MAPLETON, Maine — A Madawaska Lake resident and filmmaker once again has shone the spotlight on life in Aroostook County with a new DVD about a Mapleton family of farmers who rely on centuries of farming methods to earn a living.
Brenda Jepson, who operates Crown of Maine Productions with husband Alan, recently released “Maple Meadow Farm,” a 53-minute show capturing the challenges and benefits of farming with workhorses in The County.
The DVD focuses on the Gregg family, who harness Belgian workhorses for tasks from twitching out logs in winter to haying in the summer on their 400-acre farm in Mapleton.
The Greggs are a fifth-generation farm family with strong agricultural roots who are committed to maintaining and preserving traditional practices farming. Family members are dedicated to preserving the integrity of the land and sustaining what they have for future generations. They supply timber, lumber, hay, grain, firewood and more through their farm.
The Crown of Maine Productions DVD follows the family through all four seasons of the year. The farm is run by Terry Gregg and his wife, Miriam, their son Matt, and his wife, Andrea. Terry and Miriam Gregg, an instructor at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, live in one farmhouse while Matt and Andrea, a special educator for child development services in Aroostook County, live across the field in a second farmhouse with their three young children, Clay, Violet and Olive.
Viewers will see Matt and Terry in the woods in the dead of winter, hitching logs to a horse so they can be hauled away.
In the summer, viewers will watch as the family harvests 8,000 to 10,000 bales of hay to sell to horse, goat and rabbit owners. They keep close to 1,000 bales for their own horses, who consume 800 to 1,000 bales a year.
Miriam Gregg said Saturday that the family is pleased with the DVD and has heard positive remarks about it.
“Brenda first approached us about doing it two years ago, and we gave her permission and she spent about two years on and off filming at the farm,” she said. “We were really surprised at how detailed and long it was. We thought it would be a relatively short film with a few pictures, but it is almost an hour long. I was really happy with how much she showcased our horses and the work that my husband and son do with the animals.”
Terry and Matt Gregg acknowledge on the DVD that horses cannot work as hard as farm equipment, especially in the summer when they must rest frequently in the heat. But they are committed to heritage farming and to passing on their knowledge to future generations.
Miriam Gregg said the family does use some equipment, but the horses are instrumental in helping with the logging and harvesting of their hay.
The DVD also illustrates the Maple Meadow Farm Festival, a two-day event held the last weekend in June on the grounds and fields of their farm. Miriam Gregg said that apart from a few volunteers, the entire event is coordinated and put on by the family. Teamsters and horses have come from as far away as Lewiston, Berwick and even Pennsylvania to take part.
Miriam and Andrea Gregg work hard to prepare for the event, making food and helping to get the grounds ready for the influx of nearly 2,000 visitors who see demonstrations of how six workhorses are used on the farm.
“We prepare food for it throughout the entire month of June, and we start planning it even earlier,” she said Saturday. “It grows every year, both in participation and in attendance. People especially love to see the animals and take pictures of the horses.”
The Greggs supplement their income by renting out apartments in Presque Isle. On Christmas Eve, they adorn two horses and a wagon with Christmas lights and take their tenants and friends on rides through the back streets of Presque Isle to see the decorated homes.
Jepson said the DVD is about more than just a family who relies on the ways of the past to help run the farm.
“It would be tempting to merely regard the Gregg’s old-fashioned farming as a bit charming, but the Greggs are practical to a fault, and when they explain how harvesting firewood with workhorse Pat will save them $28,000 this winter in heating oil, their approach makes perfect sense,” she said.
The DVD also is filled with stunning views from Maple Meadow Farm. Their land overlooks Mars Hill Mountain, the twin peaks of Quoggy Jo in Aroostook State Park, and Arnold Brook Lake. Miriam Gregg said she is happy that the DVD showed the family’s unique way of life, and praised both Jepson and narrator Dan Olson for their work.
This is one of several DVDs about life in The County created by Crown of Maine Productions. Additional videos have captured the history of The County’s Swedish Colony, the fall potato harvest, Swedish folk dancers and Acadian culture.
The DVD may be purchased at www.crownofmaineproductions.com and in stores throughout The County.