When Emilia Carbone first saw the land her husband, Jed Beach, had found she didn’t even get out of the car. “This is it,” she’d said, the land they’d wanted, been looking for since college. “I just knew it.”
Both Jed and Emilia are Maine natives, she from Portland and he from Wilton. Her mom was a master gardener, and Emilia grew up with her example. Jed’s parents had an organic homestead; his boyhood jobs included milking goats and raking blueberries. These two met at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, though it was on the long rides back to Maine together where they really got to know one another. After college they learned farming techniques working together on an educational nonprofit farm in Natick.
Finding land in Maine had always been their goal. Jed had gone on to get an MBA from Antioch University in New Hampshire, a degree focused on running a farm business, both organizationally and environmentally sustainable. It was about this time that they put their plan on paper – a vision statement for their future which they’ve revisited yearly. The requirements for that piece of land were those of young 20 somethings: it must be walking distance to a bar and art district but not on a busy road. Emilia would later add “anywhere but Lincolnville.”
Along with their land criteria, Jed and Emilia had early on articulated their balanced ecosystem: Family, Farm, Environment. When they’ve strayed away they’ve known enough to pull back, to bring their lives back into balance.
By 2013 when they finally found it, their future farm, they were older, and some of the criteria they’d written down back then had fallen away. They laugh at that life plan now, but in fact it has led them exactly to where they are today: 3 Bug Farm, Lincolnville, Maine, working – and protecting – the land themselves, while raising three little boys with another on the way.
MONDAY, April 22
Selectmen meet, 6 p.m., Town Office
TUESDAY, April 23
Needlework group, 4-6 p.m., Library
WEDNESDAY, April 24
Planning Board meets, 7 p.m., Town Office
THURSDAY, April 25
Soup Café, Noon-1 p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
SUNDAY, April 28
Installation of New Pastor, 4 p.m., United Christian Church
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at 12:15 p.m., Wednesdays & Sundays at 6 p.m., United Christian Church
Lincolnville Community Library, open Tuesdays 4-7, Wednesdays, 2-7, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 706-3896.
Soup Café, every Thursday, noon—1p.m., Community Building, Sponsored by United Christian Church. Free, though donations to the Community Building are appreciated
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 789-5984.
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m., Children’s Church during service, 18 Searsmont Road
May 1: Avian Haven talk at Library
June 18: Eighth Grade Graduation
June 19: Last Day of School
Jobs in Maine followed. Jed worked at Aldemere Farm in Rockport, and Emilia became caretaker at Kelmscott Farm on Lincolnville’s Van Cycle Road. They lived in the Kelmscott house, which was empty much of the time. For those who remember, Kelmscott was run as an educational farm where endangered breeds of pigs, sheep, cows and horses were raised.
When the property was sold, the new owner, Garo Armen, of New York City, hired the couple to stay on and start a working vegetable operation which he named Ararat Farm.
“We were young and eager,” they say now, and with no worries about raising capital to finance the venture, it was an exciting undertaking for a couple of landless farmers.
Before long Ararat was shipping 75 cases of kale three times a week – 1,000s of bunches, Jed says – making the Lincolnville farm the main supplier of kale to all New England Hannaford stores.
Plenty of beets, parsley, cherry tomatoes and more went along with that kale. The couple found themselves with a dozen or more employees, a facet of farming they hadn’t figured into their careful equations for a balanced future. Oh, and by now, two little boys, Ray and Silas, then aged 3 years and 5 months, were right in the middle of their busy life.
An operation of this size naturally meant machinery moving around the barnyard and fields, not a safe place for children. The juxtaposition of values – theirs and those of this expanding farm – was stark. Revisiting their three principles reminded them of what they needed to do.
Remember Emilia’s aversion to Lincolnville? What was that all about?
A city girl by upbringing, despite her extensive experience as a farmer, Emilia liked the anonymity of Portland where she could wander around and no one would know her. Lincolnville was the opposite of that, where everyone knew your name, knew your business, or thought they did. That was a foreign concept to her.
But over the years at Kelmscott/Ararat she’d come to appreciate her neighbors, one stopping by with a basket of peaches from his tree, or visits with the farmer across the way, and sharing baby stories with the woman at the end of their road who seemed to get pregnant on the same schedule. Lincolnville was starting to look pretty good.
The land they found was indeed in Lincolnville, on Hope Road (Route 235), a somewhat busy road, but bounded on one side by a narrow dirt track, Wiley Neck Road, leading down to Megunticook cottages. Of course, there was no bar within walking distance, any semblance of an art scene was many miles away. Not what the 25 year-olds had been looking for, but perfect to the couple, who would, in a couple of years, see their third son, Luca born, settling into family life.
