Montauk Sweet Corn
Ailsa Craig Sweet Onions
Bumble Bee Tomatoes
Notes from the Farm
In northern New England (and everywhere else for all I know) the concept of a family farm is a simple designation of a small business that separates it from more industrialized farming.
Pinelands is a great local example of family farm that evolved over time into a agricultural business with a capital B. The Gillespie family owned and ran that farm for decades (centuries? I have no idea) and they slowly grew, modernized, increased scale until they became the local production behemoth that is now owned by Pinelands... but if you ever go to visit, or pick strawberries, on Mayall road in New Gloucester, you'll see under the Pinelands sign, Gillespie Farm. And if you go in and talk with anyone, you'll see it's an amazing farm, run by a group of amazing farmers... we love Gillespie farm... but that's neither her nor there.
We used to do business under the name Alma Farm. It was just a name, we kinda picked it out of a hat. Gina and I were newer together, and it was both of our first entry into business ownership, so we didn't want to commit too much of ourselves, ceremonially, into the business name. When we moved to Casco, we made a decision in heart and mind, to rename our farm... Hancock Family Farm.
The name, and new logo, came with some real specific intention. One of our dearest mentors, Tom Earle, named his farm the Earle Family Farm. He farmed the land he grew up on, his parents lived on the land, he farmed with his wife and daughters, it was a community farm, and it truly embraces the family farm concept. We love him and his farm, and wanted, in part, to pay homage to him. We also were a family now, committed, married, children, and living in my historic homeland.
The new name came with a new logo, which we very purposely borrowed from the West Oxford Agricultural Society, you may know it as the host of the Fryeburg Fair. If you head to the farm museum at the fairgrounds, or at the waterwheel near the entrance, you'll see the old WOAS logo... ours is fully a copy of that logo. We felt like we owed it to ourselves to walk in line with the agricultural tradition of the area, and the WOAS is as traditional as it gets.
But when it comes down to it, we are a business, legally a corporation, but the organizing philosophy of our farm is family. This year, my mom has been an integral member of the farm, we wouldn't have made it without her. Our girls, 10 years old, have been farming hard. If you've picked up green beans, fairy tale eggplant, okra, blueberries, or watermelons, it was picked by them. They farmed hard this year... it was super fun to have them on board.
We are a family that farms, not a family that lives and works on a farm. Everything we do is about the wholeness of our family & community, and we've been fortunate to be able to make a living doing it... although, I think even if we couldn't make a living, we'd still do it... we'd just have to farm harder, because, ultimately, once you've tried it, the idea of walking away from the family farm is crippling... I haven't tried on the idea of ending the farm yet, but I can imagine it's like losing a family member, and that's the real essence of it... a family farm is the totality of the family, the generations, the work, the familial dynamics... as it turns out, A Family Farm is greater than the sum of it's parts... and I feel fortunate to have stumbled into one.
Caramelized Corn with Shallots
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ears of fresh corn, kernels shaved from the cob (about 3 cups)
4 large shallots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the corn, shallots, sugar, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the corn is caramelized, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the thyme and cook 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Sweet Onion Sandwiches
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 large rustic rolls, sliced in half
12 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, thinly sliced
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch arugula, washed and drained
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise mixture on each of the halved rolls. Place Gouda on four halves, and top with sliced onion and arugula. Top with remaining halves.