SOMERVILLE — While petting goats and taste-testing artisan cheese sounds like a formula for a viral video, central and mid-coast Maine families felt it was the perfect weekend activity.

Dozens of families traveled to Pumpkin Vine Family Farm in Somerville to take part in Sunday’s Yule Goat Celebration and learn about a Scandinavian tradition close to farm owner Kelly Payson-Roopchand’s heart.

The Yule Goat Celebration was one of three events along the mid-coast Cheese Trail. Whitefield’s Fuzzy Udder Creamery and Appleton Creamery also held events on Sunday. There are 10 cheese-makers on the trail, ranging from Monroe to Owls Head.

Pumpkin Vine Farm is a goat dairy, offering milk, yogurt, cheese and caramel sauce. According to their website, the farm offers chevre, feta, Gouda and Asiago cheeses. Payson-Roopchand said the farm’s next move is aging their cheeses, which sharpens and intensifies flavor. Their cheeses, along with baked goods and crafts from local artisans, were for sale in a nearby building at the front of the Hewett Road property.

A yule goat, either massive or ornament-sized handmade straw goats, is a Scandinavian tradition that is linked to a bountiful harvest. The decorations are usually made with the last of a wheat harvest, with the grain making up the goat’s beard.

“It was a symbol of luck for the harvest of last year and health,” Payson-Roopchand, who is of Scandinavian descent, said. “They make these huge yule goats in the cities in Sweden and Scandinavia.”


Another figure in Scandinavian folklore is the Tomten, a gnome-like creature who is said to look after farms and farm animals. In the same way you would leave out cookies for Santa Claus and carrots for the reindeer, the Tomten would get a bowl of porridge.

“They were the caretakers of the farm,” Payson-Roopchand said. “You wouldn’t usually see them.”

Payson-Roopchand’s children Keiran, 10, and Sarita, 7, were dressed up as Tomtens during the event and led a goat walk with attendees after they were read a traditional story about Tomten and making bird treats to hang on the farm’s trees.

This is the second time the event has been open to the public, but Payson-Roopchand said she held the celebration before that for their family friends. She went public with the event after seeing the impact that interacting with the farm’s goats had on the children.

“It seemed so meaningful to the kids,” she said. “We (thought we) should open it up.”

Pat Preservati, of China, attended the event with her daughter and two grandchildren. She said it was important for her grandchildren to learn about diverse traditions and interact with animals.


“I like to bring the kids to (the) farm,” she said. “They get to see a little bit (more) of a relaxed Christmas.”

Payson-Roopchand, who has a doctorate in agricultural education and communications from the University of Florida, said the farm is also an educational center that incorporates instructional elements into all of their events.

Payson-Roopchand also penned a book about the farm’s history in 2015. She, her husband Anil Roopchand and their children, purchased the farm a decade ago, but the farm at 217 Hewett Road was operating since the 1800s by six generations of the Crooker, Kennedy and Hewett families.

Jean Hewett Clark, of Windsor, said she spent the first thirty years of her life visiting with family on the farm.

“I’m very happy it stayed a farm,” she said. I’m glad that the people (who own it now) love it so much.”

“I was more or less raised in Maine,” Payson-Roopchand said, adding that she was born in Boston. “I came home back to Maine because my family was having hard times (and) I just fell back in love with it as an adult.”

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

Twitter: @SamShepME

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