Kenya Whitehead watered vegetables while her 5-year-old sister showed visitors around their family farm in Belgrade on Open Farm Day.
More than 100 farms in 16 counties opened their barn doors to the public on Sunday for Maine’s 22nd annual Open Farm Day, sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture.
The farms offered demonstrations and displays, farm-raised products, and barn and field tours. Many provided hay rides, petting zoos and samples for tasting along with refreshments.
“We have seven gardens and two greenhouses,” the 15-year-old Kenya said during a break from watering. “My mom bakes pies and bread in the farm stand and we have 75 (community supported agriculture) members. It’s very hard work, but I really feel good when I do it. I feel close to the earth.”
The family grows organic eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and onions, more than 70 types of vegetables. They also raise their own pigs, chickens and turkeys.
Sage, 5, and her brother Gilbert, 11, took Bonnie and Donald Bartlett of Litchfield through the barn to see the livestock then past the chicken coop on their way to the back field and vegetable gardens.
“We love animals. We have goats ourselves,” Bonnie Bartlett said. “We like to go through the list and pick out different farms to see. We’re going next to Washington and then Union. They have a whole bunch of farms there.”
Donald Bartlett said the farmers lucked out with cooler weather on Sunday. There was some relief from the heat when temperatures dipped into the 70s.
But Bartlett said it still must have been difficult for farmers preparing for this special day in 90-degree temperatures.
“These guys must have been hurting the last three or four days with the heat,” he said.
Sage stopped to plucked fruit off raspberry bushes at the back of the Victorian farmhouse.
“Who gets to pick those?” Donald Bartlett asked.
“Everybody,” Gilbert said.
The children’s mother, Mary Perry, who was busy baking pies in a flour-covered apron, said close to 200 people showed up last year. She said their visitors enjoy the 1870 farm, a historic gem originally owned by the Foster family.
“People really feel good about this farm and love seeing the kids in particular giving the tours,” Perry said. “Sage is the tour guide/social butterfly of the family.”
A Farmingdale family on Sunday chose to tour Friends’ Folly Farm in Monmouth where Pogo Pogorelc and Marcia Marron raise Angora and dairy goats and rabbits. They also have a fiber processing mill where raw mohair is transformed into finished yarn. In the center of their back yard is a 30-foot yurt, their retail shop where people can buy yarn, soap, pelts and meat from local farms.
Rayna Boothby pushed her 9-month-old grandson, Phoenix Howe to the back pasture where the goats fed.
“The baby’s got to see the goats,” Boothby said. “Oh my God, aren’t they cute!”
Boothby said their next stop was the Phoenix Farm, also in Monmouth, and then out to a farm in Dresden.
“I knit so I like to see where the yarn comes from, but I also like visiting the food-producing farms,” she said. “I just think this is so great. I wish I had time to do more. We’ve got a beautiful day for it.”
Many of the folks who visit the farm enjoy knitting. For Nina Lavoie of Winthrop, knitting is a family affair. She shares her enthusiasm of knitting with her 12-year-old daughter, Lydia.
“We love to see the animals, and we both knit,” Lavoie said. “We picked out fiber farms to see so we could combine the animals with the fiber. We really like to buy local yarn and see the animals where the yarn comes from.”
Pogorelc enticed the herd closer to the crowd by shaking large tin coffee cans filled with grain.
“Go ahead. You can pet them.” Pogorelc said to the children as she corralled the goats and their kids into a small pen. “Feel their mohair. Goats are very curious and compete for their food. For their size they are good fiber producers.”
Mechele Cooper — 621-5663