The Bittersweet Story
I always joke the name of my farm should be Left Turn because it was a left turn in 2010 that brought me where I am today.
I moved to Maine the year before, with half a dozen chickens, my shelter pup Sage and no plans to run a farm. I had decided sheep would be a nice addition to the property considering about 3 acres of it was nothing but beautifully manicured green lawn. Not being a fan of lawn mowers, I set out on Maine’s Annual Open Farm Day in August, looking for a couple of sheep to keep the place maintained. Heading down Rt. 1 with farm list in hand, I made a left turn down Rt. 97 to Friendship. It was a rainy day and since sheep were listed at Seabreeze Farm, I thought it would be a good start to what turn out to be a shortened Open Farm Tour Day.
After parking the car, not seeing anyone around, I wandered through an open barn door and was greeted by Brian Robinson.
He was standing at the end of a row of stalls with his foot up on the bottom board, his hand dangling over the top. A large white goat was inside the stall, nuzzling his hand.
I looked around the barn and there were maybe 14 big white goats, (what I learned were Saanens), some laying down slowly chewing their cud, others lumbering around the stall, gently nudging each other as if a secret language was being passed between them.
I was mesmerized.
After a while, Brian asked me if I like to see some babies. We walked through a rickety door into another section of the barn and were greeted with another maybe dozen miniature versions of what I had just seen on the other side. Now I was hooked. Before I left, I bought a quart of milk and over the next several months, visited weekly, buying more milk and asking if I could visit with the goats. I started experimenting in my kitchen with making cheese, using fresh lemon juice to separate the curds from the whey and ate every crumb. By the end of fall, I knew I had to have goats and committed to babies.
After waiting until the next spring to allow time for setting up the barn, building a creamery and going through the process to become a Maine State Certified Dairy, 2 baby goats arrived in the back of my car at what was now, Bittersweet Heritage Farm. The sheep came a few months later. Turns out, they were in the field behind the goat barn at Brians, I just forgot all about them after my experience with the goats.
Now, after 11 years of lambing and kidding, Bittersweet maintains a dozen animals providing fresh milk, cheeses, wool, hand made soaps, roving, hand knits and yarns. A seasonal farm stand is open from April - November, this website is maintained with a virtual farm store for those who never make it to Maine and there are several retail outlets carrying products.
The Robinson family has seen me through the joys and sorrows of the past eleven years and I owe everything to them for teaching me to milk, countless hours spent on the phone sorting out problems, many more hours standing in the freezing cold or rain when one of my does takes another car ride back to Seabreeze for breeding and most importantly, treating me like family. The true spirit of Maine is alive and well through families like theirs and I am grateful every day for taking that left turn that literally, changed my life.
2019 MAINE FARMS FOR THE FUTURE GRANT RECIPIENT
For 10 years, Bittersweet has been a certified Maine State Dairy, producing small batch cheeses. In 2019, thanks to a grant from the Maine Farms for the Future Program, Bittersweet Heritage Farm has launched
Maine Caramel Company!
Working in partnership with local Maine brewers, caramels are being specialty batched with hand crafted beers. It’s a combination of traditional Maine farming and the exploding Maine brewing industry together, creating a quintessentially Maine product.
Visit the mainecaramelcompany.com site.