4262 Kennebec Rd
Dixmont ME 04932
Jean Hay Bright firstname.lastname@example.org
David Bright email@example.com
Photo by American Images, Marshfield WI
|High-Bush Blueberries||Winter Squash Pumpkins|
BrightBerry Farm is a small organic farm in the hills of Dixmont, Maine, about 20 miles southwest of Bangor. The farm is the last 30 acres of a large dairy farm that was first homesteaded in 1830, and, as far as we can tell, has been farmed or homesteaded continuously since then. Our piece includes about 20 acres of open fields, a year-round stream, two spring-fed ponds (which we have expanded) and about 10 acres of woodland on the edges of our property. The property is quite steep, particularly around the house, but it slopes south and southwest, which is great for sun exposure and drainage. That orientation was key to our excited purchase of this farm in 1999.
(I owned and operated Hay's Farm Stand in Blue Hill, across from the Blue Hill Fairgrounds, in the 1980s and early 1990s. After some unsuccessful forays in politics, it has been great to get my hands in the dirt again.)
The original farmhouse, with its fieldstone foundation, was remodeled in the 1980s, so David and I could concentrate on developing the property into our dream of a pick-your-own raspberry and high-bush blueberry operation.
So far, we've planted about two acres in berries. Our first 60-bush blueberry patch finally reached maturity last year, giving us and the Belfast Co-Op lots of great berries. We are optimistic about the half-acre blueberry patch we planted two years later, hoping that we will start getting a good crop off that field this summer. Unexpected hard frosts in May may have done some damage to the buds, we'll have to wait and see what, if anything, was lost.
We haven't been able to open our red and black raspberry patches to the public yet, because vendors at the Common Ground Fair in Unity have ordered up enough of both to take our entire crop several years running now. Add to that, the back fields we planted to raspberries have proven to be a challenge, with the weeds getting away from us and suppressing the yields significantly. We're working on it.
In the tradition of growing sweet round things to eat and sell, we added a small cherry orchard (15 trees) last year. And we've expanded our strawberries onto two new, still relatively small, patches this year. The May frost did some damage, but with the recent rain, it looks like we'll be getting a few berries. Watch for them at the Belfast Co-Op.
While we are waiting for the berry fields to mature, we've been raising annual vegetables and selling wholesale to local markets. We participated in a few area farmers markets in years past, but now we're selling wholesale -- find we get a lot more work done.
We are definitely a "small" farm, with a total of only about half an acre in vegetable production spread over seven relatively flat plots of about 2,500 ft. each. We specialize in cherry tomatoes (Sun Gold and several varieties of Red) which we grow in two 20'x48' unheated hoophouses. We've added a third hoophouse this year and stuffed it with full-size tomato plants. We also grow and wholesale limited quantities of peas (shell and snap), carrots, as well as winter squash and pie pumpkins.
The Belfast Co-Op at 123 High Street, Belfast Maine (207-338-2532) has been our primary wholesale customer. Look for strawberries, cherry tomatoes and peas in June, more tomatoes, and occasionally raspberries and blueberries in July and August, fall crops (carrots, winter squash, pumpkins) and more cherry tomatoes after Labor Day.
We started dealing with Crown O'Maine Organic Cooperative last year, and are looking to expand that partnership. They distribute to many area natural food stores, co-ops and buying clubs.
If you do business with any of these, look for our label!
Here's hoping for a great season!
Jean Hay Bright
Sun Gold Tomatoes and four different varieties of red cherry tomatoes were strung up on plastic netting inside the hoophouse frames, which worked very well.
Our best raspberry patch.
In old news, here are some photos of our gravity-fed irrigation system, still a work in progress.
We have designed a gravity-feed drip irrigation system that includes two 5,000-gallon water storage tanks at the top of our steep hill that will be filled with pond water, and then redirected to an eventual five acres under cultivation (three acres of raspberries, one in high-bush blueberries, and the potential for an acre of annual crops).
And, of course, we needed to dig a ditch to get the water lines from the pond to the tanks.
The crew from Frost Foundations poured the cement walls of the pumphouse at the edge of the expanded upper pond.
In the ditch we're running three irrigation lines to carry pond water to and from the tanks, and an electric cable big enough to run an electric pump parked in the pumphouse. While we were at it, we ran a telephone line, a fresh water line (white pipe is a hydrant), and a drain tile.
What does Jean do in her spare time? Check out BrightBerry Press
Some agricultural links
Maine Dept. of Agriculture web site
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Maine Farm Bureau
Maine Agricultural Center
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
The New Farm publication, put out by Rodale
Co-op Voices Unite!-a
volunteer advocacy for the consumer, right here in Maine
The Campaign to Label Genetically-Modified Foods, a national organization