected during key times such as Blue Hill Fair (Labor Day weekend), Common Ground Fair (late September) and our three Open Creamery Day weekends (May/July/October). WWOOF volunteers have a much lighter schedule — 6 hours /day for 6 days a week, and as much as possible Sundays off.

We are a dairy farm that makes all our milk into value-added products, so there are equal times of inside processing and outside livestock care.  We do have employees that do much of processing prep and assisting, but apprentices will be incorporated into these activities as well. Our apprentice(s) will have, within a month of being here, four milking shifts that they are responsible for doing and will be expected to assist with kiddings with Lisa even during off hours, although time will be given off to make up for this in the event it comes to pass.  The apprentice(s) will also be trained for farm sitting for four weekends. We try to be as flexible as possible regarding time off to visit family, attend workshops, etc., and encourage our apprentices to attend all MOFGA workshops for apprentices, but do need apprentices to be fully-focused and committed during their scheduled hours.  As we are a tight family with the farm mostly run by mom Lisa and 13 year old Margaret Mae and often have our 4-Hers visiting their project animals, we look for an apprentice that enjoys young people and can be flexible in their work so the young people can be part of the fabric of the farm – this is critical to us. We find the more we can all work together as a team, the better for everyone and for the farm.  Our work requires a great deal of physical stamina – especially during kidding season –  a positive attitude, attention to detail, follow-through, good communication, a good sense of humour and a good amount of stick-to-it-iveness.   We believe it is less important what you know and more important to be inspired to learn what you do not, come to the table with an open and creative mind, and be a positive contributor to the team effort of our farm.  Apprentices are preferred to be 20 years of age or older, have a drivers license and have their own transportation.  We do consider exceptions if an applicant feels they are particularly well-suited to our farm and this experience.

INSTRUCTION/SUPERVISION/MENTORING

Lisa is the primary mentor of the apprentices – although Margaret Mae at 13, who can run the livestock side of the farm nearly on her own, is an equally valuable mentor. We prefer having apprentices shadowing and all working together as much as possible for milking, cleanouts, births, maintenance care and dairy processing as well as markets.  Sometimes, because we do have off farm commitments – wholesale deliveries, markets, and usual family/kid things, working together is not possible.  An apprentice will find him/herself working alongside us on tasks 60% of the time, with independent work after initial training the other 40% of the time.  When working alongside us, apprentices have ample opportunity to pick our brain. We do have some required reading relevant to goats.  We encourage our apprentices to attend MOFGA events and apprentice gatherings.  The inclusion of apprentices in our strategic and operational planning meetings provides an opportunity to understand the gears and workings of the farm – we encourage our apprentices to become involved in this process as listeners and as sources of creative ideas. We also encourage those on the farm to experiment with milk if inspired – our Kefir was the result of just such an experience by a past apprentice. Apprentices are also welcome to hang out with us on their free time to observe and learn more!

APPRENTICES VERSUS WWOOF VOLUNTEERS

Because both the stay and hours contributed  of WWOOF Volunteers is considerably shorter, there are differences in expectations, tasks performed and mentoring.  WWOOF volunteers generally help 6 hours/day for 6 days/week and their stay can be from one week to a month or more.  As with Apprentices, there is shadowing on tasks/chores and after initial instruction many tasks will be completed independently.  WWOOF Volunteers here for a very short time will likely be mainly shadowing, helping with goat chores and processing on a basic level.  If the stay is longer — several weeks or more, more complicated tasks  — such as milking — will be taught.  WWOOF Volunteers are welcome to contribute more time in order to take in other parts of the farm operation and/or explore interests, but this is not expected.  On the reverse side, we are available to share any information we have, but generally intentional mentoring is not part of the WWOOF experience unless initiated by the Volunteer in time other than the 6 hour work block.  Generally the work is split into two 3 hour blocks — each being dedicated to chores, herding or processing preparation/dairy dishes.  Some days may involve a little extra time, but this will be planned in advance and the hours will be reduced on a different day.  It is presumed that for WWOOF volunteers part of the reason they come is to take in the beauty of Maine and that time off the farm exploring is important.  As such, we work together to come up with a schedule that allows for this to happen!  While an arrival date is very important, the end date — if we have room — can be extended.  We ask for a week of notice if the Volunteer needs to shorten their planned stay. No stipend is provided to WWOOF volunteers.

FARM STATUS — FULL TIME or PART TIME?

We are a full-time farm. However, Lisa is also a full-time single mom which can mean on some days things are juggled to accommodate both. Lisa is also a 4-H Leader and attends several weekend 4-H events in the summer, and is taking courses part time at the local University each Spring.

APPRENTICE and FARMER RELATIONSHIP ON FARM

Apprentices become part of the fabric of our farm and household.  As far as our direct involvement with apprentices, except for when we are away for markets, wholesale deliveries, we will be either shadowing or near by for feedback/consultation.

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS AND COMPENSATION

We offer a monthly stipend of $450month ($100/week for partial months) in addition to living accommodations and food, which includes dairy and eggs from the farm.  

Accommodations are either in our rustic 12 x14 farm cabin which does have a wood stove or our small travel trailer which has a cook stove.  In the cabin, there is an upper platform bed that can sleep two and then a single bed platform under that.   Our camper is tidy and self contained and works well for a single person.  Neither has running water but we can hook up electric. Both have a gas camp stove for making tea and other simple things.  Meal prep and bathing etc. generally happens in the main house.

General homesteading and communal living is part of normal every day stuff (the general stuff you do when you have a roommate — everybody pitches in to keep our common spaces tidy).

