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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!