Young farmers working together on the midcoast

Posted June 11, 2012, at 7:19 p.m.

MONROE, Maine — When I arrived at North Branch Farm at 6:40 a.m., Tyler Yentes was in the kitchen cleaning up and getting ready for the morning milking. We ventured out, curious as to why the cows were not returning to the barn as they normally do each morning.

We found a new calf standing in the dewy grass with his mother and the rest of the herd. Tyler picked up the little animal, grappling it as he walked back to the barn.

“It’s the easiest way to get the calf there and the mother will follow it,” he said.

The small herd of American Milking Devons mooed as the mother and her new calf left the field.

It has been a mere six years since Seth Yentes, 26, started his fruit tree nursery with 50 trees on his parents’ land. This year he has about 5,000 small trees — representing a fraction of the work and projects at North Branch Farm in Monroe.

About three years ago, Seth and his brother Tyler, 23, bought their own old farm in Monroe, restarting it as a highly diverse operation. The farm is diverse in regard to its products and the sharing of responsibilities. Seth spearheads the apple orchard and the fruit tree nursery. Tyler handles the dairy cows, the start of their licensed dairy and possible beef production. Seth’s wife, Anna Shapley-Quinn, handles the vegetable gardens and their winter community-supported agriculture. Tyler’s partner, Elsie Gawler, 22, oversees the sheep and fleece.

“We all have our responsibilities but when there is a busy time, like planting vegetables or the orchard, we all work together,” said Gawler.

To create extra income, Seth gives cello lessons and Tyler teaches violin. Elsie also works off the farm during the winter.

“We don’t play much music for ourselves during the growing season, because we are too busy,” Tyler said.

They have been producing vegetables for a winter agriculture program, using organic methods, and have applied for organic certification from the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association. They hope to receive the certificate this year.

For larger projects, such as the orchard planting, they enlist the help of friends. This spring, a crew of about 15 people planted about 440 trees in two days.

Seth said the farm had been lying dormant for years when they bought it.

“The previous owners were too old to run it and later moved. But some family members live nearby, and I think they are pleased to see that it is a working farm again.”