Quill's End Farm

Dive into the inspiring story of Phill and Heather at Quill’s End Farm in Maine, where the couple confronts the trials and triumphs of life on their beloved family farm. This poignant short film uncovers their individual tales, highlighting the relentless effort, commitment, and love that fuel their agricultural journey. Watch as FarmDrop Stories takes you behind the scenes of Quill’s End Farm, celebrating the unwavering dedication and spirit of Phill, Heather, and their farming legacy.

FarmDrop Stories is an ongoing series of short films documenting the stories of farmers and producers across Maine.


An Interview with Heather & Phil Retberg

Quill's End Farm, North Penobscot, Maine

April, 30th, 2024


Hannah: Hey, Phil, can you tell us where we are?


Phil: You are at Quill’s End Farm in North Penobscot, and we are a small, diversified farm specializing in dairy. We also grow meats in season, typically having pork and veal.


Hannah: Have you always been a farmer?


Phil: Yes and no. Animals and I have always been drawn to each other. Even though I grew up in a city of 3 million people, I had chickens and rabbits in my backyard. Injured critters always ended up on my doorstep.


Hannah: Can you tell us a little about the story of Quill’s End Farm?


Phil: Quill’s End Farm was an abandoned homestead for about 30 years before we bought it from Paul Birdsall, who had Horsepower Farm and was instrumental in starting the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Maine Farmland Trust. We were one of the first Farm Links through Maine Farmland Trust. Farm Link is a program set up to pair young farmers with suitable farms. We bought this farm in 2004, moved the house here, built a barn, and have been grass farming ever since.


Hannah: What makes your farm different or unique?


Phil: In the 21st century, I’ve tried to set it up to run on human power instead of machine power. We grab a shovel instead of a tractor when possible. My kids have been involved in very specific ways, having their own enterprises from a young age. Another aspect is that we’re not specializing but trying to cast a wide net, which is unusual in today’s highly specialized farming landscape.


Hannah: Would you describe your farm as a community farm or operation?


Phil: There’s no way it exists without the community. Many of our customers have also become our friends. Without community guardian angels, we wouldn’t be farming.


Aaron: Can you give me the rundown of your family and who’s working on the farm?


Phil: My wife, Heather, and I have three children. Alexander, our oldest, is 25 and a carpenter. Benjamin is 21, studying sustainable agriculture and hoping to incorporate draft power into our operations. Caroline is 18, just graduated high school, and manages the goat herd, selling cheese and milk.


Aaron: So amazing. Heather was telling me that while you’re operating nearly full-time on the farm now, it wasn’t always that way.


Phil: Nearly full time means I put in about 90 hours a week. But yes, I haven’t worked off the farm since 2010. For nearly a decade before that, I was a carpenter and ran my own crew to subsidize the farm.


Hannah: What is your favorite part about farming?


Phil: So originally, the way we ended up on a farm was because we could think of no better way to raise kids. And Alexandra at the time was a newborn. That was at a different farm where we were managers. But I mean, there is no reason to farm other than it’s like something you can’t escape it. It’s either in you or it’s not. And I’ve sometimes compared it to a terminal disease.


Hannah: I’m not surprised you’d say that. And I get it. I don’t get it because I’m not a farmer. But I’m like, when you can’t stop doing something, even though it doesn’t make sense. Is that sort of. What about it doesn’t make sense. And is it is it like are the is it everything external to the farm? Like everything within the farm has its logic and reason, right?

Phil: We also live in a time where consumerism is king. 150 years ago, you could buy a farm inexpensively, pull most of your resources off the land, and didn’t have much need for money. Now, every time you turn around, you need to pay for something. Farming with a mortgage and young children is not feasible according to many, like Elliott Coleman and Joel Salatin’s wife.


Hannah: What does that say about what we need as aware customers?


