TURNER, Maine — Gloria and Gregg Varney of Nezinscot Farm, a bustling Turner complex with with its own cafe, fromagerie, bakery, nursery, yarn shop, apothecary and nine kinds of animals, are being nationally recognized as “Homesteaders of the Year” by Mother Earth News.
The Kansas-based magazine plans to feature the Turner couple and their farm in the August/September issue, due on July 23.
“I’m pleased,” Gloria Varney said. “Homesteading to me, is the ability to provide for your family and your community.”
The farm on Route 117 has been growing since the college-educated couple bought the place from Gregg’s parents in 1986. In 1994, they became the first organic dairy farm in Maine.
The cafe and shops followed.
“We’ve become mentors for a lot of young, wannabe farmers,” Gloria Varney said, catching her breath outside a greenhouse. “We have interns every year. There are a handful of them that have gone on to farm for themselves.”
The Mother Earth honor began with a nomination from a customer and friend.
“I didn’t know until I got the confirmation email about two months ago,” Varney said.
The magazine often writes about homesteaders in the context of creating a healthy, responsible and self-sufficient home.
“Not only are Gregg and Gloria excellent stewards of their farm, but they make their community better by sharing healthy foods and sharing their skills,” Jennifer Kongs, the managing editor of Mother Earth News, said in a written statement.
The magazine is honoring six homesteaders this year. Others are in Nevada, Ohio, Maryland, Kansas and Deer Isle, Maine.
Winners were given books about country living, a speaking slot and tickets for one of two Mother Earth News fairs in Seven Springs, Pa., and Lawrence, Kan.
The Varneys may not make it.
“I’m looking at my funds and my availability for the fair in Pennsylvania,” Gloria Varney said.
On the other hand, they did receive a lifetime subscription and national recognition, things for which they are proud.
The couple have tried to be good homesteaders, Gloria Varney said.
“It’s just a matter of skills to preserve and take what you’re growing to sustain you through the winter months when you’re not growing,” she said. “It’s also a way of life that is being in tune to the Earth, taking care of the earth and being stewards of the land.”
And if they wanted to exist off the grid, they could.
“We sell our own meats in our shop,” Varney said. “I have a creamery where I make goat and cow cheese from our own milk. The second floor houses our own wool and fiber shop that has yarns from my sheep and goats and llamas. We have natural colors that we hand-dye here.
“I’m an herbalist,” she added. “I do a number of herbal tinctures and salves and soaps and medicines.”
And, of course, there’s the produce. What doesn’t sell as fresh is remade as pickles, marinara sauce, stewed tomatoes or relish.
“I keep some bees,” she said. “We have greenhouses for year-round production. It’s everything you would need.”
Self-sufficiency can be had with work and skill, she said.
“This farm is a way of showing people that it can still exist,” she said.