ALBION — A group of 14 campers gathered in Cassidy’s Kitchen to learn how to make mozzarella cheese on Friday. Some campers sat on the two long tables in the one-room building and others stood as counselor Cody Maroon, 20, read a children’s book that explained the process.

When he was finished, camper Brennan Demanche, 10, read the directions aloud as the others took turns doing the work. They dissolved citric acid in a pot on the stove and brought it to 88 degrees Fahrenheit before adding water and raising the temperature some more. Eventually, they got curds they could use to make the cheese.

Making cheese is one of many educational activities Linda Hartkopf plans for the campers to do. She runs Hart-to-Hart Organic Dairy and Education Center with her husband in Albion, where she puts on a couple camps each summer for different age ranges. This past week, Hartkopf had about 23 campers ranging from 7 to 12 years old.

Children learn about agriculture and animals as well as food and nutrition at the camps, which are meant to introduce children to a true “farm to table” experience. They also journal about their experiences or write down observations when they do a nature study.

What’s new to the camp is Cassidy’s Kitchen.

The building is named after Cassidy Charette, of Oakland, who died in a hayride accident in Mechanic Falls on Oct. 11, 2014. Cassidy was a 17-year-old Messalonskee High School student who spent much of her time volunteering in the communities around her. After her death, the communities she served came together to raise money for new programs created in Cassidy’s honor, like a new Big Brothers Big Sisters program at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville.

Hartkopf got to know Cassidy over the six years she came to her camp. She remembers Cassidy as giving and very loving toward her younger brother.

“She had this incredible smile,” Hartkopf said while standing in the kitchen Friday. “On my end, I was trying to figure out how I could best honor her.”

A few months after the accident, Monica Charette, Cassidy’s mother, contacted Hartkopf about creating a memorial of some kind at the farm. Cassidy always chose farm camp over other summer camps, Monica said. Even after she’d aged out of the programs, she asked Hartkopf if she could still come as a camper.

She loved working with the animals. For each session, the campers adopt their own farm animal and learn how to care for it and train it. Cassidy loved her sheep, Erwin, especially and would come back to the farm all summer after camp was over to visit him.

Hartkopf said they thought about something like a memorial tree, but wanted something more sustainable.

“We wanted something that would also help the program,” she said.

The project raised more than $16,000, took more than 100 volunteers and donors and months of work. Everything about the building says “Cassidy,” Monica said on the phone Friday.

“I feel Cassidy’s presence whenever I enter the building,” she said.

Skip Tompkins, a friend of Hartkopf’s, acted as foreman for the project, directing 100 people on weekends they could work.

“He was our superman,” Hartkopf said.

The framing was put up over Columbus Day Weekend in 2015, around the anniversary of Cassidy’s death, and finished this spring. Cassidy’s family worked with the community volunteers to build the kitchen.

“You could see the warmth and the healing that was happening,” Hartkopf said.

The building, placed in front of Hartkopf’s house behind the garden area, is blue, Cassidy’s favorite color. A simple sign that reads “Cassidy’s Kitchen” with a shining sun in the background hangs on the building. Leighton Sign Works in Oakland designed the word “Cassidy” to mimic Cassidy’s own handwriting. People said she had her own font, Monica said.

Inside, the kitchen has new appliances, all donated from the community. Above the counter is a stained glass window that Cassidy’s grandmother made which depicts Cassidy’s favorite things about the farm. The window includes details like little sheep, the tire swing and the clay oven Cassidy helped build with other campers years ago.

Hartkopf is also having campers decorate tiles to create a backsplash on the wall behind the counters and sink. Monica was able to copy a piece of art depicting a red flower that Cassidy made onto one of the tiles.

On the opposite wall is a framed piece of art representing all of those who helped make the kitchen a reality. One person painted a trunk and then added color to cutout leaves. Another person wrote volunteers and donors names in calligraphy. There were 74 donors recognized on leaves, and more than 40 volunteers recognized on the trunk.

The largest donor was the Necevski family, whose daughter, Mikhaila, was Cassidy’s best friend. Plaques for the family and Tompkins hang in the kitchen in between windows.

Above a window hangs a picture of Cassidy with Erwin the sheep.

“Cassidy’s spirit will live on at farm camp,” Monica said.

The space, which is used almost daily, will be licensed as a commercial kitchen soon, and it’s also insulated so it can be used for three seasons. Hartkopf is thinking about starting new camps outside of summer for adults as well as children.

She wants the kitchen to be a long-term educational facility that will “live on beyond me,” she said, to teach people about the farm cycle and how to connect with nature.

Madeline St. Amour – 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.