A common joke among Teen Ag crew members is that the carrots could be sold for double their standard grocery store price tag, since they were grown in a field overlooking the ocean. The salty breeze casting across the vegetable plot does more than cater to the daydreams of the farmers; it’s a reminder of how dynamic the landscape is at Wolfe’s Neck Farm.
Last week, the Teen Ag crew decided to gain a deeper understanding of the surroundings beyond their growing plot, in a theme they called “Bay Week”. With a renewed sense of excitement for spending their days on the farm—a little respite from the backbreaking work of cultivation—the crew began the week with a trip below the Little River Bridge into the low tide mud flats. They met with Ethan, a student at Maine College of Art in Portland pursuing a Master’s degree with a focus in sculpture. He brought the four crew members down the embankment and into a solid area of thick mud, leaning on a shovel as he spoke about the value of clay in history. “Thousands of years ago, it was clay that was used to invent vessels capable of holding water and food,” he began, to a captive audience. He bent down to break up the clay with his hands and invited the group to do the same.
After an exploration of the varying clay colors and textures, shovels were passed around to begin collecting the shoreline’s offerings. The project for the morning was to rebuild a collapsing cob oven in the educational gardens. Set on a pedestal of bricks, the dried clay dome had broken in recent years and sat unused. With the help of a visiting Maine summer camp group called Overland, Ethan and the crew spread layer upon layer of the clay onto the cob oven to reform the dome. Once it dries, they hope to incorporate the revitalized cob oven into educational lessons around cooking the vegetables grown on the farm.
The crew had come to realize that the hard work they put into growing the vegetables on the farm could then be cooked in an oven created from the clay beneath their feet. There was, they discovered, a connection among themselves and the varying ecosystems at Wolfe’s Neck Farm. They felt inspired by the amount of impact they had on the food they eat, how it’s grown, and the ways it can benefit the environment instead of causing harm.
Their reflections on sustainability came about again later in the week when the Teen Ag crew took a field trip to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park to try their hand at clamming. Their guide Zeb gave them an introduction into the trade and what signs to look for to ensure the clams are ready to be harvested. He passed around a chart for reference, which outlined the size and amount limitations for harvesting hard- and soft-shell clams, as well as specifications for when and where a license is required. He also told them to anticipate thick mud and gave them tips for walking in the flats.
With that, they went down to the shoreline and had their try at it. Looking for bubbles in the surface was a good indicator to rake through that area. Some crew members stuck closer to the shoreline, while others, like Maya, felt a more ambitious pull towards the center of the bay. All in all, it was not a day of abundant harvest, but it did garner moments of joy when a clam was found, moments of defeat when it was too small and had to be thrown back, and overall some good laughs.
Whitney admitted to preferring their place on the other side of the bay in the vegetable fields, and the others nodded in quick agreement. “Bay Week” brought them a great understanding of the coast, and a renewed appreciation for the ocean background behind their pile of freshly harvested carrots.