Phil: Awareness is part of it, but the hardest thing about direct marketing farm products is getting it into people’s mouths. Once you do that, they’re sold because you cannot compare an egg or milk from a small diversified farm to those grown in controlled conditions. If we could make small diversified farms the foods of choice, our communities would be more alive.


Hannah: So do we need to figure out a way to tell the story of why we want a network of smaller farms working together?


Phil: We don’t just need to tell a story. The story tells itself. It’s about remembering and giving the experience of farms to the younger generations. As humans, we are intrinsically tied to the soil, and when we put our hands in the soil, our minds remember.


Hannah: Thank you, Phil. Can I ask you a question about Farmdrop? I feel like I’m trying to make it easier for people to choose our local farms.


Phil: That’s a change in culture. Even Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms started shipping nationwide. With smartphones, we’ve gotten busier, and this puts a level of convenience into shopping for local foods through Farmdrop that you don’t necessarily get if you’re driving around to the farms.


Hannah: We’ll do our best to drive them to you. Thank you.


Hannah: I consider you one of the most inspiring and amazing sort of food systems advocates. When I grow up, I want to be like Heather Retberg. But who is Heather Retberg?


Heather: That’s a really existential question, Hannah. Thinking about the farm and that sort of existential nature of that question, not just me, but the whole family, has really grown up out of the soil of this farm. It’s shaped how we respond to life. Over the years, I’ve increasingly felt that the more we work with creation, the more we understand why Jesus spoke in parables. For me, raising the children on the farm and homeschooling was all integrated. They can work at cross purposes sometimes too, because everything feels urgent. But the lessons of life were going to be what we were doing while we were working. Some of those were hard lessons about really beloved animals dying or births going sideways. But some of them were really glorious things where Phil would be gone, and Ben and Carolyn and I would be down in the lower pastures, and Ben’s cow was having a calf, and the three of us brought up the calf in the garden wagon.


Heather: Ben would be coaxing the calf onto the mama. That was just very much a part of the living and breathing of life for these big cycles, the birth and the death. Carolyn had a goat kid named Fern that got tetanus. She was so stiff and almost dead, and we just kept working with her. She survived and is now our most friendly goat because she’s so attached to humans. That’s also been a deep part of why I’ve stayed with the advocacy work so long too. When you just stick with something, you can bring impossible things away from a brink by sticking with it and adopting a certain humility that recognizes things that are much bigger than you at work. But also that we have a role to play, and that role is important.


Hannah: And Heather, what are you advocating for? And is it you, Heather? Is it Quill’s End? If someone is like advocating, what are we advocating for?


Heather: What is the farm advocacy? I mean, yes, absolutely. It’s been the whole family over the years of the food sovereignty movement. At the beginning, it was a group of five of us, including Phil. We were responding to challenges that arose on the farm over what we thought were just scale-appropriate regulations. Then we got involved by going to testify in Augusta and share our story and bring our people. We wrote a letter to our farm customers and were just explaining the way that rules are being changed. They were just redefining who we are and what we do. And that would disappear us. If it disappears us, it can disappear a lot of small farms of our scale. And it’s all happening administratively. It’s not a democratic process. So that’s where it shifted pretty quickly from being just about scale-appropriate regulation so that farms that are family farms or diversified, really the regulations really push towards specialization and taking the diversity out of the farm. If farms of our scale and our diversity were going to survive, we would need to have some way of engaging with the process. And especially it all came down to the definition of language. We would need to reclaim an authority to define ourselves and what we did.


Heather: And so that, in the tiniest nutshell, is what the food sovereignty movement became about was making sure that not only could we have a voice at the table, but those tables weren’t open to us. It became clear time after time that those tables weren’t for us. We had to create our own table. We had to say who we are and what we do. And then we had to, I would say, regain, not win, but regain the authority as communities within the borders of municipalities to make those decisions for ourselves and govern our own food exchanges. So it definitely the whole family was part of that. You know, as part of the homeschooling, the kids came with me oftentimes to the state capital. More of it was going with a dear friend, Bonnie Preston. May she rest with angels. Across the state to towns and talking to people in churches and Granges and school gymnasiums and just letting people know what was shifting in the landscape, that we were losing the ability to define ourselves. And once we were redefined in a different way, then we no longer could practice this really traditional food way amongst each other in community. So that’s what we set out to protect and to build a legal space around that would be safe to continue into the future.


