Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch's small organic farm yields more than just vegetables -- it inspires a new way of life for a fresh crop of gardeners.
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Eliot Coleman came to Cape Rosier, Maine, after college in 1968 to meet renowned homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing, a couple who would turn out to be his lifelong mentors. He wanted to learn to live off the land like so many back-to-nature enthusiasts of that counterculture period. "I was an adventurer who loved rock climbing and knocking around," Coleman says. "Small-farm life sounded like an adventure to me."
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Coleman and Damrosch are blessed with a quarter-acre home garden adjoining the farm. But Coleman says that with the right amount of compost, a sunny spot, and a space the size of a dining table you can produce a surprising amount of food, something he calls the "backyard miracle."
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Two large perennial borders lead to the back door of Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch’s house. The lush planting is only one part of their home garden and farm.
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Remote Seaside Field
The house seen from the growing fields.
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Around their shingled house, the couple tends a quarter-acre home garden, with its flower and vegetable beds, orchards, small greenhouses, and composting areas. They also farm and manage the work on the other cultivated acres devoted to supplying their farm stand and their wholesale restaurant business with produce. Delicious market produce, such as blueberries, sustain the operation.
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"I want people to know that it is possible to grow plants without any pesticides," Coleman says. “I look to old books written before farming lost its way. Those principles don't change." Those principles are used to grow produce, such as the tomatoes seen here.
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Early each morning, noisily clucking chickens eager to get out of their custom trailers summon Coleman and Damrosch to start the day. The portable coops move easily on large cart wheels so the birds can grub around the freshest feeding grounds possible.
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Flower-filled beds surround the house. Damrosch favors long-blooming perennials that need little fuss once established. They are planted thickly so few weeds can get a toehold in the gaps.
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A friend of a farmhand stops by. Coleman and Damrosch are happy to pass down their knowledge to a new generation. "I've never seen interest in small farming leap as much as it has in the past five years or so," Coleman says. "The idea of 'local' as a concept has really clutched young people."
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Soil blocks filled with young lettuces are made of peat, sand, soil, and compost.
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Coleman and Damrosch use an expandable modular system where each row is 30 inches, a width that matches that of the rake that Coleman designed and allows anyone to step over or reach into the bed to yank out a weed.
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Coleman's daughter Clara and grandchildren visit from Colorado, where she runs an organic-farm consulting business.
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Farm worker Mee-Young Yoon will take the lessons she learned back to her native Korea to start her own organic farm.
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