Aldermere herd management in able hands of Beltie veteran
ROCKPORT — When Heidi Baker advanced from her post as Aldermere Farm’s herd manager to take the reins as general manager of Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields Preserve, she said leaving a role focused on the daily care of the cattle was one of the things she would miss the most. With a new arrangement, however, Baker will stay involved while performing her new role. MCHT has hired Rockport native Ellie Pendleton, 21, to assume Baker’s former role managing the herd at Aldermere; her first day was April 30.
Pendleton said her official title is herd management assistant, and with Baker’s tutelage, she is performing many of the duties of herd management including daily care and feeding of the 100-plus cattle currently at the farm. Presently, since all of the cows that were due to calve this spring have had their babies — 22 total — she is working with Baker to set up breeding protocol.
Additional responsibilities involve organizing pastures, and every aspect of herd care that could arise. Pendleton said her work day is typically 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with rotating weekends and additional hours as the farm’s needs require. She said that 4-H students assist with the afternoon feeding, and although Baker is the head of that program, Pendleton enjoys the opportunity to interact with the students and lend help as needed.
Each work day begins with a meeting between she and Baker to set priorities for the day ahead.
“Heidi and I can work as a team, with Heidi still here, it’s a real team effort.” She said. “Being able to work and train with Heidi has been wonderful.”
Pendleton has worked with Baker for approximately a decade through farm hands, 4-H and other pursuits related to Aldermere. She approximates that includes 17 4-H projects during her eight years in the program, from raising market lambs to show cattle. She remained in the 4-H program through her Sophomore year at the University of Maine.
A graduate of Camden Hills Regional High School, she was a participant in the Aldermere Farm Hands program beginning in middle school. Baker said in a January interview that the farm hands program is offered by Aldermere because there is often a wait for a spot in 4-H. The program allows students gain relevant experience on the farm while waiting for a coveted opening in 4-H.
“I went through 4-H [also at Aldermere] off to college, and now I’m back,” she said, smiling.
MCHT first began advertising the herd management position at the end of December 2017. She said that they had an outstanding set of applicants, but ultimately selected Pendleton.
“In a perfect world, a team approach to this position makes sense,” she said. “Having someone that I know and trust to handle the herd and decisions almost identically to the way I would feels really good to me. It’s also great for the community because there will be virtually no changes,” Baker said.
She praised Pendleton’s track record of hard work and attention to detail in her various roles growing up involved with the farm and its programs.
“The farm was kind of Ellie’s playground as a kid,” Baker said.
There is a lot going on at Aldermere that differs from standard farm management, and Pendleton is intimately familiar with the many programs that the farm runs.
“You really have to love it [at the farm] you live it, it’s your world,” said Baker. “We wanted to find someone that loves MCHT and loves the belties, and Ellie is that person.”
Pendleton took the current semester off from UMaine, where she has pursued duel majors in biology and animal science. While she could have graduated this month with those majors, she elected to add secondary education as a third major catalyzing the decision to take a break this semester.
She will pursue her capstone project and add classes through the resources available both on the University of Maine’s various campuses and online.
“There are lots of options,” she said. “I loved research and science from my high school career, but adding secondary education opens up a lot of doors. I love mentoring and working with other youth.”
She said she had seen the job posting for the herd management position on various agriculture and land trust websites, and ultimately determined that it was “a really good fit.”
Thus, she threw her hat in the ring for the position.
“I’ve been through the gamut of just about every program here, and I’m very happy here,” she said. “I think we’re in a great transitional phase.”
Pendleton plans to occupy the on-site farmhouse as Baker and her family have done. The Baker family will continue to live on the property as well, but in a different residence. Pendleton said that her parents are ecstatic at her new professional undertaking.
“I found a career that covers all of my interests in a familiar place,” she said. “I love the Camden-Rockport region and I just feel incredibly fortunate.”
Her mother used to show dairy replacement heifers as a younger woman, and her sister, Frances, was also involved with 4-H and Aldermere.
“Maine Coast Heritage Trust has such an extensive program, it has allowed me to have a continuing beneficial experience,” she said. She added that she is “excited to help cultivate experiences for other youth.”
Pendleton said her long, albeit recent, history with the farm means that she knows many of the students that volunteer or participate in 4-H, some had siblings that she worked with. One of her 4-H show heifers, a beautiful dun called “Aldermere Amazement” just turned five and had her second calf in the spring.
“I really feel that I’ve done so much here as a student, I’m very excited to be on the staff side of that,” she said.
Jenna Lookner can be reached at email@example.com