Jed and Emilia left Ararat in 2014, determined to carry out their own vision of a balanced life, a concept they put into words years ago. First is a vow to the land, 17 acres, half open field, half woods and swamp. Swallowtail butterflies, dragonflies, and fireflies were everywhere, a sign of a balanced ecosystem. The name – 3 Bug Farm – honors that, along with a vow to never overtake the wild places. The open field would be theirs to farm organically, the other half they would preserve.
The first summer they were there, living in the house they had built, Emilia and the little boys roamed all around, discovering a brook, the lake, the woods. Jed, meanwhile, was yanking Christmas tree stumps, a couple of hundred of them, out with his tractor. Soil tests revealed they had a mildly acidic soil, so a lot of lime, phosphate and gypsum was worked into the two planting fields they laid out. That first year, as the soil was rebalancing, the crops didn’t grow so well, but by the second year healthy plants showed how much it was improving.
A large greenhouse went up early on, where seedlings were for sale and for planting out in the field. It’s in here, inside the warmth of the high tunnel, where Ray, Silas, and Luca have their winter sandbox, a place to play when outside’s too cold, too wet, or muddy. Grabbing jackets and boots on a cold April day they run out to the greenhouse, where they easily navigate the rows of tomatoes, tucked under tunnels of row cover, instinctively stepping over and around the growing plants.
These little boys are the third leg of Jed and Emilia’s balanced life – the family part.
At two, Luca is still learning his place in it, exploring the world he lives in. One day last summer his mom lost track of him for a while; the boys have free run of the garden rows, and she finally found him sitting contentedly next to the cucumbers, “just enjoying” he told his mother.
Eight-year-old Ray does Friday deliveries with Emilia, holding doors open for her, carrying in orders, giving invoices to storeowners.
Silas, five, does the Tuesday deliveries with his dad. They pick blackberries (and learn they must first wash hands) and cherry tomatoes; help plant and weed.
How does a family of five (about to be six come September) survive on a seasonal vegetable farm? Jed has put his MBA to work as a consultant with his own business, “Farm Smart”, advising other farmers. He currently works two days a week on his own farm with a goal of spending four days this summer. Emilia is a full-time farmer/mother.
Their intention was always to grow organic vegetables for wholesale accounts, and 3 Bug provides produce all season to a long list of local stores: Lincolnville General Store, Fresh Off the Farm, Good Tern Coop, Belfast Coop, Main Street Market, French and Brawn, Maine Street Meats, Megunticook Market, as well as many restaurants in the Midcoast. But a small farm stand up on Hope Road has proven popular with local customers as well.
As they begin their fifth year at 3 Bug Farm there are some improvements in the works. First up is an eight-foot tall deer fence enclosing the entire planted area. Jed and his dad will install some 2,000 feet of woven wire fence on 12-foot cedar posts to protect the crops. Last year the deer ate a third of everything they grew, including all the grapes the night before they planned to harvest them! That won’t happen again.
The farm stand gets attention as well with a brand new shed from Amish Backyard Buildings of Unity already in place. The addition of washing, cooling, and storage capabilities, as well as expanded parking, a better driveway, and new sign are all part of the plan. Jed and Emilia have started an Indiegogo campaign, hoping to raise $10,000 to help fund these improvements.
Driving away after a damp, cold morning spent talking in Jed and Emilia’s cozy home, I realized how much smarter about living on the land this generation is than my own had been. We were a mixed lot, going at it pell mell, diving in with our eyes closed. A few, very few of us survived – and eventually even thrived – the rigors of mud season, wood heat, pigs/cows/goats/chickens, and gardens that ended the season choked with weeds.
Those of our offspring who took to the life went at it intentionally, putting their college years, their post-high school years to good use with apprenticeships on farms, learning how to run a business as well as grow stuff. Knowing what their goal was. It makes me happy to see it happening right here in the town I call home.
Candidates for town offices are: Selectman: David Barrows, LCS School Committee: Jared Harbaugh, Budget Committee: Petrea Allen, Robyn Tarantino, John Williams. Voting will be in June just before Town Meeting.
Tuesday the Needlework Group meets from 4-6 p.m. Newcomers always welcome!
From the number of bags I saw left on the side of Lincolnville’s roads this past weekend it looks like the second annual Roadside Clean-up was a success. Whoever picked up along Ducktrap Road did a great job as I’ve been eyeing the winter’s debris ever since the snow finally melted, thinking one of these days to start carrying a bag on my morning walk and pick it up. And now it’s done! The project is a joint effort of the Midcoast Waste Watch and Lincolnville Community Library.
Condolences to the family of Pat Feener Pease who passed away last week.
Briar and Jon Fishman are hosting an organizing event for Bernie Sanders’ campaign on April 27, upstairs at the General Store. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP through this link.
United Christian Church
Rev. Elizabeth Barnum will be installed as the pastor of United Christian Church in a ceremony next Sunday, April 28, 4 p.m. at the church. The community is invited to join the congregation in welcoming her; a reception in the Community Building will follow.