About a year and half ago, Caleigh Wright and her mother, Bridget, painted their two calf barns with the unmistakable Cabot red and black plaid. The endeavor involved juggling stencils, ladders and many hours of work. “It was quite a project,” recalls Bridget. It was also a great mother-daughter bonding experience, the two agree. “We laughed the entire time,” Caleigh says.
During the painting project, the mother-daughter connections were also growing stronger at another level. At the time, Caleigh was pregnant with daughter, Torrey, who was born in June 2016. “Torrey is the fifth generation of strong women here on the farm,” says her grandmother, Bridget, proudly. “It’s a thrill to have her be able to grow up here.”
“Growing up on the farm was great,” says Caleigh. “Nana, my dad’s mom, taught me how to ride horses. It was such a hang-out place for neighborhood kids.” She was about seven when her family moved from town to the farm. “I remember playing with my farm set before we lived on the farm: the barn, the tractors and the cows. I always thought I’d be a farmer,” she recalls.
Caleigh met her husband, Andrew Miller, while studying agriculture in college in Vermont, where they both worked before coming back to Maine in 2011. “We always said she had to try at least one year of college and have a job off the farm before she came back,” Bridget explains. “I think it’s good to leave the farm to know what it’s like out there and realize how lucky we are to have this. That way you know what it’s like to be an employee and you always bring back good information and practices from other farms.”
“It felt good to come home,” says Caleigh, adding that she did appreciate the opportunity to spread her wings but always knew she’d return. “It felt like the right place to be.” The Wright Place Farm supports seven family members plus another seven employees who manage the milking herd of 800, raise calves, make and sell compost, and crop about 2,000 owned and rented acres. Caleigh and Andrew also run their own maple business on the property. “My favorite thing about being a dairy farm family is being able to tie two of my favorite things together,” says Caleigh. “Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to work side by side with cows and the people they’re closest to.”
The benefits of coming home are obvious every day, Caleigh says, when she brings Torrey to the farmhouse office where the little girl’s grandparents or great-grandmother, Nana, watch her while Caleigh works with the calves. Bridget used to help her daughter with afternoon chores, but “now I have one little critter to take care of instead of 120,” she jokes.
It’ll be a few years before Torrey gets involved with Mother’s Day preparations so it’s all up to Andrew this year to celebrate his wife’s first Mother’s Day as a mom. It’s the middle of planting season, Caleigh acknowledges, so she doesn’t expect much. The young parents do have the weekend off, she says, “and sometimes he surprises me.”
The Wright family Mother’s Day tradition sounds pretty fun and easy, though, so here’s a hint, Andrew: “When I was little,” Caleigh recounts, “I always made Mom breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. I’d always ask her what she wanted and she’d say ice cream, so I’d grab the tub we always had in the freezer and jump in bed with her.”
The ice cream is always Gifford’s made nearby in Skowhegan with some of the farm’s milk, a nice connection. Plus, Bridget adds with a chuckle, “I knew it was something she could cook.”
If Andrew Miller is looking for another idea of what to make Caleigh for a special Mother’s Day meal, she notes that “macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches have been my two favorite foods since I was a little girl, but in all honesty, I’m a sucker for anything that has cheese in or on it!” Her husband, Caleigh says, is a huge fan of meatloaf with Cabot White Oak Cheddar melted on top so perhaps this easy and delicious-sounding cheese-stuffed version would make the whole family happy.