DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — While many businesses in rural Maine are weather-dependent, farming is the most obvious one — whether you’re raising carrots or cattle.
The late spring has delayed the planting season a little, but organic farmers such as Gene and Mary Margaret Ripley aren’t concerned about their crops.
“On April 1, we still had 32 inches of snow in the year,” said Gene Ripley. “Now, there’s only a little patch left on the front lawn.”
Last week, they took advantage of one sunny day to start rototilling a greenhouse garden for a crop of carrots.
“Actually, the fields are in good shape,” said Gene Ripley.
The concept is relatively simple. Customers buy a share in the farm’s harvest before the season begins so the farmers have adequate cash for seed and supplies.
Shareholders enjoy fresh vegetables for 16 weeks, from July through October. The boxes include a unique blend of popular favorites combined with specialties not found in grocery stores. Each week’s offering is different as new crops come into season.
But the backbone of every box is produce such as tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, onions, cucumbers and winter squash and a weekly newsletter full of recipes, cooking tips and storage information.
There is also a winter CSA with 10 pickups from November through March, so there really isn’t an off-season for the farm.
“We’ve only had the farm for five years and have been with CSA since 2011,” said Mary Margaret Ripley. “We started with 16 customers back then and we’re up to 84 right now with a waiting list.”
As the couple explains, the Ripley Farm is not the traditional “my dad’s dad’s dad started this farm.”
Mary Margaret is from Austin, Texas, and was attending Bates College in Lewiston when she met Gene. In 2004, Gene left Bates for the “daily dirt, seeking training on Maine farms.” They discovered their dream place on Merrill’s Mills Road in Dover-Foxcroft in 2009 and — in their view — things have gone exceptionally well.
“No doubt it’s hard work and we had a bit of a learning curve,” said Gene Ripley. “But the CSA program has really helped and I think more and more people are taking an interest in organic farming.”
But even those who don’t participate in the CSA program aren’t left out of healthy food choices. Customers can phone or email in their orders for summer vegetables from Ripley Farm starting July 2. Orders are taken on Mondays and can be picked up — freshly harvested and washed — two days later. An ordering sheet and availability list will be posted on the farm’s website by the end of June.