Hannah: Beautifully explained. So sort of at the very core of this is feeding communities, feeding your neighbors, and protecting their ability to come and buy your food and eat your food. So where is that right now? How does that feel right now? Does it feel protected?


Heather: Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, it reminds me that, like when we were trying to distill like, what is it we’re trying to do, it was always through asking questions. And then the answers would sort of tell us like, Oh, who’s making these decisions right now? Who are those decisions benefiting? And it would always lead to another set of questions. But what it distilled to for us were three questions which were Who’s defining right now? What kinds of relationships do we want to have with each other in our own communities? And then how do we encode that into law? And so the most obvious answer was through this representative democracy that we have. But we found that that was being really thwarted by what we came to consider the triangle of doom, which were agencies, lobbyists, and maybe I’m forgetting the third one right now, but that we couldn’t get past that without a certain level of engagement from community. So to answer your question, how does it how does it sit right now? Is it protected? It is protected. But what we’ve found is that every time we have either a legislative victory at the state level or even at the community level in our towns and cities, there’s always that kind of law of physics that comes into play that there’s an equal and opposite pressure or a greater pressure once there’s a success, because we’re not supposed to have those successes.


Heather: And so if we are, then there’s there’s more corporate pressure on agencies to write rules in a way that that isn’t going to benefit this kind of community based model of exchanging food. So right now, that’s where we are at this very moment. We’re trying to protect. In 2017, the state of Maine passed the Maine Food Sovereignty Act, which essentially just recognized that communities have the authority to define our food exchanges when it’s just from one person to another. So it’s a very small universe, but we claim that authority in that space, in a legal field, and it’s been challenged ever since. So right now there’s a challenge from the Department of Health and Human Services to a small food based business in Kenduskeag. And so we’ve realized. Language. Language can be used as such a weapon. And so we’re hearing things like a meal isn’t considered food, or if you produce everything at your site of production, then that means that must include all the salt and the spices and the sugar. And so therefore, it would really gut the whole main Food Sovereignty Act if in order to produce. Food and sell it to your community. You must produce every single ingredient, which was never the intent. So those are the kinds of kind of granular. Battles, for lack of a better word, that we’re we’re trying to continue to protect that space that we carved out.


Hannah: What do you see as like the the for your farm in this community? Like where where is it that you sort of find like the joy of connection that you’re trying to protect? Like, where is the like if you had to explain to somebody, Oh yeah, why is this so special? Like, why should we all be protecting this? What is it?


Heather: I think what makes it so special, the connection that we’re trying to protect happens every day down the farm store driveway. So because of our visibility on the highway, but also because when our own family was small, we wanted to maintain sort of the intactness of the farm being integrated into the children’s lives and not pulling everybody up, packing up, going to farmers markets, coming back. And we thought it was better to invite the community to come to the farm. We’ve had children in the milking parlor, so when I think about traditional foodways, I think about passing on that, that knowledge that that people have become disconnected from in how our food is produced. I mean, especially we find with livestock that people really don’t understand those cycles anymore, but we can show them those cycles and whether they’re in the milking parlor with us or it’s not uncommon that someone will come into the farm kitchen while we’re packaging cheese and ask questions or take a walk out and see the cows and hear about the rotation and what does the cow pie have to do with the soil, Have to do with the cow, have to do with the milk.


