[Snakeroot Organic Farm logo]
 • What's New Here
 • Snakeroot Poultry

 • About Our Farm
 • Annual Farm Tour
 • Community Supported
    Agriculture Plan (CSA)
Directions to our Farm
 • From a Run Out Hayfield to
    a Prosperous Organic Farm
    in Ten Easy Years

 • Get Real. Get Organic!
 • History of Our Farm
 • Pictures of the Farm
 • Where We Buy
 • Where We Sell
 • Our Yearly Work Schedule
 • Just Pretty
 • Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
 • Newsletter Archive.
 • What We Will & Won't Ship

 • Working Here
 • Our Apprentices
 • Our Farm Workers
 • Pictures of Us at Market

 • Fresh Vegetables
 • Fresh Fruit
 • Fresh Herbs
 • Perennials
 • Aloe - a magical plant
 • Our Bird Houses
 • Lupines
 • Rosemary Plants
 • Lovage, Tansy & Yarrow
 • Our Product Brochures
 • Dried Vegetables
 • Dried Culinary Herbs
 • Maple Syrup
 • Maple Syrup, p.2
 • Sugarin' Is Like Ice Fishin'
 • Our New Sugarhouse
 • Tomato Seedlings
 • Tomato Seeds We Offer
 • Tomato Seed Production
 • Paste Tomatoes
 • About Garlic
 • Garlic for Sale
 • Garlic Year Round
 • Mulching Garlic
 • Growing Rounds from Bulbils
 • Whole Bulbil Cluster Method
 • Planting Garlic

 • Using Mulches
 • Combatting Quackgrass
    with Mulch

 • We Want Your Leaves!
 • In Praise of Chips

 • Buying in Bulk for
    Storage, Canning & Freezing

 • Winter Storage Tips
 • How to Freeze Our Veggies
 • Building Techniques
 • Our Outbuildings
 • Evolution of the Farm Table
 • The Story of Our Cooler
 • Prepping Veggies for Market
 • Crop Rotations
 • Drip Irrigation
 • Low Pressure Water
 • Planting with Spreadsheets
 • Greenhouse Vegetable

 • Let-tuce Begin
 • Recipe Favorites
 • Our "Remay Roller"
 • Gardening Class Notes
 • Your Most Expensive Crop

 • Being Green
 • Digging Potatoes by Hand
 • Farmers' Markets in 2012
 • History of Pittsfield
 • Hybrids or Open Pollinated?
 • Making Websites
 • Open Source Software

    Our Retirement Plan
 • How Should a Farmer Retire?
 • Impediments to the want-to-be     farmer
 • Reducing the Value
    of the Land

 • Who Will Farm Here When
    We're Gone?

 • Apprentice Terms and Stages
 • From Apprentices to Partners
 • Transferring Farm Ownership

…and now for something completely different…

At dawn
Canoe bow waves are quickly lost
    on the shoreside
But go on out of sight
    on the lake side.


The constant swish-swish of skis
    On a day long ski.
The constant swish-swish of wiper blades
    On a day long drive.


My dog, trotting barefoot
Steps on a garden slug
And thinks
Nothing of it.


Word spreads quickly
as I approach the pond.
All becomes quiet.


Hidden in the vines
a large warted cucumber
jumps out of reach.
A toad!


Delicate puffs
of marshmallow snow
carefully perched
on a branch,
await the trigger of my hat
to melt their way down my back.

Deep in the tomato jungle
Fruits of yellow, purple and red
Tell of their readiness
To go to market.

Sugarin' Chores
Snowflakes hurry through my flashlight beam,
As my boots knead new snow with spring mud,
On my nightly Hajj to keep the boil alive,
For as long as possible until the dawn,
To match the power of the flowing sap,
With my meager evaporator and will.
The prize at the finish line are jars of syrup
And Spring.


This document was begun in 2000 with major revisions and expansions made in 2008.

Snakeroot Organic Farm

Farmers' Retirement Plan
Thinking about farm succession . . .

(A work in progress)

Who will be farming here after we are gone?

Slowing down is part of growing older. While many farming operations can be cut back to some degree, there comes a point where any further cut backs result in a quantum reduction in farm viability. Thus many farmers reach the point where they either force themselves to keep going full tilt until they drop, or give up and stop farming altogether.

The preferred choice, however, is to do neither, but to slowly shift the work onto a new farming generation who are gradually learning the ropes from the old farmers, and who will continue the old farm while weaving in their own personalities and preferences.

On an intergenerational family farm, this preferred choice is the norm. However, a plan which doesn't use family ties is called for on farms without farming offspring. This includes both farms without offspring and farms whose offspring have chosen not to carry on the farm.

There is a bit of folk wisdom that says the desire to farm skips a generation. This means that children of a farming family often do not want to farm. The glamour of the outside world with its many opportunities call them away from the family farm. On the other hand, children who have grown up amidst the glitz and alienation rampant in the world of selling your labor for cash are prime candidates for a wanting to live a more authentic way of life. Therefore we who live such lives are not only models for their dreams, but can be magnets for their lives, if only we had a plan to integrate them into our farms.

As small organic farmers, we have created a way of life where many of the barriers to finding people to carry on simply disappear. We are not a vegetable factory cranking out tons of chemically dependent, genetically modified produce from depleted soil while contaminating the surrounding environment and relying on giant corporations for both inputs and markets. Yet this is the "normal" type of farm in America today, and it is why so many "traditional" farm pundits bemoan the fact that almost no one wants to start farming anymore. What we have created is our own personal brand of the ideal life with a work/leisure blend of activity. We love what we do and how we live—regardless of the fact that the mainstream false economy fails to see we are well paid for what we do. And it is precisely this way of life which does attract the young "unspoiled" idealist who would be a farmer. In fact, we need to be careful about choosing the right people for grooming our replacements. We are not looking for exact duplicates of ourselves, but we do want to find folks who appreciate what we are doing and want to do it, too.

A true apprenticeship program is needed. One in which the apprentice at first serves primarily as farm labor and over the years gradually adopts more management responsibilities. Eventually this develops into a middle phase of a partnership between apprentice and mentor, where the farm is operated on a consensual basis. Later develops the final phase where the former apprentice is now running the farm and the old farmers continue to be available for light labor and know-how.

Relieved of the major management decisions of the farm, the old farmers can now enjoy the rewards of the operating farm they created without the requirement to operate it themselves. They can putter on the farm and maybe travel to exotic places.

The entire process might take five to ten years and can be adjusted for differences in personalities, abilities, and needs to transfer farm management.

At several points in this multi-year program, there needs to be points at which either party can opt out, for whatever reason. Thus there is a possibility of several "false starts", although the likelihood of either a mentor or apprentice calling it quits is greater in the beginning than it is later.

Not every apprentice who starts the program will finish it, for a variety of reasons. Apprentices might begin the program while other apprentices are in an advanced stage. It is as though your apprentice had an apprentice, too. Variations on this plan are endless, and will ultimately be designed to suit the needs of the farm.

The number of people required to operate this farm is at least two, and preferably three or four, mostly during the May thru November season at the present time with our current set-up.

During the apprenticeship stage, the apprentices will be these third and fourth people, but later in the post-apprenticeship period when the old farmers wish to do less on the farm, or have passed on, a new pool of apprentices will probably have to be considered.

27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield Maine 04967
owned and operated by
Tom Roberts & Lois Labbe
Tom: Tom@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5417
Lois: Lois@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5418

Gardening for the public since 1995.

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