Holden’s Hart Farm comes back to life under new ownership

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 4:42 PM EDT
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HOLDEN, Maine (WABI) - After laying dormant for two decades, an historic farm in Holden is ready for its renaissance.

“After we met farming, deciding to come to Maine was like a no-brainer. The access to farmland, the culture around farming was amazing,” said Becky Toothacker.

“The amount of young people farming, too, around here, is huge,” said Andrew Toothacker.

Holden’s Hart Farm was originally established in the mid-19th century. The 160-acre parcel was in jeopardy of being sold for non-agricultural use when its owner, C. Evans Hart, passed away in 2011.

Wanting to preserve the town’s rural character, Holden Land Trust stepped in and began searching for a new owner. Andrew and Becky Toothacker were a perfect fit.

“We realized when we wanted to scale up from our first little incubator farm on family land in New Hampshire we needed to save some money. So, Becky got back in social work and I got back into cooking and we saved money and looked for farm land,” Andrew said.

“The Holden Land Trust had purchased the property from the Hart Family and put easements on it to make it affordable, and they put public trails on the property to give the public access to the farm. They weren’t in the position to farm it, so they were looking for farmers to purchase the land off of them. And we came across it and scooped it up, and the rest is history,” Becky said.

They purchased the property in March 2020 and spent the rest of the year getting the land ready. In 2021, they opened with a community supported agriculture model. They currently have 30 participants, with hopes of at least doubling membership next year.

“Our CSA runs for 20 weeks. Members come every Saturday to pick up their produce. It’s already set out so that they can come and grab it and go home and start cooking,” Becky said.

“The CSA is really kind of our primary means of driving the revival of this farm. It’s something that gives us the capital at the beginning of the season so that, one, we don’t have to go into debt to buy all the basic things you need to start up a farm season. Also allows us to make improvements to the farm, which is very necessary,” Andrew said.

The Toothackers are ready to welcome the public back to the farm. They’re hosting a Community Supported Agriculture Day on Sept. 26 so people can see for themselves what Hart Farm is all about.

“We’re gonna have live music, we’re going to have a professional cook who’s going to be working with some farm-fresh ingredients. Beyond that, it’ll be kind of getting to know me and Becky, getting to know our current community, which is an amazing group of people. Some farm tour activities, and just a general very family-friendly vibe,” Andrew said.

You can buy tickets to the event and learn more about the farm on their website, hartfarmmaine.com.

And later this fall, the Hart Farm will grow again. The Toothackers expecting a baby girl.

“I think we’re most excited to just experience living on a farm through a little one’s eyes. Because we see young families bring their kids to the CSA to pick up their produce, and how excited kids are to pick out their tomato, or grab their bunch of carrots and start snacking on them right away. To be able to do that with our own kid is very exciting,” Becky said.

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