Take the winding road to Starks and marvel at the remote beauty of the area. As you round yet another bend in the road, you will suddenly come upon a sign that dominates the landscape announcing you’ve arrived at Martin Woods Farm. Owners Sarah and Bud Martin moved to Starks from Farmington in 2013 because they loved the area and wanted to put down roots and farm while also juggling careers. Bud taught at UMF for 18 years, most recently as Division chair for Community Health, Rehab Services and Outdoor Recreation. He is currently on sabbatical and writing a book called Screaming with the Wind about growing up in Maine. Sarah has a PhD in epidemiology and currently works part time as the grants manager for St. Joseph’s hospital.
Martin Woods Farm started with a few small garden beds and a place to raise their son Cole in a safe and beautiful environment. It has grown into a sprawling diversified farm. Apples, peaches, blueberries, and strawberries are all grown on the premises and used to create value added products in addition to cider, maple syrup, and wine. As you explore the farm – which Sarah and Bud encourage you to do – you will see turkeys, chickens, goats, pigs,, and beef & dairy cows as well. The foundation of Martin Woods Farm, however, is their Equestrian center with its array of hands-on equestrian opportunities for all ages. Horses are a passion of the Martin’s and they have built a cherished local reputation. Visitors can go for trail rides, sleigh and cart rides, as well as take lessons in an indoor arena. Adaptive riding for individuals with varying abilities is offered Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday by appointment.
As we chatted about farming, it was clear how important it is for them to share their experiences with others. As a result, they participate in Open Farm Days; travel to schools and events with their petting zoo; host Campfire Chronicles where local musicians get together in a casual setting to share their talent; and sponsor Family Fun Farm Days. This event raises money for the Care and Share Food Closet and is held annually the 4th Saturday in September.
The sharing continues in the way they market Stark Ravin’ Products… items can be found in the porch fridge self-service style or if you have questions you can knock on the front door to see who is home and able to assist you. Sarah also sells items, including delicious baked goods, at the Rangeley and Wilton Farmers Markets (both summer and winter). She also roasts her own coffee and sells it at the Sandy River Farm store. Jams, jellies, and coffee are also available at Vera’s Iron and Vine in Wilton.
The next phase of diversification for Bud and Sarah is the construction of The Center for Human Ecology at Martin Woods Farm. The center will feature nature-based education that is open to the community as well as a commercial kitchen.
As my conversation with the energetic couple concluded, I asked about the challenges and opportunities farming has brought them.
Sarah noted the challenge of the remote location of Starks (not a lot of people even drive by) and the struggling economy, particularly in Somerset County where the farm is located. She quickly noted that people are finding the farm with the reputation spreading as a family-oriented space with Christian values that offers affordable products.
She ended our conversation with some words of wisdom. “Be kind, and diversify – especially in this era of climate change and unpredictable weather. Be generous and inviting. If you try to hoard what you have, it doesn’t work well.”
To learn more about Martin Woods Farm follow them on Facebook.
Focus on Farming is a monthly feature written by members of the Greater Franklin Food Council. The mission of the Greater Franklin Food Council (GFFC) is to foster a healthy food system in greater Franklin County by bringing people together to ensure access to nutritious local food, support local farmers, and advocate for food related programs that strengthen local communities. The work is through the development of partnerships, outreach, and education.