Author Archives: Murphy Family Farm

Saving Seeds on the Farm

When we first started our farm we knew we wanted to be producing a certain amount of our own seed each season. Over the years, as certain open-pollinated heirloom varieties have disappeared from commercial seed catalogs, this objective has become even more important. The current social and economic conditions seem to have led to an increase in backyard gardeners. This is great! This is really what we have wanted since we started thinking about growing and selling good quality, locally-produced fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately this puts those of us who depend on seeds to make a living and to feed our neighbors in a bind. The current lack of existing seed growing infrastructure in the world is taking a long time to react to this newly increased demand, if it even can.

We really hope that this trend in home gardening and de-centralized growing systems keeps up. This will continue to demand more and more seed from more and more places. We are striving to find an appropriate balance between growing food for our community and growing seeds for those around us who wish to grow food for themselves and their families.

2020 taught us some real important lessons, 2021 is already driving them home. It has become abundantly clear that we cannot call ourselves a sustainable farm and continue to depend on a weak worldwide supply chain infrastructure that is prone to disruption and surprises. We really upped our seed game last year, but we are going to do everything we can this season to grow the seed we need to keep feeding our customers and neighbors for years to come.

We have been planning to introduce a hyper-local seed catalog for some time now. Last year threw us for a loop for more than one reason but we are going to continue to improve the quality and quantity of the seeds we grow here on the farm with the intention of having a relatively thorough catalog to distribute locally in the near future.

Everything starts with a seed, and without them we cannot possibly be a successful commercial farm. This is hugely taken for granted at every level of the farming community these days. We are going to continue to do everything we can to perpetuate the timeless cycle of growing seeds and food for ourselves, our neighbors, and our valued customers.

^ Costata Romanesco zucchini seed saving in progress. This is hands down the best zucchini we have ever had, and our customers wholeheartedly agree! We will definitely keep working on this one. This amazing historical variety has a long history crisscrossing the Atlantic, and we will continue to select the traits that thrive on our farm and that our customers desire.

^ The footprint of a seed saving project does not need to be large. This mason jar box provided plenty of room for over a dozen wet-process, quick-ferment seed crops over the course of a month or so. Even Anna didn’t mind this that much on her kitchen counter. This is a small price to pay in space and time for a significant value in the sustainability and dependability of some of our farm’s most popular crops.

^ Speaking of popular…we won’t even have any of our famous canned dill pickles this year because we sold every single one of our pickle cukes fresh at market! This is the third generation seed crop of National Pickling Cucumber grown on this farm. Every year they seem to get more productive and vigorous, not to mention tasty.

^ Where would small Maine farms be without lettuce? We had particularly good luck growing Burgandy red leaf lettuce despite extreme drought conditions and a lack of irrigation. This is certainly a keeper.

^ We are currently saving seed for almost half of the vegetable varieties we grow on this farm. Over the years we have tried to focus on growing a relatively small diversity of crops. This allows us the flexibility to find the best and grow the best. There are still some major gaps in our seed sustainability plan but we are working on them. We consider this a great start with a truly minimal amount of work hours during our busiest seasons. Our seed envelopes do not look like those found on most commercial farms, but this is where we believe the future foundation of sustainable farming begins.

^ Some people might think this is nutty, but we also grow our own trees from seed here on the farm. The closest bucket shown above is English Walnut seed from Anna’s parents farm two towns over. The other bucket is peach pits (seeds!) from our neighbor’s farm less than a mile away. We built a “hopefully mouse-proof” nursery bed for these special seeds that need stratification over the winter. We are expecting dozens of different peach and nut tree seedlings in the spring. Each of these will have their own unique set of genes that we will be judging for compatibility with our farm’s micro-climate over the years to come.


This year we planted a number of different crops in late summer as part of a relatively extensive overwintering trial. The goal is to identify and grow out for seed those plants that survive the winter completely unprotected. We have been doing this on a smaller scale for the last several years, and have had some success overwintering crops and growing them out for seed to produce hardier offspring.

The central component of this overwintering trial is our very own variation of Red Russian Kale. For the past 5 years we have been seeding a crop of Red Russian in late summer for leaf harvest in late fall. We then leave the plants in the ground unprotected and save seed from those that survive the winter. Each year the survivors produce hardier and hardier offspring, and a greater percentage are able to withstand Central Maine winters without row cover or even snow for protection. This year there is well over 5,000 row feet planted, and we should be able to begin really selecting some fine specimens of truly our own variety of Kale.

We are also growing out a large number of Evergreen Hardy Scallions from seed grown on the farm. We selected the first batch of seed stock for superior performance after being direct seeded and overwintered, and with over 1,500 row feet planted this year we should be able to continue selecting for the superior traits we are looking for. This is a simple crop to overwinter, as it is incredibly hardy, but it is still exciting to select the sleekest, greenest plants with the best divisions and a reluctance to bolt to save for seed, while also being able to sell the remaining scallions to eager early season buyers.

Time Flies When You Are Running a Farm…

Wow, has time passed us by as we have been busily working away on the farm and missed over two years of progress updates. Well, let us get you up to speed, here goes for a really quick recap of what our last few seasons have brought us…



In 2016 we continued to grow our goat herd and gave guinea hogs a try as well. We bred the goats for 2017, enjoyed a very successful and adorable kidding season and ended the year with the end of our goat husbandry days. The goats were a wonderful addition to our farm while we had them but did not fit into a sustainable system on our farm.

Speaking of wonderful critters on the farm, in 2016 we also added our best farm companion yet, Charcoal. Charcoal works on the farm as primary herder, guardian, chicken catcher and napper!

