This weekend marks 5 years since I began my journey as Executive Director at Wolfe’s Neck Farm. Shortly after I accepted the job in the spring of ’12 but prior to my start date, my family and I reserved a site in the campground for a few nights. My wife and I love camping – we spent the better part of our 20’s and early 30’s camping and backpacking, having met when we both worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. But we hadn’t taken Lucy, our then 18-month-old, camping together. So, we figured it would be perfect to combine an introduction to car camping for Lucy with a get-to-know Wolfe’s Neck Farm trip. Little did we know that we were starting what would become an annual tradition – one that we look forward to as soon as our previous visit ends.
Staying at the farm for an extended period facilitates a completely different experience than the typical workweek allows for. Far too often, as part of my regular routine, I’m driving straight to the farmhouse, parking and heading inside for a work day. This is not to say that I take for granted the view out to Osprey Island from the Burnett Road bridge, because I never do. But there is something different about coming to work vs. living life, if even for a short time, at the farm. Being at the farm with my family allows me to slow down, to watch the late-day sun shining across the pastures. On early morning dog walks, I see the farmers, who seem to always be at work, moving temp fence lines, bringing the cows in for their morning milking and, particularly during this trip, putting up copious amounts of baleage. I see the tides coming and going. I hear the whistle of the osprey, the mooing and bah-ing from the barnyard. I smell the ocean air and the hear the crackle of the evening campfires. My wife, London, and I both had a few opportunities to get out on the paddle board for an early or late day paddle. Talk about sublime.
On this trip, Lucy, now 6 years old, spent the days at Farm Camp. We were essentially doing the Camp & Camp program, though we stayed in Cove Cottage so I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say we camped….more like we stayed in the campground. I have to say, the cottages (Point Senior, Bayview and Cove) are an absolute delight to stay in. The living is simple, clean, campy and now they each have electricity – so that means a fridge, which is a game-changer when it compares with feeding a family of four from a cooler for a week.
The highlights from this trip all involved watching the girls have new experiences here. They had a ball this week and we could tell they genuinely loved everything about being here. On the 4th of July, after we had spent the morning riding the farm wagon in the Freeport parade, we lounged around our site for awhile then made our way over to the children’s gardens. There, we entered the hen house to gather eggs and took them to the Wishcamper Barn to wash and dry them. The girls carefully placed them in their cartons, put the farm sticker and date on them and we walked them over to the farm stand to put them in the fridge. Everything about this experience was captivating for the girls….carefully stepping around the hens to get the eggs….admiring how many of them we had gathered….washing each and every one and, in the absence of a towel, using their t-shirts to dry them. This process, along with their interactions with the livestock and in the gardens, is providing them with an understanding of the role farms play in our lives and is helping them develop a sincere appreciation and respect for how food is produced. It’s experiences like these that make me so grateful to have the farm in my life, and have it playing such a meaningful role in the girls lives and the lives of the farm’s many thousands of annual visitors.
The morning we were leaving, it was clear none of us wanted to go. While we were packing up, we started devising plans for how we could arrange our lives to stay at the farm for a whole summer one of these years. As we were driving away, we all savored each and every view as if we wouldn’t see it for along time. Of course, I knew I’d be back tomorrow, back at work but, this time, with even greater perspective on the power of this place. Then, as I was enjoying the view out across the Ward Field and seeing the farmers hard at work raking, tedding and baling, I was passed by someone on Wolf Neck Rd. I guess my 15-mph savor-ever-last-view-of-this-place pace was too slow for them. For those of us in our car who were carrying with us the memories we’d just made….the slow speed was just right.