Wild Folk Farm

Wild Folk Farm

Introduction

We are seeking to establish an agrarian intentional community in Benton, Maine and searching for passionate people with long and short-term commitments in mind. The text below will describe the land and its history, and offer some direction as to where we would like things to go. There have been a lot of people involved in this land in recent past and we are currently in a transition of personnel and direction for the land.

Our goal is to transfer the land to communal ownership, either as a corporation or land trust. At this stage, our mission and structure (legal, economic, power) are still developing and incomplete and will remain so until a few more committed pioneers join the creative process. Presently we have created and maintain a small scale, permaculture-based farm on 45 acres of land. In the upcoming seasons we plan to expand the infrastructure so an intentional community and/or more productive farm can thrive.

We are looking for potential members as well as more apprentice type folks. For potential members, we prefer those with proficient skills tied to building/construction, sustainable agriculture, direct involvement with pioneering intentional communities, and/or some sort of monetary investment, though these are not requirements. If you are interested in become a part of Wild Folk Farm, please read about our history, land, and vision for the future. Applicants, though especially apprentice applicants, can also find pertinent information from the MOFGA Apprentice Description page. There is some overlapping information between both documents. The application deadline is February 28th, though we will begin the acceptance process and possible fill spots starting February 1st.

We are trying to get the word out, so please send this information to any people or circles that might be interested! Also, if interested in learning about our rice project, click here.

To apply, please answer fill out the following document and send it to Wildfolkfarmers@gmail.com: Application

The Landback to top

The Land and Infrastructure: Located at the end of Wyman Road in Benton, Maine, Wild Folk Farm features a diversified mosaic of natural landscapes (forests, meadows, wetland), agricultural landscapes (perennials, annuals, livestock pasture, rice paddy) and residential landscapes (housing, buildings, spiritual areas, etc.). Of the 45 acres, forest comprises 35 acres and 10 are wild pasture; we cultivate 2-3 in annuals and perennials.

There is a sugar maple stand we tap, a pond where we swim, and a creek where we relax. As a nascent and rapidly evolving project, most of the infrastructure and agricultural work occurred within the past year, so much remains to be imagined, designed and created. Almost all the farm is off the grid except for a tiny sliver down by the road, 1/4 mile from most of the other activity on the land.

Surrounded by rolling hayfields, forests, open sky, and a large dairy farm, the land is a seven-minute drive from downtown Fairfield and 15 minutes from Waterville. Waterville is undergoing a period of revitalization. It has a yoga studio, an independent movie theater, an art gallery, and a great local foods market. We are very close to hiking trails, and the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers, which offer fishing, boating and swimming. The farm is around an hour from the coast, mountains, and Portland. We’ve developed close relationships with a wonderful and ever-growing community of people and farms in the area.

The building styles range from standard stick-framing (and more primitive) to some timber framing/natural building techniques, and we hope the latter will become more prevalent. There are no large buildings on the property. Our infrastructure includes:

3 season cabin (to be made 4 season next year), 2 screen-houses, 1 outdoor kitchen, a meeting/storage building, a large lean-to (for wwoofers, camping, yoga, performances), a food storage building, 2 outhouses, a grape arbor (more to come!), an electricity/internet hub, a hand pump, cob oven, 1 hoop house (more to come!), a few moveable small high tunnels, lumber storage, a tool shed, and a harvesting area.

History back to top

The farm is only recently getting back into production and we are in a period of much expansion and formation. The farm is designed and continually strives to be a place for community, subsistence, permaculture, experimentation, demonstration and education. We try to integrate small-scale organic principles into the praxis and philosophy of permaculture in order to maximize potential production without compromising responsible land stewardship. We work under minimal use of mechanization, partly out of principle, but mainly for the sake of conviviality and connection to our surroundings and each other. We rely on human power coupled with hand and wheel tools, and the ecology around us to perform our work.

The farm is highly diversified and integrated. Our biggest focus in years past has been mixed vegetable production, either going to wholesale or CSA. All annual beds (roughly an acre) are either currently in or transitioning towards a no-till system, which is strongly reliant on cover cropping, rotations, animal integration, mulching, a diverse array of homemade foliar sprays, prompt, observant and critical management, and faith in the biology below us.

Last season we raised sheep, meat chickens, and diary goats for livestock, and for grains we grew some amaranth and rice. The rice was grown in a small flood paddy, something we are pioneering in central Maine. We also started doing some low-impact forestry in our woodlot for construction and firewood. There were between 4-8 people living here at any given time, including friends, apprentices and woofers. Almost all of our produce and livestock are heirloom and heritage varieties. Most perennials on the farm are young and only some are starting to bear fruit. We are eager and open to expand and try new crops, varieties and methods of growing. Last but not least, we also enjoy foraging for wild edibles and medicinals.

We want to cultivate space for innovation and build a community in which members may pursue their creative endeavors in a mutually supportive environment. We want the farm to serve as an education site and have a strong connection with the nearby community.

Homesteading practices have played a large role in the function of the land. We greatly value trying to work outside the monetary system in casual work trade and bartering arrangements and in the flow of a gift economy. While we want these actions to continue, with less outside income coming in, understand that more focus might need to be directed towards revenue.

Vision back to top

Outreach / Community Involvement: One of our visions, once the community is in a more stable place, is to get involved and connected with the nearby towns of Fairfield and Waterville through gardening, agricultural and local foods outreach, and the formation of more cooperative and communal living systems. We would welcome others in this intentional community to join in, but do not see it needing to be a necessary part of the whole intentional community&s vision or mission. We could also see on-site permaculture/agrarian outreach and education taking place. Whether any of this is formalized with money, or casual, is undecided.

