Deliveries on the Back-Roads of Maine

deliveries on the backroads of maine

I have to admit that deliveries on the back roads of Maine have long been a favored pastime for this farmer. Countless little roads thread their way across the landscape, beckoning the traveler off the 2-lane highways and deeper into the heart of the state. Here are the places where Maine’s legacy still exists─a hold-over from days gone by. Steeped in history and tradition, these back-roads fascinate me. Delivering Runamuk’s farm-goods to households in these rural and wild parts of Maine is never a chore, but a privilege I am grateful for.

deliveries on the backroads of maine
One of Maine’s many backroads.

Roaming the Backroads

When I was a girl, my mother would occasionally load her 3 children─myself, my younger brother and my baby sister─into the beat-up yellow station wagon our family owned. She drove the car out of town, stopping along the way at Casey’s Market in Anson to buy ham Italian sandwiches (another Maine tradition) and other picnic provisions. Then she drove northward, away from the cities and towns, into the depths of the Maine wilderness. Sometimes we went swimming at Embden Pond. Sometimes we were fishing little streams off an unknown bridge on a dirt road somewhere in Moscow or Rangeley. Other times we picked blueberries behind an abandoned farmhouse in Phillips, or blackberries under the powerlines in New Vineyard. These are treasured memories for me, and probably my favorite memories of my mother.

Roaming the backroads became a habit when my eldest son, William, was a baby. Sometimes a ride in the car was the only way to get him to nap. The backroad drives became a means of escape when life became rocky for me, and I spent countless hours rolling down one dirt road or another, searching for my forever farmhouse.

While progress comes to southern and central Maine, creeping ever northward into rural areas, off the beaten path old Maine still exists. Forgotten farmhouses in varying conditions are scattered in unknown river valleys. Above them on a high hill or mountainside, little log cabins complete with outhouse are hidden in the dense forests.

stonewall on the backroads of maine
The stonewalls criss-crossing the landscape were constructed by hand by early farmers to Maine!

Maine’s Legacy

Stone walls running along the roadside speak of a legacy almost forgotten, while massive maples act as sentries, lining the roads. Gnarled branches spread out overhead as you pass beneath the trees. Sometimes that legacy has been maintained, the fields preserved, the old farmhouse in-tact. Other times the forest has reclaimed the fields where livestock once grazed, and all that remains of the farmhouse is a stone foundation in the earth only visible during spring or fall, when the forest vegetation has died back, allowing the secrets of the landscape to be seen.

In these parts there still exists many family homesteads with backyard gardens and a coop full of chickens. Here people still go smelting and eat fiddleheads in the spring. They make strawberry-rhubarb pies and can jars of raspberry jam. In the fall they hunt to put meat in their freezer and during the winter they go ice fishing. People in these parts are still connected to the land and Maine’s rich agricultural legacy thrives even in this modern society. These are my people. This is where I belong.

backroad adventures
Where in Maine?

Committed to Local Food

When they were younger, egg-deliveries were the perfect excuse to get out of the house without the kids and take a drive down a backroad. As Runamuk grew, I gave up the deliveries in favor of setting up at the local farmers’ market. Getting back to delivery over the course of this winter has been wonderful. Ironically, it prepared my farm in advance for the coronavirus pandemic. I was offering delivery before delivery became a necessity, and I really haven’t had to change much about how I do business.

In fact, more than 20 households have enrolled to participate in Runamuk’s CSA Farm-Share program. These people have committed to local food─they’ve committed to Runamuk─and they have such faith in my abilities that they’ve even pre-paid to have dibs on the food I am producing. That is a huge compliment to this humble farmer, and something that is not taken lightly. It is now my responsibility to ensure that those families have access to high-quality, fresh foods every week. This is serious business.

I’ve been preparing for this all winter, though─ramping up production and putting different pieces in place. I am ready and eager to do the work. Shelves upon shelves of seedlings sit under lights inside the farmhouse waiting for the ground to warm up. This past weekend I was finally able to get the hoop-house closed in to allow for expanded seedling production. These plants will fill my expanded gardens, and will eventually fill bellies within my local community.

farmer sam card
This is a card from one of the families I serve.      3yo Rory loves my blueverry muffins!