In 2016 Anna’s parents also moved up to Maine and purchased the old Schartner Farm in Thorndike, now known as Mueller’s Fruit Farm. We market together at our various Mount Desert Island farmers markets to sell our vegetables with their fruit. They also have a farm store in Thorndike, right off of Route 220, open throughout the season.

So, what about the vegetables, the perennials and the rest of the farm?!

The vegetables are as delicious, fresh and unsprayed as ever! We have expanded into 3 acres of production and continue to grow new potatoes, baby carrots, greens, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, alliums and kohl crops. As we have continued to grow these crops we are finding our favorite varieties and limiting ourselves to those as we begin to embark on our new value-added endeavor of seed saving, both for the farm and to sell.

We have continued to plant perennials as we plan for the future including a couple of high-bush blueberry patches, a heritage apple orchard and more to come. We added another adjoining 5 acres to the farm in 2016 of shrubby wooded land, which the pigs worked to clean up a bit. We plan to plant a peach grove on its northern slope and are in the process of planting a cherry orchard as well. The future sounds sweet, fruity and succulent.

Where are we now? We are in another long cold spring, itching to get out into the fields and get going. March certainly did come in like a lion but did not leave like a lamb…as we wait we prep what we can and get our hands dirty wherever possible. We have exciting plans for this season including new product lines, more family hands on the farm and less baaahh-ing distractions!


And What a Summer It Has Been…

Wow, it may just be us but doesn’t it seem like this summer has just flown by? It is hard to believe that it is already September. Our CSA and markets are coming closer to wrapping up but our fields are still producing bountiful amounts of baby carrots, potatoes, greens, and more!

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As fall approaches our corn is growing quickly and our sunflowers are coming to the end of their reign. We have had a great season thus far and plan to end it accordingly and are already planning for next year.

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This year a focus of our farm has been saving our own seeds. This fall all the kale and mustard will be grown from our own saved seeds, this is a very exciting venture for us and allows us to become self-sufficient and not dependent on seed companies who may have a crop failure certain years or may choose to stop offering certain varieties we depend on.

Throughout the summer we have been feeding our chickens and goats with our leftover produce, it gives them quite a feast that they all enjoy together. Our goats have grown quite a bit since the beginning of the season and are just as playful and silly as ever.

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Life on the farm has been busy but good. We look forward to a pleasant fall, a restful winter, and another great season shortly after, but until then there are still a few months left of hard labor, perfect working weather, and delicious farm fresh foods.

The goat kids have arrived!

After much waiting we have finally driven up to Mandala Farm in Gouldsboro and picked up a young flock of cashmere goat kids, and let us tell you they are a joy to have! We are currently pasturing them together with our small flock of laying hens and these very curious and adventurous goats quickly took over the chicken coop where the goats and hens now sleep together.

photo 4 photo 1 photo 14 photo 15Although it is tough to concentrate on anything else with such cute new additions to the farm we are busy at work tending to the vegetable fields. Yesterday, we had a much needed full day of rain that accomplished more for our fields than we could have ourselves. A nice rainy day is always an enjoyable one for farmers, to sit back, relax, and watch nature do the heavy lifting.

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First CSA Share of the Season!

Hello and welcome to our CSA members!

We really hope you enjoyed your first share of the season. It was packed full of greens, with a few veggies with some color packed in as well. We enjoy nothing more than boxing up some great looking veggies just picked fresh that morning and sending them your way!

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Hello Freedom, We Are Murphy Family Farm

Now that we have put up our new sign in Freedom, and now that you know who we are we just wanted to introduce ourselves. We are Murphy Family Farm and we grow diversified vegetables and will be having a market this summer right down the street at Freedom General on Sundays. Come on by and say hello if you see us out in the fields or at the market and let us know what you would like to see.

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A Busy Time of Year

The farm has been busy with tilling, seeding, transplanting, going to markets, and prepping for our CSA with Siberia Farms which begins on June 4th. Beyond the usual farm tasks Sean and his dad have been working on putting up the Murphy Family Farm sign his dad made, so this past week they built a sign stand, hopefully the sign will be going up soon!

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Market, raised beds, and transplanting season begins!

We are growing excited as the time for our first market is quickly approaching this Saturday, May 16th from 9 to 1 at Dot’s Cafe in Lincolnville. We have a great variety of greens and more planned for the first week! We will be bringing lettuce, spinach, kale, scallions, and seedlings. Collecting fiddleheads and ornamental blossoming cherry branches is also on our list of things to gather for this first market.

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Kale safely stowed under our Remay cover, a cloth covering that helps us to keep out pests allowing us not to spray.

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The week has been busy as we have been creating permanent raised beds in our main field. This means a lot of hours are spent shoveling the top soil from the paths in which we walk onto the beds. Once we turn around and look back at the gorgeous beds created it is certainly worth it all!

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We also spent a lot of time in the field transplanting our beautiful seedlings out. Above is our newer lettuce patch with kale on the left and broccoli on the right, both protected by Remay. Below are our beets freshly transplanted in the fields and a photo of our broccoli seedlings before they were transplanted.

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Warm weather, busy times, and foreign friends

Suddenly the weather has taken a turn for the better as it has warmed up and the fields are drying out. Tomorrow is the big day when Sean will get out into the field and till it up for the Spring. Meanwhile we have filled the hoophouse, most recently planting the last available row with bok choy on a lovely morning off from work. The orchard has also now been planted and although it is a long-term project it is one we are very excited about!

Bok ChoyTraveling VeggiesLettuceWateringThis past week we had visitors come to the farm, Anna’s grandparents flew over from Germany and excitedly explored all the farm had to offer. They loved the beautiful views, the lively hoophouse, and the beginnings of our lovely cabin. They also loved the coast and enjoyed several meals at Dot’s Cafe in Lincolnville, the location of our market which is starting next Saturday, May 16th, we hope to see you there!