Generational Farming with the Wyman's
"It's the first day of corn [so] it's busier than ever!"
Marilyn sits behind the counter with a blue patterned mask on while one of the farm cats, Leonardo, lounges. Immediately Holly and I go to pet the (informal) Wyman's mascot.
She smiles. I had just asked her if we had her permission to photograph her and the farm and ask a few questions. "Cats can be the star- they don't need to wear a mask!" We each chuckle.
Richard is unloading the mornings cucumbers from a large tote. "Oh, they're just foolish". He turns to look at Leonardo and Marilyn replies, "They're cats!".
Marilyn proceeds to share the goings-ons about the farm. "Tomatoes are ripening slowly. Like every year, it's the same way. We got a lot of zucchini and summer squash. Cauliflower and broccoli. The cabbage is doing great, onions too."
I ask Marilyn how long she's been at this. Marilyn smiles. "Since 1970.... Long time huh?"
In the beginning Marilyn and Richard raised beef with their vegetables and milked cows for 25 years. Marilyn describes what changed for them. Marilyn tells us the milk prices were too low. They couldn't pay for their grain which they turn into hay to sell. So they focused their energy on seasonal vegetable growing and logging on their land.
Marilyn and Richard own around 1,000 acres of land between Milo and a property in Monson, and they are farming on about 25 acres of that land. Richard noted the nice rock-free soil along the Pleasant River that their farm borders. They are well known in the community for their corn, potatoes, and other popular local crops.
The barn that they store hay in was built in the 1880s. It's been a tough year for hay due to the drastic weather, and they only predict having about half of what they've had in past years.
"When you don't have the rain, it's hard to catch up" Richard tells us as we survey his fields near the river. These fields are "river bottom land". It floods practically every year, in the spring and late fall. They rotate their vegetables and are considering ways to rotate their corn.
Still, when we met over by the hay barn, it smelled like first cut hay, stacked high up to the ceiling towards the back of the building. Richard points to the entryway by his feet.
"[The hay] used to be as high as can be! It's been a strange year."
This year has been particularly tough with the unusual weather changes and due to Covid19. It's too difficult to wear masks in the field pitching hay or harvesting so "it's just the two boys". One is named Patrick. I asked him about their customer response to wearing masks. "Oh there might be one a day (without a mask)'. Marilyn quipped that if they don't want to wear a mask they don't need to be there. She says she has only lost one customer due to their mask policy.
But, like many folks who raise food, keeping a faith beyond certainty prevails. And for Richard, this has been instilled for generations. When I asked him if he always knew he wanted to farm he replied, "Oh pretty much since forever. My grandfather farmed in Abbot, my father too."
It's this attitude that is resilience in action. Despite it all, the hay gets pitched, the vegetables are harvested and the stand remains open while the farm cats greet customers. We're grateful for their hard work that lets us deliver produce to seniors who can't leave their homes in the Brownville/Milo region. We tip our hats to you, dear Wyman's!