Finances and Planning: First and foremost the farm serves to nourish its members; to provide our food and medicine. However we would like to generate some income from agricultural production. This might range from the minimum required to meet basic maintenance costs to a mix of on-site and off-site revenue with some communal ties, and further down the road, to an income-sharing community in which members derive their entire incomes from land-based enterprises. Currently, we are set-up to do vegetables/livestock retail and wholesale. We do not have a licensed kitchen, nor a barn to overwinter animals. David and others are currently working in Fairfield to create a public facility for food storage and commercial processing and a local foods restaurant, all of which could be potential outlets for our produce. Below are some potential options for income.

  1. Rice - We had a small paddy this year and hope to have an acre of a flood paddy polyculture (rice, azolla, ducks) in commercial production in 2-3 years. This should provide some revenue as well as a lot of food and outreach potential.
  2. Processed Goods - We make mean fermentations, hot sauces and canned goods.
  3. Specific Goods - These include ginger, garlic, tulsi, yacon, figs, lamb and herbs. We are contracted to start selling some herbs to a nearby distillery for absinthe next season.
  4. CSA - This could match our subsistence model, just to a larger scale, providing diversified heirloom varieties to CSA members.
  5. Education/Outreach - Set up our own organization or connect with neighboring institutions.

More work remains to be done on the soil and infrastructure before this land can really start producing well. We envision a third to half of the beds in cover cropping at all times; Though as this decreases annual productivity, we hope it leads to more efficient production in a multi-year plan for the no-till, human-powered farming. We are not in debt and while we want to start making financial sustainability more of a priority we are not looking to rush into anything that would not be good for the long term plan for this land and community. We have a budget that will cover costs for 2014 (depending on what projects we take on) and after that we are trying to develop a model where the farm/community can sustain itself. For this community to really thrive and endure we think more money will need to be invested in adjacent land and/or more infrastructure. Ideally this money would come from income, members, donations, and/or fundraising.

Power Structures: We are open to various ownership (land trust, corporations, etc.) and membership models; though do not want any partitioning of property. Financial buy-ins are not required for becoming a member/owner.

Once a few more people invest in forming a community here we can collaborate to develop membership policies and decision-making structures that feel suitable to everyone involved. We are open to forms of egalitarian decision-making, however it will take time, commitment, and responsibility for this transition to take place. This does not mean those involved will not have say, for many rules, systems and structures are undetermined and malleable. Lastly, we foresee different types of memberships and thus decision making roles being created.

We want this community be a safe place where everyone feels empowered and free to express themselves and experiment. We do not want to create any sort of manager, subordinate dichotomies or hierarchies. We want ourselves and others to have the flexibility to put energy in other places, which means there will be a certain level of responsibility and self-led management for everyone involved, apprentices, potential members and the like. However, we do see the value in some balance of specialization tied to expertise, memory and involvement.

Future: Who we are looking for: We are not trying to recruit more than a 1-3 permanent members in the next year or so though hope that between 4-8 people will live here next season. Ideally we are looking for pioneers with skills in permaculture, sustainable agriculture, forestry, carpentry, natural building, and/or the social/economic tools associated with building a community. We are looking for folks eager to take on more responsibility and management in the balancing act between social, environmental, economic, immediate and future needs and visions. We are open to members willing to offer resources and/or money as a substitute for some of their time committed to the community. Apprentices and shorter-term members need not have much experience in those skills mentioned above but should be eager to learn, grow and feel connected with the community during their stay.

Next season is a building year. We can offer full room and board, a place to learn and create and a potential membership. We would prefer to not put much of our budget towards wages/stipends this year (this could vary though depending on skills and past experiences). The rough expectation for work on the land will vary, but average around 45 hours per week. This includes kitchen duties, chores, and individual projects. Much of the work expectations, project, and scheduling will be driven and overseen by the individual. We are not requiring everyone to work on the land full-time, though it would be preferable for the majority of folks to be. In the right situation we are open to people devoting time to deriving off-farm personal income.

Agricultural plan for next season: The plan for next season is to downscale our agricultural production so we can really focus on systems, soil, and structures, physical and social. Much of the annual agricultural plots will be cover cropped and we will spend more time and energy focusing on adding more perennials (which include more herbs and medicinals!). We definitely plan to grow enough to feed those involved. We are also planning to build the 1-2 acres of rice paddy system next season (with excavators).

We want to scale back livestock operations next season, but again grow enough to have our own animal protein sources. We would like to get some bees and layer birds and are open to some other options, as we have the equipment. Lastly, we would like to continue to expand upon our low impact forestry efforts.

Physical infrastructure plan:

1) moveable hoophouse (we have a grant ) 2) permanent irrigation (grant status pending) 3) more four season structure/s (timberframe, earthlodges, cob), 4) finishing a yurt-style large outdoor kitchen and wood-fired brick stove top 5) a root cellar (hopefully made out of cob), 6) Chicken coop, 7) finishing the harvesting area 8) more spiritual area/s and practices 9) finishing an outdoor shower 10) Sauna 11) bike power!

We also envision some larger central hub/living area on the land, though that will require a good amount more money and time. This list is also not set in stone and other than the first item, there is no timeline. We encourage others to envision and initiate projects as well.

Social/power structure plan: We plan to set up dynamic and effective decision-making structures, membership details, meeting guidelines, conflict resolution techniques, land ownership/legality models, task and work management, and plans for integrating spirituality. We want to be working towards advancing our missions, visions and economic plans as well.