Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Farm Profile: Six River Farm

Gabrielle Gosselin and Nate Drummond have roots in New England and wanted to return there to start their own farm in 2007. They brought not only their youthful enthusiasm for growing healthy food to the project, but also solid field experience and practical agricultural education. Through Maine FarmLink, they found 11 acres of land available to lease at George Christopher's 1,000-acre "Incubator Farm", on the shores of Merrymeeting Bay in Bowdoinham, Maine. It is unusual land for Maine with flat, fertile fields, and few rocks.
Six River Farm proprietor Nate Drummond loads turnips destined for a local farmer's market.

Gabrielle worked at the Greenmarkets in New York City. She and Nate then went on to apprentice at Paul and Sandy Arnold's Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, New York. They credit that experience with giving them the confidence to start their own certified-organic vegetable farm. They paid close attention to all facets of the Arnolds' diverse market vegetable operation, including the financials and bookkeeping.

Armed with this education, the couple planned Six River Farm to be a model of efficiency and profitability from day one. Their initial goal was to make a living from 5 to 10 acres of mixed vegetables. They began with the cultivation of just 2 acres, but quickly ramped up their production to include flowers and blueberries.

Their lease on the "Incubator Farm" includes the use of pre-existing barns, coolers, and a unique equipment-sharing arrangement with the other tenant farmers.

"We can invest in equipment we know we need, but our neighbors don't have, and that way we all can share," says Nate. They have increased their farm size by leasing an additional 10 acres from other landowners in Bowdoinham and have purchased a house with 7 additional acres of fields that they will be bringing into production over the next several years.

They currently use three types of tunnels for growing, including five caterpillar tunnels and two Rolling Thunder™ moveable tunnels. The caterpillar tunnels enable them to grow early greens followed by peppers and eggplants. The Rolling Thunder™ tunnels will cover other solanaceous crops and fall greens.

Gabrielle and Nate feel fortunate to have vital farmer's markets nearby. Eighty percent of their income comes from these markets. They sell at three markets a week as well as at several restaurants and natural food stores. They are passionate about their work and about using sustainable farming practices for the health of the land and of their community, and so they personally attend these markets in order to get to know their customers better.

"We enjoy engaging with our customers," Gabrielle said. "We like to learn their names, hear their stories, and take the time to talk about things beyond the lettuce they are buying. They can expect us to be there."

Photo Slideshow of Six River Farm, Bowdoinham, Maine

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