EMBDEN — A 120-year-old farm in Embden will always be used for agriculture now that the Maine Farmland Trust has designated it a Forever Farm.

The 79-acre property, known locally as the Dickey Farm, recently changed hands when Emily Eckhardt and her partner, Dillon Robinson, bought it.

Eckhardt, who works as the chief of staff for Maine Grains in Skowhegan, has farmed in several places across the United States, but returned to Maine in 2018 to find a farm.

“I started my farming career after graduating college,” Eckhardt said in a telephone interview Friday. “I did an apprenticeship on a farm up here in Skowhegan, and from there I have farmed all over the place.

“I farmed in Florida for eight years, and then farmed in California for a while. I moved back to Maine in 2018 and started working for Maine Grains, and have been looking for land up here ever since.”

Robinson was born and raised in Kingfield and now works as a timber framer for Maine Mountain Timber Frames in Avon.

Eckhardt said the two had been searching for a long time for the perfect place to settle.

“We had been looking and looking and looking, and hadn’t really found anything that was calling our name,” Eckhardt said. “But then we found this farm. I discovered it on Maine Farm Link.” 

Maine Farm Link is an online program run by the Maine Farmland Trust to match farm seekers with available properties.

After working with Glenn and Joan Tremblay, the farm’s previous owners, the Maine Farmland Trust officially designated the property a Forever Farm and placed an agricultural easement on the property July 16. This easement ensures the land will never be developed for nonagricultural use.

The land was originally bought by the Tremblay family in 1900, after which it was developed into a farm with a small herd of milking cows.

Throughout the years, the farm operated as a dairy, had a small strawberry patch and an apple orchard and was home to a family of nine.

The farm’s history has long been centered around family, and when Glenn and Joan Tremblay decided to put it on the market, they sought to ensure the emphasis on family continued.

“Three of the seven Tremblay children lived out their years at the farm, until the last and youngest, Edna, passed in 2019 at the age of 97,” according to information from the Maine Farmland Trust. “Edna’s relatives recently put the farm up for sale in hopes that ‘a young family could repeat a similar life in this special place in rural Maine.'”

Eckhardt, Robinson and their 3-month-old son, Woodbury, were the perfect fit to take over.

“It was time to hand over the pitchfork,” Joan Tremblay said. “Time for a new family to create their own history here.”

Emily Eckhardt shows photographs from 1900 of farmhouse she and partner, Dillon Robinson, have recently bought in Embden. Robinson stands in the background with their son, Woodbury, who is 3 months old. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

At the closing Aug. 21, Glenn and Joan Tremblay gifted Eckhardt and Robinson a Tremblay family pitchfork to symbolize the passing on of the farming tradition from one family to another. 

“I’m really grateful that we’re here now, and we’re very committed to carrying on the farming legacy,” Eckhardt said. “I can’t help but think about all of the history and all of the work that’s been done here. It’s pretty incredible to follow in those footsteps.”

Eckhardt and Robinson plan to use the land for small-scale dairy farming to make ice cream.

“We have big plans,” Eckhardt said. “We have a couple of Jersey cows. They’re heifers. so they haven’t been bred yet. We’ll probably breed them next year and see what happens, but the plan is to do very small scale dairy (farming), which I have a lot of experience with.

“I currently work for Maine Grains, and I hope to be able to use my position there and use some Maine grains to make cookies. My goal is to do ice cream sandwiches, since I have a commercial ice cream maker. So I want to do a ‘farm to cone, farm to ice cream sandwich’ kind of thing.”

Eckhardt said they also plan to grow blueberries and plant fruit trees.

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