Heather: Our favorite thing is to have like a farm tour that goes from cow pie to ice cream. Like are these things connected? And those those educational connections are important, but also the relational ones like I love when people who haven’t seen each other in a long time see each other in the farm store and they catch up after like 15 years of not seeing each other or or just for us and for them, those like touch points that we have each week. And you kind of end up holding the fabric of each other’s lives. And over time, I’ve come to think that it’s really not the food that’s the most important thing that we’re exchanging. It’s sort of a byproduct. Of this. This kind of bigger relationship that that that people sort of honor us and give us this privilege of entering their lives in this way. And then they happen to get milk or they happen to get something to eat as well.


Hannah: It’s just you don’t only lose milk or yogurt when you lose the protection around your farm, you lose all of the community that that farm represents. So I. Yeah, I appreciate that. And.


Hannah: So what’s it like? Farming. What? What do you love about it? What’s hard?


Heather: I honestly think so. As the primary mother and I would say Phil is definitely at this point the primary farmer. But the thing that’s difficult is the same. Like there are all these joys when you have little kids bringing them up and all the goofy things they say and the funny things they do. And it’s just so fun that part of it. And the same with farming like most of it is. It’s just it’s the constancy that is actually difficult over time, you know, especially when we’re milking because that’s, that’s a rhythm that bookends each day, every morning, every night there will be, you know, animals milked, it will be bottled, it will be processed. And those are biological cycles that have to stay in motion all the time. You know, they don’t take breaks for family occasions or celebrations. So the constancy, I think, is what’s difficult about it. And and the constancy is also what’s wonderful about it, because it does it does just sort of hold us in, in this, um, this kind of greater web of life that happens on this little bit of acreage on this farm. So I think that it’s maybe like a lot of things in life that way that the thing that’s hard about it is also the thing that’s really wonderful about it.


Hannah: Um, where can sort of. Yeah, talking more about the concept of like food sovereignty and being able to define how we eat and how we connect with each other through food. Can we talk a little bit about, like the choices that we have in the community of like, let’s say, Blue Hill? We’ve got the farmers market, we have the co-op, we have now Hannaford’s, we have the farm coming directly to the farm. Like what? What would you say is the. Sort of. I don’t know. How do we how do we talk about food sovereignty with all these sort of choices? How does one choose food sovereignty? And why is it important to understand that concept? I don’t think most people understand or have thought about or know how to define.


Heather: Yeah, I think you hit on two really important things about food sovereignty that are so important. One is Hannaford. So remind me if I forget to come back to that. But but the other one is that that essential to the definition of food sovereignty is that that the people who. Eat food and the people who grow food or fish food or harvest food or forage food. That that’s the entity that’s making the decisions about how we exchange food and what food is available. And so in our community, I think because people have been engaged in the practical application of food sovereignty for decades now, I know Phil mentioned Paul Birdsall, and each generation stands on the generation of those who came before us. So Paul had a vision for preserving the farmland. And then when we came along two decades later and started talking about what we were experiencing, he was he was he was more furious than we were because he suddenly saw this vision he had for getting farmers on the land and increasing land access and that this next generation was coming. But if farmers can’t make a livelihood from the farm, then then what good is it?


Hannah: We were defining sort of food sovereignty and talking through sort of this decision making between farmers and customers. And we went on to talk about Paul Birdsall and his dedication to not only preserving land, but trying to. Well, how you’d mentioned livelihood and how that comes about.


Heather: Right. So that each each generation building on what those have who’ve gone before have done. So for us now we’re no longer the young farmers on the block, if you will. But we were thrilled last year when Rainbow Farm moved in up the highway from us. And all of the challenges, the sort of the awareness about our lack of food sovereignty first arose over the on farm processing of chickens. And so we were really interested to know how Rainbow Farm was doing it. And they just described this process that was very easy for them to work with the department. And I was elated because I feel like if we’ve been out front with the machetes clearing the path, here was the next generation showing up and they could just walk on the path. And, you know, that same department in our generation was saying things like, well, if farmers can’t comply, they can go work at Walmart talking about us as like when every time we have a new regulation, it shows farmers up like like termites coming out of the woodwork. So we’re talking about a radically different department, a radically different path posture towards farmers that is much more committed to making sure that farmers can succeed. So that felt just like a huge success. You know, that Rainbow Farm is up the road. They’ve been able to put in this chicken processing facility and just show up year one and and do what they what they were ready to do. So that that piece seems important with recognizing that it’s the people in the community that are making the decisions for how we want to exchange food. And then there was another piece to that.


