University of Vermont

The Women's Agricultural Network

Farmer Spotlight

Growing Places Grad Now Farming in Maine

Four years ago, farming was a dream to Rebecca Sylvester and her husband, Brian. Now, thanks to patience and hard work, they have a farm operation of their own.

Rebecca was living in Montgomery Center, VT, working as a music teacher in Highgate. “We wanted to farm and so we bought a couple of goats, and we built a barn,” she said, “but I had no idea where to go or what to do next.” In the fall of 2004, Rebecca enrolled in Growing Places.

“The course was exactly what I needed,” Rebecca said. “It was a launching pad for my husband and me. It helped us to realize that we were really ready to do what it would take to start farming and that it was the right time for what we wanted to do.”

The couple then moved to Maine. “I grew up in Maine and it seemed to be family farm friendly, which is very important to us,” said Rebecca.

There, they found a farm in their ideal location of midcoast Maine. With help from Maine Farmlink, Maine Farmland Trust, Lands for Maine’s Future programs and the Farm Service Agency, they are working to take over the farm operation of Bend in the Road Farm in Union, Maine, this coming January. It is a 60 cow conventional dairy on 290 acres of soon-to-be protected prime farmland and woodlot.

“We are very excited about being the next generation on this farm. It is no small project to get all the pieces together, but it sure is exciting,” Rebecca said.

During the spring of 2007, Rebecca and Brian took the Tilling the Soil of Opportunities business planning class. “After finding the farm, the class enabled us to write a detailed and location specific business plan for running the farm as is,” said Rebecca.

“As I push along through this process, however, I will be adding sections to show how the finances will change as we go from leasing the farm and buying the cattle to purchasing the farm,” Rebecca says.

Also, though the farm runs quite well as is, Rebecca and Brian see a lot of potential for increased profitability and stability through the sale of value added dairy products. Rebecca is currently researching these possibilities to add to her business plan.

“In searching for a farm and studying our field we have met so many wonderful people and gathered some great information,”she says.

When asked about advice she would give to other aspiring farmers, Rebecca replied, “Have a lot of patience to go through the process.” Rebecca also recommends that people find out about and make use of the programs and agricultural service providers who are available to help.

“It was so important for me to hear from other people who used these programs (WAgN, Farmlink, Land Trust, Farm Service Agency) and how it helped them and what kind of hurdles to expect. Not to mention, I believe that if farms are to be successful and get the community support they need to survive and thrive, education of farmers as well as the general public has to be part of the equation,” she said.

Last modified January 20 2010 02:43 PM

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