To me, there is no higher honor than to be someone’s farmer. It truly is my privilege to be able to stock the shelves at the Runamuk farmstand, to make these deliveries on the backroads of Maine, and to feed and nurture the people and places I hold most dear. Who’s your farmer?

Note: The deadline to enroll in Runamuk’s CSA Farm-Share program is Thursday, April 30th.
Click here for details and to read about the special perks I’m offering members. Those who are interested in participating, but are either waiting for tax returns, stimulus checks, or are simply strapped for cash, please don’t hesitate to contact the farm to ask about late-payments, payment arrangements, potential bartering opportunities, or work-shares. I really want to make high-quality, fresh foods accessible to as many households as possible. That is my commitment to my local community.

Thanks for following along with the story of the Runamuk Acres Conservation Farm! Subscribe by email to receive the latest blog-posts directly to your inbox. OR follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram for a glimpse at life on this bee-friendly Maine farm!

Growing Food and Community at Runamuk

farm delivery program reviews

Over the course of the winter months, this farmer has been hyper-focused on growing food and community here at Runamuk. I spent the winter just doing the work─getting my affairs in order so that Runamuk can have a successful 2020 growing season. As a result, things on the blog-front have been fairly quiet. I wouldn’t presume to think that my mundane blog-posts have been missed by anyone out there, but I have certainly missed writing during these last few months. Sometimes it is necessary though, to take a step back to focus on what’s really important, and I’m glad I did─there have been some positive developments here at Runamuk.

runamuk farmhouse
The Runamuk Acres farmhouse earlier in the winter.

It’ll be 2 years come July since Runamuk landed in the obscure village of New Portland, Maine. I’m not too proud to admit that it was a big leap for this farmer, and my first year was quite a struggle. Bootstrapping my way to farm-ownership meant I came here with zero-savings, and what little capital I had was eaten up by investments in infrastructure during my first year. November and December were pretty dicey─financially speaking─but once this region got its’ first big snowstorm, this farm became host to a good many skiers to Sugarloaf. I was able to regain my footing, and even get ahead a little.

The FarmstayBnB & Farm-Fresh Breakfasts

The 2 guest rooms here are listed with AirBnB as a “farmstayBnB”. Accommodations are pretty simple. I don’t have much to offer in the way of luxury. Guests get an immaculately clean room with a ready-made bed, and a farm-fresh breakfast made-to-order, for the affordable rate of $50 a night.

airbnb review
Review on AirBnB for Runamuk’s farmstayBnB.

I’m very up front about this being a working farm as opposed to a hobby-farm or a gentleman’s farm. The farming must go on even when guests are on-site. Even with an honest description on AirBnB, there have been some guests who did not realize what they were signing on for. It dawns on them about the time they walk into the dinning room. There, my giant chalkboard is mounted to the wall, with an extensive to-do list for each aspect of the farm: livestock, apiary, garden, homestead, etc. That’s when they realize that this is a real farm, and I am 100% serious about my work.

Most folks were intrigued by the farming and I believe they took away a new appreciation for life on small farms. A few were less than impressed with what I had to offer. Yet, I always do my best to make folks feel welcomed and comfortable while they’re here. I know full well my lifestyle isn’t for everyone, so I don’t take it personally when guests prefer accommodations with a private bathroom, or a TV in their room. For the most part though, I think even those guests who were less than impressed with the accommodations left with a favorable impression following my fabulous, farm-fresh breakfasts. Good food can win over even the most stubborn hearts.

Growing Food & Community Through Delivery

With the farmstayBnB covering the bills, I’ve been able to focus on growing food and community through Runamuk’s delivery service. Despite the fact that Runamuk does not yet have the capacity to grow vegetables year-round─or even to extend our season for vegetable production─I’ve offered my community the things I can produce in the depths of winter: eggs, pea shoots, bread and other baked goods. I still have beeswax soap available too.

farm delivery program reviews
Just 2 of the glowing reviews Runamuk has received for it’s weekly delivery program!

The delivery program helped to maintain the momentum I gained last summer at the Kingfield Farmers’ Market. This has allowed me to grow the farm’s income even during the hardest part of the year: winter. Each week I post the list of available products from Runamuk to our facebook page. I also email the list to customers who have subscribed to the Runamuk mailing list. Sometimes I post the list to the community pages for the towns I serve─just to remind folks that we are here offering fresh, locally produced foods and products.

The bread was a huge hit, and muffins and cookies are always popular. I gained lots of new customers over the course of the winter, and even managed to turn a few households on to pea shoots. In Kingfield, I picked up a couple of commercial accounts with local restaurants: the Orange Cat Cafe loves my Honey-Pecan granola, and the Kingfield Woodsman raves about my breads.

It got to be that I was baking twice a week. Some of those sessions became 36 or 48-hour marathons with little sleep and a frenzied attempt to keep my delivery schedule. During one such marathon, I realized the baking was going to be too much time in the kitchen once the growing season got underway.

CSA Farm-Share Program

Ultimately, my goal is to feed families and community-members high-quality, nutritious foods─mostly vegetables. I believe the pathway to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier global ecosystem is a diet that is largely plant-based. In light of that revelation, I opted to limit acces to my baked goods and to grow my community through Runamuk’s CSA Farm-Share Program.

oatmeal bread
My oatmeal bread is hugely popular with local customers!

Access to my handmade bread, baked fresh each week has become one of the biggest perks of becoming a supporting member of this farm. Several of my dedicated patrons have enrolled just so they can continue to receive their weekly bread deliveries. Other CSA-members are holding out for the fresh vegetables that will be available once the growing season gets underway.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many direct-to-consumer farmers (farmers like myself) are seeing an increase in sales. I have also welcomed a number of new customers and CSA-members to the farm. To better meet the needs of my community during this difficult time, I’ve extended the deadline for enrollment for my CSA Farm-Share program to the end of April. I’m offering flexible payment options for my low-income community members. Just ask.

Click here to learn more about Runamuk’s CSA Farm-Shares
or to enroll via payment through PayPal.

Farm Stand Open Every Saturday

With local food in such high demand, I’ve decided to open my farm stand early this season. Beginning this Saturday, April 11th, Runamuk’s self-service farm stand will be open every Saturday from 8-2. I’m still working to get things organized, but the farm stand is set up on the enclosed front porch of the farmhouse. I managed to trade farm-credit for a small refrigerator/freezer that I’ve stocked with eggs and breads and pea shoots. In a few more weeks vegetables will be available there too.

I want to encourage the local community to visit the farm─not only to pick up fresh foods and products produced locally─but to connect with the farm that is producing their food. The animals here are all super-friendly and love visitors. During the growing season the gardens and the apiary are fascinating places for observation. Soon I will even have several newly constructed picnic tables on-site.

What’s more, this property boasts a half-mile trail (1 mile round-trip) that runs through the 10-acre pasture behind the farmhouse, into the forest to a secluded wetland area that I have dubbed the “Enchanted Wetland”. I have maps and scavenger hunts available, and the trail is clearly marked. It is my hope that locals will take the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature even for a short time. It’s hugely important for our children to learn more about this natural world around us. We really are all connected on this incredible planet we call home.

Stay Tuned for Up-Coming Stories!

lambs at runamuk
Stay tuned for the up-coming story of my first-ever lambs!

I took the winter off from blogging to better focus on doing the work here to prepare Runamuk for a successful 2020 season. I’m glad I did too, however, the writer in me is ready to once again share stories about farm-life and my journey as a woman who farms. Stay tuned for up-coming stories including (but not limited to) the story of my first-ever lambing-season!!

Thanks for following along with the story of the Runamuk Acres Conservation Farm! Subscribe by email to receive the latest blog-posts directly to your inbox. OR follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram for a glimpse at life on this bee-friendly Maine farm!