Hannah: The ability of farms to do what they need to do to survive and grow and have livelihood is an important piece to food sovereignty.


Heather: Which is right. Yeah, I think I’ve lost whatever the other thought was. But, um, but the Hannaford piece, I love that you mentioned, um, because that’s one of those things that’s happened very recently in our community where the previous private owner of the supermarket had a lot of local farm raised foods in the store from, you know, fresh dairy, fresh eggs, more fresh foods, meats and so forth. But when it went back to Hannaford, a lot of those fresh foods, I’m told it’s not a section of the market. I actually go in very much, but disappeared from the shelves. And the reasoning was just that or the reason why is just that the the larger corporation was requiring UPC labels and different codes on everything that most small farmers either can’t comply with because of whatever that means for their own infrastructure or it’s just one step too many. So then we see we we see foods disappearing from our diet and disappearing from the shelves. So like, I love that question about like, what did you have for breakfast today? Because what you had for breakfast today very much depends on what was available to you, what’s been disappeared. You know, so in our area, we have a, you know, a living memory that’s sort of a raw nerve about crab pickers having disappeared or smoked alewives disappearing from our diets, things like that, that they didn’t actually just disappear because the living was hard or because the resources ran out. They disappeared because people lost their ability to engage in the decision making process about how that food is processed and distributed. So, um, those are just kind of two.


Heather: Visceral examples in our, in our area. But um, I, I, I think that they.


Heather: They’re sort of emblematic of, of why we, we need to make sure that we do protect the space around those relationships we want to have in our community.


Hannah: So being able to protect the space, the land, the access to land, um, and then, you know, trying to. Figure out, you know, who has like a right when we’re talking about the right to food, like who has a right to like farm here, but also who has a right to sell food into the community. It’s been a huge sort of debate within farm drop, actually. It’s sort of like, you know, are we by providing farmers immunity, access to these coastal markets, which are important to farms everywhere in Maine, sort of also somewhat displacing the ability for some of the more hyperlocal farms to find their connection to their customers? Or are we creating, you know, sort of like a slightly more choiceful, you know, food system that is one layer, more community based or ten layers more community based than what Hannaford’s is interested in developing or even what the co-op can develop.


Hannah: So, yeah. Trying to trying to figure out like where is the balance? Like Phil was talking about how the reality is that people want the convenience of online. I think that the reality is also that we’ve become very accustomed as customers to have sort of full choice of, but at the same time there’s like a difference between seemingly having choices of products and actually being decision makers about the kind of food system that we want in our community. And it’s like, how do we make that the choice? How do we make it clear that that is a choice? 


Heather: I mean, I think a simple quote unquote solution is always, I mean, whether we’re talking about homelessness, homelessness, hunger, um, farm access, land access, wages, it’s always to have the people that are most impacted being at the decision making table. I really think that that’s, that’s at the core of food sovereignty, but it’s also at the core of water sovereignty. You know, that’s our our sort of our next step is, is if if we’re going to have food, water sovereignty is included in food sovereignty. And, um, you know, and in those larger questions about markets, right, markets get, get, um, fraught. But if, if you have that messy process of democracy happening in all these microcosms, I mean, for us it was town meeting like that was the, um, sort of the Democratic forum where we were making these decisions as communities. Like are we okay with accepting this level of risk and placing our trust here rather than with a state? And almost in every community that’s considered food sovereignty? The choice has been like, we do trust our neighbors. We like the transparency and accountability of the farms and food producers in our community. Um, and we also accept that level of risk and we’re more comfortable with that level of risk than, um, you know, the industrially produced and inspected food and that, and this was the, the point I was trying to remember is just the vitally important role of, um, I’ve lost it again, I think I was going to say if the scale of production.


