Jenni Tilton-Flood grew up in central Maine farming country, the daughter of the local John Deere salesman. “I wanted so bad to leave home,” she recalls, “until all I wanted to do was come back.”
She returned after heading off to college to study international relations and foreign policy with the goal of working for a global nonprofit. But then, she explains, “I decided I didn’t want to feed the world, I wanted to feed my corner of it.” When Jenni told her dad that she wanted to work on a farm, he set her up to spend a winter day on the farm of a good friend—Flood Brothers in Clinton—sure it would deter her. “The plan backfired immensely,” Jenni says, chuckling. “I fell completely in love with it.”
Little did she know that she had already caught the eye of a member of the Flood family, Dana Flood, when she was working as the parts girl at her dad’s dealership. “He told me later that he noticed me carrying two five-gallon pails of hydraulic oil for an older customer,” Jenni recalls, “and thought to himself, ‘That’s the woman for me.’”
As she writes on her blog, “The Farmer thought he was getting a great cook, a farm wife, a history buff, and a really great discount on parts…instead he got a fantastic cook, a farm wife with ’tude who has been accused, many times, as being ‘too bold,’ a history buff, and a better discount on parts from his father-in-law than from his wife. I, on the other hand, got a wonderful husband, 3,400 cows to call family, The Farmer’s Daughter (who is intermittently referred to as ‘Baby Girl’ despite her towering almost a foot over me), and The Boy, who also looks down to look me in the eye but is always ‘The Boy,’ and a John Deere 4000 in lieu of an engagement ring.”
Those babies are now 17 and 18, among the third generation of Floods on the 200-year-old farm that supports six families, employs eight family members plus another 40 people and is constantly buzzing with activity. Even in winter, the farm is busy but it’s a different pace, Jenni says. Although the humans on the farm don’t relish dealing with cold and ice, she notes, “Dairy cows actually like colder weather. It’s easier to keep them content.” Her husband and the crew can take the time to head to trade shows and meetings to network and learn from fellow farmers and others who work in agriculture.
“In summer, there’s always something humming, machinery going, people moving,” she says. During winter, without fieldwork, “it’s so much quieter. You go a little slower, stop for a moment to appreciate a perfect snowdrift or how pretty the barn looks. You can almost take a deeper breath.”
On the home front in winter, Jenni says happily, “We actually get to sit down together for more meals.” Her slow cooker is often put to use for family favorites like barbecue baked beans, beef chili made with the farm’s own beef and lamb stew. Another regular recipe everyone loves for breakfast, brunch or supper is this rich hash brown casserole, which Jenni makes with half extra sharp cheddar and half Alpine cheddar and salt and pepper potato chips on top.
Note: If making with freshly grated potatoes, bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour.