Welcome Carmen Allen!

At the end of April 2009, Gene and I thrust our fingers into the cool spring soil for the first time on our own farm.  Planting our very first vegetables as Ripley Farm rushed an exhilaration through our bodies and souls. 

We were following our calling to be stewards of the land, producing healthy, organic vegetables to feed Central Maine.  Less than a year into marriage, we had signed a lease in the fall of 2008 to rent our first farmland in Troy, in Waldo County.  We were living our dream together.

The end of April 2015, the feeling that flows through my body when I touch the spring earth is no less electrifying.  Gene and I are looking forward to our seventh growing season together, still living our dream now on land in Dover-Foxcroft that we own and love. 

Over the past several years, we are proud to have grown Ripley Farm into a successful business that produces over three acres of certified organic vegetables for our local customers through our CSA program and the Orono Farmers Market.

This April marks an exciting step in the life of our small farm.  After six seasons of “doing it mostly ourselves”, it gives us great pleasure to introduce Carmen Allen to you as the first Assistant Farmer at Ripley Farm! 

In the past we’ve hired part-time help during the harvest season.  We wholeheartedly appreciate our past employees for their friendship and contribution to our farm.  Little by little we have grown our business into one that supports our family’s needs, and last fall we decided to put out the search for a full-time Assistant Farmer to join us in 2015.

And ta-da!  Meet Carmen Allen!  Carmen comes to Ripley Farm with two seasons of experience on Maine organic farms as well as a family background in farming.  She is firmly committed to her dream of starting her own farm someday and will be working at Ripley Farm for the next two years to continue gaining the experience she needs to make her dream a reality.  (read on below for an interview with her...)

Carmen has already tasted a few weeks of what it’s like to be one of the farmers at Ripley Farm.  She has joined us in our early spring activities like tidying up the plans for the season, picking up seeds and supplies, working on spring building projects, and servicing our farm’s tractors. 

We are so excited to have Carmen as part of our team!  And we can’t wait to introduce her to all of you at the CSA pickups and the Orono Farmers Markets. 

 

Here's the fun part: Interview Time!! 
Last week I got a chance to sit down with Carmen for an exclusive interview. 
Let’s let her tell you more about herself in her own words…

MM:  What is your background in farming?

Carmen:  I grew up in Presque Isle, so I have witnessed a heavy monoculture of potatoes all my life.  My grandparents grew potatoes, but are no longer farming now.  During high school I worked on potato farms on the harvesters, mainly grading and picking rocks out of potatoes.  When I was sixteen, I had a realization that I had no idea where my food came from and decided to become a vegan.  My interest in farming grew out of first realizing all of the bad things that were going on and then wanting to pursue the good ways of farming myself.  In the summer of 2012, I WOOFed on a farm in Mexico.  Just before leaving I had a dream.  I saw a Bed and Breakfast surrounded by a farm… and that was it.  It was then that I knew what I was going to do.  I set out to complete the circle of my understanding about the food system and really dove into it when I got done with college.  In the summer of 2013 I worked at Black Kettle Farm in Alfred, Maine growing organic vegetables.  After that I took a job at the Portland Whole Foods Market in the meat department to learn more about animal foods.  Itching to be outside again, I moved to Bowdoinham and took a job at Six River Farm, another organic vegetable farm where I worked through the end of 2014.

Here's Carmen at Black Kettle Farm harvesting garlic in 2013.  Carmen also designed BKF's website!  Check it out at: http://blackkettlefarm.com/

MM: Tell me more about your farming dreams.

Carmen:  I hope to have my own farm someday somewhere in Maine with a strong community and hospitality-based aspect growing vegetables, animals, and bees.  I hope to educate visitors about sustainable food systems and incorporate a hostel aspect to it.  I see my dream as some kind of sanctuary retreat for people of the city to come experience the oasis and serenity of farming and participate in my farm as an entire food system in one place.

MM: What is your favorite crop to grow and why?

Carmen:  Carrots!  I love carrots and it works out perfectly for working at Ripley Farm.  Carrots are very versatile crops and are best eaten either raw or cooked!

MM: And finally, what are four unique things about you that you want to share with everyone?

Carmen:  Okay, 1:  I am always reading about nature and find great inspiration in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Wendell Berry. 
2:  Nora is my awesome dog.  She’s five years old, very energetic, and I love hiking and walking with her.
3:  Goats!  I really like goats and goat products.  I hope to have goats on my farm someday, along with pigs and chickens.
4:  I’m computer savvy.  I went to school at the University of Maine for media studies and my favorite thing about computers is doing website coding.

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