Stephen Leen, left, and Tracyn Thayer, dressed in their new Birch Bog Farm sweatshirts, lookk out over the certified organic cranberry farm in Albany Township they bought in March. Submitted photo.

ALBANY TOWNSHIP — One of Maine’s few certified organic cranberry farms has new owners Tracyn Thayer and Stephen Leen excited for what comes next.

The couple heard the 16-acre farm was for sale Dec. 23 and three days later looked it over and made an offer to the Woodward family of Massachusetts.

The Woodwards had owned it from the 1990s and decided to clear land for a bog to grow cranberries in. They were particularly interested in selling to someone who planned to continue to use the bog.

Despite having no experience with cranberry farming, Thayer and Leen were ready for the challenge.

“We don’t really know anything about cranberry farming, but we are really happy to try it out,” Thayer said. She calls the farm her “full-time gig” with Leen helping weekends.

They practice “dry pick,” unlike major cranberry producing companies that grow cranberries submerged in water. They are in the process of draining the bog so the cranberry plants can dry as much as possible before weeding it. The drained water goes into a pond below the bog.

Since the farm is certified organic, they are limited on pesticide use. Thayer said there is a type of fish fertilizer she can use on the plants and bluebirds eat some bugs that feed on the plants. Birdhouses have been placed around the area to attract them.

The cranberries will begin to bud next month, with primary harvest season in September and October. They will use equipment similar to old-style push mowers to harvest most of the berries and handpick the sides where equipment cannot reach. Remaining berries will be offered to those who want to pick their own.

The couple plan to sell some cranberries and freeze some to make sauce and salsa for themselves. Thayer is also considering partnering with other farms to make cran-apple cider.

As of now, though, she is keeping her expectations realistic in year one.

“I’m hoping that since I’ll be here full time that maybe we can increase the yield,” Thayer said. “The Woodwards said they usually got between 3,000 and 7,000 pounds of berries.”

The berries will be stored in crates and sorted on a century-old machine used to determine their overall quality.

Once the season winds down, the bog will be flooded so the plants can be preserved during the winter.

The pair has taken up residence in part of the barn and eventually want to build a house, along with a couple yurts to use when they visit.

For more information visit the farm Facebook page or go to www.birchbogfarm.com.


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