This fall we asked Jenni Tilton-Flood, of Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton ME to visit some neighboring farms and take some photographs for us to share with our Cabot fans.
We also asked her to share some of her thoughts about the visits and her conversations with the families she met.
Below is part one of her trip, about her visit to Chartrand Farm in Norridgewock Maine:
On their 20th wedding anniversary Elroy and Connie Chartrand headed north from their farm in southern New Hampshire to raise their kids and cows in Norridgewock, Maine. Almost 30 years later the kids of Chartrand Farm are grown and the family farm is a busy place with 4 generations of family, a passel of some the best farm dogs around, and an impressive herd of very happy cows.
Elroy & Connie raised all three of their kids (Barb, Steve and Eric) on the farm and now, alongside their two boys and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren they continue to carve out their place in this corner of Maine and in the words of Elroy, “farm to stay a farm.”
It is perfectly clear, from the moment Maggie the German Shepherd greets you when you drive in the farmyard and convinces you to toss her favorite rock for her to fetch, to when Elroy drives up on his JD Gator and greets you with his affable manner, that time spent here on this family farm will be time well spent.
And listening to Elroy and Connie speak about their life on the farm, the children they’ve raised, the cows they care for and the milk they produce is indeed time well spent. There is something very calming to the sound of two people remembering the past aloud while speaking of their hopes for the future.
While readily admitting that times have changed since they started farming almost 50 years ago Elroy doesn’t wax poetic about the past but remembers clearly the time when more people lived closer to their farmer…before they moved “so far away that they’ve forgotten how it has to work” to put food on the table. Connie easily, and without a trace of regret or disappointment, confirms what every farm kid and wife knows: that they come “first after the cows.” Because, as much as a farmer depends upon those cows to make a living, those cows depend even more upon a farmer to make them a life.
And oh how the cows of Chartrand Farms have found the right farmers to depend on. It’s easy to see as Elroy and Maggie chauffeur me around to each of the barns that there is very good reason for the pride the family takes in their farm. The red barns on the side of the Smithfield Road are home to 550 cows, heifers and calves.
The 278 cows that are currently being milked enjoy twice daily visits to the double 9, herringbone parlour where sunlight pours in and in between milkings it is very quiet except for Maggie’s feet on the cement. Every barn is a home for the cows and driving through the largest barn that houses the milking herd is to drive under the watchful eyes of very many, happy cows.
Whether the conversation is about the new barn being built or plans to reconfigure the calf pens it’s apparent that daylight is never wasted here, neither for hands or minds, and that very little time is spent resting on laurels as the whole family seems intent on the future. When the subject of technology comes up Elroy doesn’t put it down, and he doesn’t hold it up as the salvation of farming, but he recognizes it in typical “Elroy fashion” as being another tool that has helped as much as anything has helped farmers. Because here on Chartrand Farm the days start early and end late, the cows come first before anything and anyone else, Maggie rules the roost and the future is in the hands of those who will live it because that’s “the only way we’re going to feed the world.”