All food is here on the farm (ingredients provided with some communal meals – apprentices must be capable and prepared to make most of their meals themselves).  We work on living a pretty minimalistic and resource-wise lifestyle – being really conscious of using as little electric, propane, plastic packaging, convenience foods, etc — including being mindful of our water usage –as we can and that goes for the animals, too – trying our best to utilize the resources of the land we have with herding the goats, etc. to keep down the purchase of off-farm inputs like hay, grain, etc. We barter dairy and meat for vegetables in the summer as we don’t really have extensive gardens – the goats and chickens being out free range makes that difficult and Lisa’s talents lie in raising & managing livestock rather than in gardening.

There is internet at the local library, no long distance on the farm, but you can receive calls, internet is also available on the farm — though unlimited data is not so don’t plan on binge watching your favorite Netflix episode! — , cell phone reception is spotty.

Social drinking is fine if you are of age, other substances are not whether legal or not as I am raising kids and would rather limit exposure to that on my farm, in their environment, and in our neighborhood —  if these are things essential to your daily sustenance, this is not be the place for you.

A car is an absolute must as it is simply too isolated here to be without one. I do have a bike you can use, but the library, stores etc are 5+ miles away from the farm. It is beautiful here, but very remote. If you are coming from the suburbs, it can be a shock just how remote it is.  The nearest stoplight is about an hour away to the east and 2 hours away to the east and north, as are any fast food restaurants if that helps to understand.  No Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner to be sure.

Be aware that this is generally a good fit for a couple or an individual with a car that enjoys time to themselves and is not uneasy with a lack of constant social interaction. It can be isolating if you are without a car and/or not comfortable with your own company and that of the animals.

 

WHAT TO BRING

BE SURE TO BRING WITH YOU/ ACQUIRE FOR YOUR STAY:

Rain gear, rubber muck boots – INSULATED is an absolute MUST if you are here between November 1st and April 30th (Muck or Bog boots) and two pairs of overalls or coveralls, Sweat shirt and bandana (2) (for livestock tasks), one pair rubber-soled slip on shoes (for use while performing processing tasks/indoor use only == crocs work well), work gloves, and a sufficient supply of both warm-weather and cold-weather clothing (layers work best for the outdoor work) – all barn clothes are dedicated use and can’t go off farm (bio security) or be worn in house (bad smells!)

Stays November through March – must have WARM outdoor clothes, gloves & footwear (insulated Muck or Bogg boots work best)!

Other things: Flashlight/head lamp, battery operated alarm clock, sleeping bag and mat (WARM bedding if coming in the winter) — be sure you have what you need to keep warm, pillow, towels, toiletries, other personal creature comforts.

 

 

PRE VISIT/TRIAL PERIOD FOR APPRENTICES

A visit is not absolutely necessary, but could be helpful if distance is not too great.  We do not have a trial period but will do a formal sit down check in after both the first and second week to make sure everyone feels comfortable and discuss adjustments either we or the apprentices think would help to make the relationship sail smoothly for the season.  If a visit is not possible, we can do a walking tour/interview via face-time or messenger to try to make sure we are a good fit for one another.  As far as a trial period, we recognize that what either we or the apprentices think might be a good fit may not turn out to be so.  We will address after 7 days if either party feels it simply won’t work out for the season.  We ask the apprentice to really be firm on their commitment to come and invest in the season and to give at least two weeks notice if they feel they need to leave for whatever reason.

FARM MANUAL AND MEETINGS FOR APPRENTICES

We have a written manual that we keep online in our Google Drive as well as a hard copy.  We like to do a focused 30 to 45 minute check in at the end of each week (usually Friday or Saturday) to talk about what went well and what we could work on from both sides. A back-and –forth relationship that is not hierarchichal but instead collaborative is very important.  In the business of the days, it is easy to get out of tune or to overlook needs on one side or the other.  Having open lines of communication where everyone feels free to express what is on their mind is critical, hence a specific time is set aside for this.  If things aren’t working out on either side, we start with our focused check in and address and use the following week to adjust on either side.  Then we check back in again the following week (if not before) to see how things are going to see what other adjustments may be needed if any.

The main difference for WWOOF volunteers is, once again, that the relationship is much more informal, more of a work exchange with less intentional mentoring and involvement in the planning of the farm operation.

OUR FAMILY

We are a family of two on the farm currently (our eldest daughters are off on their own – Lisa (49) and Margaret Mae (13) and have been a part of this community since 1999.  We originally moved here from Westchester County, New York and came to Maine when our oldest daughter, Ella, was 1 to find home and raise our family.  Lisa grew up on her parents’ horse farm and aunt & uncle’s commercial cow dairy farm in upstate-NY, and so has a strong interest in the farm animals and finding their place in the sustainability of the farm.  Lisa has a degree in arts management and has over 18 years experience in management, marketing and finances.  She also worked as a 4-H Youth Development Professional for 6 years (2010 – 2016), and has a strong interest in helping young people find and develop their passions as well as fostering community connections. After a 6 year hiatus, our farm is once again our livelihood and we strive to make it a healthy and inspiring environment for ourselves and our community.  We don’t have it all figured out, but we try to learn more each day and to come closer to realizing our dream of a self-supporting, sustainable farm that serves our family, our community and honours the land and wildlife with which we share this piece of the planet.

We remain very focused on the farm and our family much of the year, but do find time to explore our outside interests (especially theatre and the arts) in the off-season and are very connected to the alternative local & farming community.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit our website and facebook page for more information on who we are and what we do! 

www.paintedpepperfarm.me

www.facebook.com/paintedpepperfarm

We also have a YouTube and Instagram account with more pictures and videos and real-time information.  Please take time to explore all of these to get more of a feel for our farm.