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Late afternoon, Earth Day 2011, brought us to a hilltop in Penobscot, Maine where the owners and operators of Hackmatack Farms, Nicolas Lindholm, his wife, Ruth Fiske and their sons, Everett and Julian were headlong into burning 6 acres of blueberry fields. Nicolas was on point with a torch, touching off boundary fires which kept the burn contained and controlled. Ruth and the boys were equipped with Indian back pack pumps, quickly tending to the perimeter lines, squirting water on any errant flames.
Being situated on a hilltop increases your susceptibility to shifting winds, and thats what Nicolas and company were dealing with on this burn. The wind shifted 180 degrees and added an element of quick-footedness to the fire suppressors duties. Despite Mother Natures quirkiness, the team kept everything under control and maintained a good burn.
On our way to Hackmatack’s fields we stopped to watch a commercial blueberry operation burn their fields. Unlike Nicolas’ burn operation, which is run by family members, along with a few friends, and is done more or less by hand, the commercial operation uses large tractors that pull a 3 headed, kerosene fueled, fire blasting field burner. The smell of diesel fuel hung heavy in the air as we watched the 2 tractors crisscross the rocky fields.
Hackmatack Farm is MOFGA certified organic, and although they can use kerosene to aid in the burning of their fields, they take a much more laid back approach. The 2 operations stand in strong contrast to each other, while both share the common thread of tending to their fields.
In the upcoming weeks we will be visiting with Nicolas and Ruth yet again so we can chronicle the growing season of the delicious Maine blueberry. The next activities will be the application of soil amendments to the burned fields and we’ll see how honeybees will help with this years production fields.
Hackmatack Farm produces a wide variety of field grown vegatables, which are sold at many of the areas farmers’ markets, including Deer Isle on Wednesdays, Castine on Thursdays and Stonington on Fridays An overview of Hackmatack Farm can be found on the Castine Farmers’ Market website www.castinefarmersmarket.org just click on Vendors.