Hannah: So how are you currently operating as a farm? How are you? Doing this this work in a way that feels like you’re connecting with the community. Like how does it how does it end? Farm.


Heather: Phil will sometimes say that certain customers of ours will say, “you know, if they’ve had our chicken or some other local chicken, like, no, yours is really, really the best. It feels like that’s just because you love us. That’s love. That’s not the chicken, that’s not the pasture, that’s not the grain”. But I honestly think that is true that, like you said, a fundamental piece of food sovereignty is protecting the relationships that that do grow out of, out of being a farm. And in this community, I mean, the logistics of what we do right now are pretty limited. You know, we’re excited to to reach out to Farmdrop again. But we the primary way that we do business is for people to come down the driveway and help themselves in our honor system Farm store, they record their own purchases. They leave their money, they make their change. When everything’s going well, they return their jars. That’s a big part. But but they come right here to the farm. That’s the biggest way. And then once a week we also have a buying club on the island on Deer Isle. We send out a weekly letter with an availability list. People order from the letter, you know, Meghan and Melissa. And they order what they like. We bring it down, drop it off, and in half an hour everybody’s on their way again. And and that that works beautifully. And then we find that ever since the 2020, so many more people found their way to the farm. So it was just like being slammed for like this eight month marathon. And we were so surprised of realizing how many people actually did know where we were but didn’t find us, you know, before or didn’t weren’t regular customers before.


Heather: And then really, really were during those first months of the pandemic. And now things have normalized again. So I think like a lot of farms did, what we’ve done is that we increased our production. Packaging is more expensive, inputs are more expensive from fuel to grain to the packaging has really been a big thing. So we’re finding that our costs have increased, We upped our production, but that convenience level has actually made it so that we’re having fewer people coming down the driveway. And that’s been a little bit of a sobering reality. Again, just thinking when we weigh everything in the balance at convenience is actually the most important thing. And people’s lives got picked back up. You know, now there are for a while there were no soccer lessons or piano or running all over to school. And so those are things that take time and effort and make us all feel too sort of strapped, I think, to live out our convictions about what it means to have food raised in your own community and what it means to have farms in your community. So I think it’s gotten much more challenging for people to kind of live out that conviction. So Farm Drop is is a a really lovely option. You know, at this point, I’m still limited from doing a couple deliveries that we let go a week and being able to have our products accessible to the community through Farm Drop is just a really great solution.


Hannah: Love for themselves. I know this. Why can’t we? Why?


Heather: It’s still easiest to order from catalogs, I think on that end, rather than the seasonal fluctuation of what comes from a local farm, you know, so we’re working on that with the co-op again, but with our milk, of course, that is still we’re unlicensed and unexpected by the state. And so the limitation of our local food ordinances is that we only sell directly to customers, but not through retail outlets. So that’s why our milk and our yogurt and cheeses aren’t available at at supermarkets or other stores.


Hannah: Yeah. And, and the idea is that. Through these drop offs, like they’re sort of like gray areas of the local food ordinance where. If you had like a pickup at alongside Farmdrop or, you know, like what you do with the buying club and virile like that, it does qualify as direct.


