By Mary Perry Life comes and then it goes, following that ultimate dream is where it’s at. No regrets, no remorse just love and pure joy. As a girl growing up as a single child, I dreamt of 13 kids (all girls) a family farm with a big farm house in a quiet town, the clothes line filled with crisp […]
By Mary Perry
Life comes and then it goes, following that ultimate dream is where it’s at. No regrets, no remorse just love and pure joy.
As a girl growing up as a single child, I dreamt of 13 kids (all girls) a family farm with a big farm house in a quiet town, the clothes line filled with crisp sheets and little socks. The wood stove in the kitchen on slow burn with a pot of vegetable stock simmering the day away. The dream was the kids would help with family chores and play their childhoods day by day. And I would sell my jams and homemade pies by the road side of the big old farmhouse. That is the way my dream went.
Fast forward 12 years later: The year is 2001, Kenya is 5 and Gil is 1. I find a farmhouse in Maine, near where my mom is living with my grandmother. I sit on the farmhouse step and nurse Gil, I look up at the old maple trees and that was the deciding moment, I bought the farm.
I remember the day we tilled the soil of the family garden between the barn and the farmhouse, the soft beautiful dark soil. So filled with possibilities, we unloaded the composted sheep manure from the barn and just like that we had a garden.
Next was the day I came home with a small white chest of drawers from my grandmother’s attic and a green wooden window frame. I attached an umbrella with a zip tie to the chest of drawers and I painted on the sign with Martha Stewart robin’s egg blue paint strawberry jam and Basil. Kenya helped me display it all by the road with a jar for the dollars and my other grandmothers old red thermos cooler, then we ran up the driveway and hid behind the old popple tree and we waited. It wasn’t too long before the first car stopped. We were holding each other’s mouths so they wouldn’t hear us screaming with delight. We had our first customer, our first step towards Winterberry Farm. That’s where the journey began.
Fast forward to 2022 and I am taking stock in what the past 22 years has been like on Winterberry farm, a book will come but for now here is a quick version of my story in hopes that the dreamy eyed person will read my story and be inspired.
I Mary Perry formally of Lebanon CT. have raised my three kids Kenya 27, Gil 22, Sage 16, born in the living room of our farm house) on Winterberry Farm. I have homeschooled the three of them and the four of us started and named our farm, we have been self-sufficient with no other income but our income from Winterberry farm. We have followed our three dreams and listened to what our customers ask for and have been and continue to be successful.
We are a 40-acre farm known as the foster farm started and built in 1870 originally the town office of Belgrade was in our parlor. The farmhouse is a 3 story Victorian farm house, heated solely by wood with a large 2,500-gallon hot water tank in the basement to heat the house and cook stove in the kitchen to cook special meals on and to warm the kitchen on extra cold winter days. The farm is situated on Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region of Maine.
We have access to the lake in the winter and views of the lake in the summer. The barn is a shaker built 40 x 80 3 story hay barn and houses our team of horses, oxen, sheep, bunnies, quail and ducks. This is the heart of our farm and the center for Gil’s building projects from when he was a wee young man to current. We store our horse drawn sleighs and building equipment, wedding supplies for events at the farm and we dry our flowers and hay. With its rusty metal roof and newly jacked up barn (that Gil jacked up) it stands with majesticness towering over the farmhouse and the entire farm, when on great pond it is the roof of the barn that leads you to winterberry farm.
The details of what we do here and how we earn a living:
The farm store is now a 20 x 30 shaker built adorable like building that I designed in 2006. I have a commercial kitchen and brass flower cooler and beautiful handmade tiles on the floor. We are open 7 days a week year-round. We sell only we grow and make into a product. Such as, hand spun wool that we dye and sell as wool socks or skeins of wool. (from Kenya’s flocks of sheep). Or our homemade fruit pies of many flavors, breads, cookies and the freezer is packed of soups, pot pies, ready bake meals, whole chickens and cuts of lamb, let’s not forget the pesto’s. The shelves in the farm store our layered with homemade jams, pickles, relishes, salsas, coponata and dilly beans and pickled fiddleheads. The dry flower wreaths decorate the walls. And always fresh flower bouquets.
This what we do to stock this little farm store:
We are a horse and oxen powered farm, with a team of horses (Nestor and Ginger) to do the plowing of the fields, (sages project) and the oxen (Roscoe) to bring in the wood from our hardwood lot to warm the farmhouse. We have no tractors on winterberry farm, we are growing 5+ acres of vegetables and cut flowers, we grow in fields that we started and maintain as certified organic; we grow in 4 high tunnels (unheated greenhouses) to extend our season. These are greenhouses that Gil has built with beautiful cedar shake end walls with glass windows. The greenhouses allow us to grow food year-round. We also start our flowers in the fall so when the first break of spring arrives, we have flowers! Including the most gorgeous French tulips you have ever scene this side of the Atlantic.
The orchard is filled with 50+ trees of apple, pear, peach, cherry, plum. Raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries. We are a seventy-five-member vegetable and cut flower CSA farm, members come weekly to gather their box of goodies or harvest their own.
This leads us to our next venture on the farm the agritourism piece.
When Gil was four, we started a balsam tree farm. Each year we plant an additional 300 trees, prune and mow. Then we sell them for folks to pick their own in December. Complete with a oxen scoot ride Gil and his ax will harvest your tree.
We also have sleigh ride adventures on the farm. This includes a campfire and pot of soup with cocoa waiting for you, situated near our ice rink that is freshly groomed. We have a box of used skates if you need. The team of horses will emerge from the barn, and yes you can help us harness the team, for your personal sleigh ride through the fields of Winterberry Farm.
Or if you prefer come to the farm in the summer you can attend our Farm to Table dinner and finish the evening with a contra dance held in the old barn.
We offer self-guided farm tours when we are open and many families come with their picnic blankets and create family memories at Winterberry Farm.
And finally flowers — we must not forget the flowers!
I started flower designs 35 years ago. I love designing flowers for weddings. I grow flowers and make bouquets and sell them at our farm store and at market. I take a select number of weddings each summer. I’ve always loved growing flowers, they are organic (no pesticides to breath in when you smell your flowers) which makes them last longer than other flowers. They make you sing, smile and feel so loved. We have a cut your own flower garden if you choose. We also are a full-service wedding and event flower planner and designer.
So where are we now.
Well Kenya is married and living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She has her own Doula company.
Gil is a aquaculture farmer of kelp, oysters and bay scallops, on 3 tiny island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. He loves his quiet life, and he still comes home to do maintenance.
Sage is with me every day, except when she is playing fast pitch softball or alpine ski racing.
And I am right here, coming up with a plan, as I said I would do when they were all grown up. Sharing my life in hopes of inspiring others.
My life as a mom and a farmer is idyllic but not easy. I work harder and more than most and more then I should. My kids are the hardest working humans on the planet, and know how to follow their dreams. The farm has given us a purpose in life. It has allowed us to help feed our community. It has given us compassion and love for planet earth and for all human kind. That is how I know I have succeeded in raising three amazing kids.
My future will not only be Mary Perry mom of three cool kids, or Mary Perry owner of Winterberry Farm, single mom single farmer. It will continue to be something very cool!
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