By Dominik Lobkowicz
A goat has a peek through the fence at Pumpkin Vine Family Farm in Somerville. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
Pumpkin Vine Family Farm’s workforce poses for a photo. Back from left: Anil Roopchand, Kelly Payson-Roopchand, and Anil’s father, Roopchan Rambharose.
Front from left: Anil and Kelly’s children, Keiran and Sarita, and the family dog, Donegal. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
As she and her young family have worked to establish their own roots on a farm in Somerville, Kelly Payson-Roopchand has written a new book to capture not only a year of their
own efforts but the history of six generations that preceded them.
Payson-Roopchand is the author of “Birth, Death, and a Tractor,” which was published by Down East Books and released earlier this month.
Kelly and her husband, Anil Roopchand, bought the Hewett farm at the end of Hewett Road in Somerville in 2007.
Kelly’s connection with the farm started before she and Anil even bought it, she said. They were standing on the dirt road in front of the farm with the real estate
agent when Don Hewett, who lived across the road, came down to get his mail.
Hewett, who was born at what is now the Roopchands’ farm and ran a dairy there, had “an incredible presence,” and time seemed to stand still as he shared stories of
working the fields, oxen and horses, and the generations that lived on his family’s homestead, Kelly said.
Kelly was hooked right there, she said, and wanted to become a part of the farm’s history.
“There’s a value of this open space and the history of the farm,” especially with all of the work using axes and animals to clear the trees and remove the stumps and
rocks, Kelly said.
Hewett was the last of his family to farm the land where his ancestors, Sebra and Lydia Crooker, originally settled and homesteaded in 1808 when Somerville was still
known as Patricktown, according to Kelly’s book. Hewett passed away earlier this year.
Sarita Roopchand sticks close to her mother’s side at the start of a tour of the family’s farm. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
In the book, Kelly shares a year of her family on the farm from September 2009 to August 2010, providing a look at the cycles that come with raising both animals and crops as
well as the larger cycles of life through the birth of her and Anil’s daughter, Sarita, and the death of a close friend.
Kelly’s descriptions not only capture the sensory perceptions of life on the farm – the sounds, like Hewett’s old Model B John Deere tractor or the call of a
whippoorwill, or the smell of freshly butchered pork – but also emotional perceptions, like their young son Keiran’s connection to the farm or the strain and worry that comes
with rejuvenating a small family farm.
The balance of the book is filled out with stories of the lives of Hewett and his wife, Shirley, and those of five generations of Hewett’s ancestors, based on the
Hewetts’ recollections as well as family records and plenty of research.
Uncovering details of the farm’s history has added a human touch to the land and the buildings, Kelly said. The history has served as a reminder to Kelly of her
transience relative to the farm, and that though she is just one of the current caretakers, she too will become a part of the farm’s story, she said.
Kelly and Anil have a goal of making the farm their full-time livelihood. Anil already works at the farm full time; Kelly has worked part time as Somerville’s town
clerk since last summer.
Now called Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, based on a Trinidadian term describing vine-like extended family networks, Kelly said, at the end of Hewett Road the Roopchands
raise goats, are a licensed dairy, sell hay and firewood, raise pigs for their own meat, and recently added two Jersey calves to the mix.
The Roopchands knew they wanted to raise goats, but fell into other seasonal and historic activities such as wreath-making because that’s what the land lended itself
to at the right times, Kelly said.
Keiran Roopchand walks through the long grass as his father, Anil, makes another pass cutting hay on the tractor. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
Both trained agricultural scientists, Kelly said she and Anil’s study of agricultural science not only serves to improve their abilities as farmers, but also their enjoyment of
As one example, the couple spread wood ash on some of the fields last year to help correct its pH level and improve the hay crop. “It’s so rewarding to nurture the
land and see it responding,” Kelly said.
The farm totals about 80 acres, with about 30 acres the Roopchands bought in 2007 and a neighboring 50 acres Kelly’s parents purchased.
Keiran Roopchand climbs up on the fender of a tractor in the dooryard of his family’s farm in Somerville. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
The farm has really drawn the family together, Kelly said, through her parents’ participation and Anil’s father, Roopchan Rambharose, who is helping on the farm for about 10
months this year.
“I wasn’t raised on a family farm, but they’re making it a family farm,” Kelly said.
The community also places value on the farm, which Hewett and his father had both operated as a dairy, Kelly said. Even though the farm is at the dead end of a dirt
road, Kelly said people noticed and remarked when she and Anil made repairs to the barn.
“It’s a community place and they care about it as a farm,” Kelly said.
It is a privilege to be on the farm, Kelly said, and she and Anil want to share the experience with others.
To that end, Kelly has hosted field trips from both of the kids’ schools and is starting a farm camp this year, July 20-24, for 4- to 6-year-olds.
One role of small farms should be providing a connection to nature and the cycles of life to overcome a loss of understanding that has followed technological
advancement, Kelly said. Fewer people have the opportunity to experience life on a farm, she said.
Farming is a human intervention to make the land do what humans want, but it’s important to have an appreciation for the ecosystem that supports that growth as well,
For more information on Pumpkin Vine Family Farm or the farm camp, visit www.pumpkinvinefamilyfarm.com, call 549
-3096, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Birth, Death, and a Tractor” is available for sale in Lincoln County at Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta, Sherman’s Books and Stationery in Boothbay Harbor,
and The Old Salt in Wiscasset, as well as at a number of other booksellers along the Midcoast and on Amazon.com.
Donegal turns back for a look after cresting the highest knoll in a field at Pumpkin Vine Family Farm in Somerville. (D. Lobkowicz photo)