Heather: It does. And the Department of Agriculture has been really great since the Food Sovereignty Act passed in basically understanding that their jurisdiction doesn’t extend into a municipality that’s passed a food sovereignty ordinance. And as long as that exchange is direct, then they don’t license or inspect because that’s honoring the wishes of that community and the legal articulation of that community. Farmers markets, it’s not so much it’s been a gray area. It’s actually been an area of contention around this term of art, the site of production that farmers can only sell under the food ordinances if you’re doing it at your site of production. But the way the Maine Food Sovereignty Act was written, it requires the state to recognize the direct exchange of food as governed by the local ordinances and many of our local ordinances include farmers markets and include buying clubs. And interestingly and beautifully as part of this current legislative process, the that definition that we included in our ordinances is now the one the Department of Agriculture picked up and said, This is what we’d like to see the amendment include is this definition, you know, you could have blown me over with a feather. But if we are successful in getting that to the governor’s desk and if she will sign it rather than veto it, that will finally be clarified. It’s been a sort of a six year long point of friction that just isn’t necessary. So we’re hopeful that that this time that will be successful.


Hannah: So has that sort of been your off farm job these past several years? How long have you been doing this work?


Heather: I mean, job. It’s not paid work. It’s definitely been a labor of of the heart and. Yeah. Yes. I mean, it does end up being like a part part time job in terms of energy. But like I say, it’s it’s become it has become just such an integral part of our life, my life since. We were successful in enshrining the right to food in Maine’s constitution. Through that whole process came this really lovely collaboration of a human rights law clinic at the University of Miami with some nonprofit organizations in Brooklyn, New York, Whyhunger. They brought together advocates, legal scholars, lawyers and academics. So we formed what’s called a national right to Food community of Practice, where we’re really holding space to further the right to food in other states. And since that’s passed, we’ve we’ve seen interest from Pennsylvania and Iowa and Washington State, West Virginia, maybe a handful of other states. And that’s just been really exciting to see go forward and how much more effective we can be when we combine all our toolkits and all of our disciplines of the people on the ground who are closest with, you know, the academic level of scholarship and and the legal human rights framework, which has been really important to insert into the conversation, to begin to shift narratives about why are people hungry, why food banks aren’t the only answer and aren’t a good answer, and and end up again benefiting the corporations that are overproducing for the exact purpose of of profiting, you know, from from the food bank relationship. So those are all sort of necessary evils of our current system. But the right to food and the human rights framework looks at how can we make that not the dominant system so that we’re not relying on charity to feed ourselves? Because what we all really want is to feed ourselves in dignity. So we’re not giving up paying our heating bill. We’re not giving up paying our rent in order to put food on the table, you know.


Heather: I mean, the battle is exhausting. But I think it’s also heartening when you meet people in different countries and you go, oh, we’re actually responding in the exact same way to the pressure exerting itself in a slightly different way. And and and the answer is that that we need those traditional food ways to be protected. We need to have the say in how they’re protected. And we need legal leverage against the corporate influence in our governmental policies. We just do. And Maine right now is the only state in the country that’s enshrined a right to food. I do expect that that is going to change in the coming years, but we do look for inspiration to countries that have instituted this already. And then what that means in making it more visible, because in some ways all of the biggest problems are maybe invisible to the most people. And there isn’t one way to like solve the problems, but there are always steps to take so that when it does become visible to people and they have their sort of, oh shit moment, there’s an alternative that’s already been being built by by others of us who have been paying attention in a different way and understanding that it needs protection.


Hannah: What’s the next step? Tiny little, random, heroic act that people can make on a daily basis towards this?


Heather: I really always think the best next step people can make to ensure their own food sovereignty, their own right to food is to engage in actually growing food. You know, if you have a porch, plant something in a pot and there’s it’s very hard to articulate what it is that happens when you interact with all of the organisms in the soil, with the seed, with the water. And maybe your first experiences are of realizing how little you know. And like I was just growing a tomato plant in a pot and I couldn’t even grow that well, no, you don’t have a bad green thumb. You just need practice paying attention and and developing a different awareness. And I think that those small steps of, of trying to grow your own something is really an important small step to make. And then when it doesn’t work, you know, hopefully you have a local farm nearby. If it doesn’t work or, you know, then the next year you have five pots and then you try a raised bed or or community garden in your community. Like that’s that’s one beautiful vision. I think that could happen as another implementation of the right to food is that communities municipalities start designating spaces for community food, edible landscapes, edible forests and and working more on that in that direction of making food just more an integral part of our community lives.


