Mary Perry

Age: 53

Title: Farm owner

Company: Winterberry Farm, Belgrade

About: A certified organic horse- and oxen-powered farm built in 1870 where Perry and her three children grow vegetables and cut flowers and operate a farm store.


What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Deciding where my business is going, how it will look when my kids are out of the house. That being said, the oldest is 23, the next one is 18, the youngest is 12. When I started this, the oldest was 5, Gil one was 1 and Sage wasn’t born. So it is about this age and what will my business look like and where will it go when my kids are gone.

Are the kids interested in continuing? In some degree, but who will know?

The oldest (Kenya Perry, 23) is graduating from College of the Atlantic with a degree in human ecology, with all sorts of awards and super-cool interest in kombucha and doing fermented items, which are totally about food and local food movements. My son (Gil Whitehead) is 18 and he’s going to a sustainable school for renewable energy (Sterling College). He’s the one who works the team of oxen. He has an interest in working in the woods, he lobsters, so possibly.

And my youngest (Sage Whitehead, 12) would like to be a vet, so possibly.

It’s not so much about how much longer I do it, but what it is I do with it. Rather than growing vegetables, which are very labor-intensive, will it become primarily cut flowers, events, hosting farm-to-table weddings?

I think about it every day. The oldest is graduating from college in a month. Gil, my maintenance person, leaves for college in September. It’s on my mind every day.

What’s the best advice that anyone has ever given you?

I grew up with my dad (Ken Perry) telling me, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I don’t know really how it applies to me, but I don’t ever forget it. My eggs are definitely not all in one basket. They are all over the place.

How do you foster creativity in yourself?

There are two things in there. I farm because I wanted to be home with my kids. That’s a part of it.

But the huge part of it is being my own director. I don’t do well with a boss. I like being my own person. I wake up, and the weather, it’s different every day and I have a different job to do every day. I feed off growing food, growing flowers and growing children. It’s all keeping me excited about my work. It allows me to think creatively and positively about solving problems, like marketing or a real problem like the hail just came in.

I am very intuitive, and I solve problems with intuition in a huge way. I am very spiritual. I follow a tune and I am very true to it.

This year, it took a while for the snow to go out, and the soils are cold, very cold. And of course, we’re getting rain, so the soils are very wet. So it’s deciding how to plant and when to plant.

To keep the soils warm, I am planting in plastic (under a black plastic cover) and I am doing raised the best to get them and above the ground so the water and rain can settle below the raised beds.

I have done it before. It just depends on the year and what’s happening.

What’s your biggest fear?

At 53, so hard to find a fear because you feel invincible, you feel powerful.

I guess my concern is keeping my customers happy, whether it is making the perfect pie — that’s my primary thing in the summer — and growing really good vegetables.

Where will your business be in five years?

About the same, just a little more cut flowers, weddings, events. More farm store business, not as much farmers markets, so pulling it closer to home. The only reason why I do go to farmers markets is to promote my farm. A lot people go to farmers markets to sell their products. I live on Route 27, so I have a farm store. It’s a great place to have a farm store. So I go to farmers markets to promote our events, our farm-to-table dinners, our wedding flowers, our pies. It’s pretty popular, so I am not worried about it.

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