Heather: I lived in Germany for a little while and it was near Dusseldorf and the train I took from Mettmann to Dusseldorf. There were a number of those plots that I had no idea what I was actually seeing until I asked. And I was like, Really? Like, people just have like large swaths of individual garden plots. Yeah, yeah. Maine. Maine still has the land, you know, and the and the water.


Aaron: Could you give us a rundown of the farm?


Hannah: Diversified farm. What is it?


Heather: We consider ourselves grass farmers. Essentially, we’re a grass based farm. But since humans don’t metabolize grass very well as food, we utilize livestock to help us harvest that and turn that into digestible food that we can make use of. So we have dairy cows, We have dairy goats. We have. We could actually call them dairy pigs because they drink so much skimmed milk and whey from our cheesemaking processes. We have chickens and I think that is everybody right now. So the products that we sell then are veal and beef, and then we make our own yogurt, farmstead, cheeses, cottage cheese, queso fresco. And I think I’m missing. Oh, and then pork our milk and whey fed pork that’s raised in the woods. And then my daughter makes Chev and sells goat’s milk as well.


Aaron: That’s it. And just for competition, you gave me a bit of a breakdown of who runs the farm inside. But for record, it would be great to get you to introduce the farm. What’s the name of the farm and who’s on farm working for your family?


Heather: Great. Give us the go back to the beginning intro. Right. Right. So we’re Quilton farm and right now we are blessed to have mostly grown family. That all contributes to the farm in some way. So our oldest son lives off farm and works as a carpenter, but comes home to help with different projects. You know, keeping the bigger projects, moving along, building those sorts of things. Our middle son is going to college, but he is the right hand man when he’s home in the dairy barn and milks the cows and tends to a lot of the husbandry, the moving of the fences. And our daughter is at home all the time still. And she tends to the the goats and the the goat cheese making and then also bottling all the the cow’s milk every morning, every night. So she’s she’s really the go to in the in the farm kitchen for the dairy dairy processing. And then my husband and I are well we like to say the kitchen is open almost 24 divided by seven with all the different processes that are happening all the time. But Phil makes a lot of the yogurts and cheeses, and then I do some of the final the packaging of the cheeses and the farm kitchen right now. A garden to. We have a garden too. It’s a family garden.


Heather: We don’t sell any vegetables. But Carolyn is also the lead gardener right now. Definitely. Yeah. And then. Oh, and then, Ben, I forgot to say, Benjamin is really planning for the far future with more permaculture principles. There’s a field across the road where he’s starting to experiment, but he’s planting a lot of fruit trees and nut trees and that edible forest landscape and is thinking about a potential nursery for the future. So he has become our orchardist and our brambles and is just is planting a lot of that perennial food that we’re going to need in the future. And Phil mentioned something about horse power. Yes, He’s he and Carolyn are both very interested in draft animal power. Ben started off being interested in oxen, of course, because as a dairyman, he’s he’s raised the calves, you know, pretty much his whole childhood. So oxen were what made sense. But when he went to college, he the college had draft horses. And so now he’s become much more of a horseman, which his sister finds very amusing. She was always the she works at Horse Power Farm, you know, on different days of the week when she’s not here. So, yeah, so both Carolyn and Ben are very interested in more horse power on the farm and less less diesel. Yeah.


Aaron: Are you on a lot of acres here? I’m curious how big of a farm?


Heather: Yeah. Yeah. So Quills end is 100 plus or minus acres. So we have about 20 acres that are open in pasture. And the other 80 is wooded. And then we have Benjamin’s kind of three acre field of test plot for the different Hugelkultur and the nursery where he’s starting all the different fruit and nut trees.