A new family farm in Nobleboro, between Bayview and Morgan Hill roads, is bustling with activity, even in the dead of winter.
Switchback Farm, which practices sustainable and organic farming, is home to the Sturtevant family: husband and wife Matthew and Maisie and three children: Harper Libby, Elijah Libby, and Bronson Sturtevant.
The farm is also home to lots of chickens, honeybees, and pigs.
“We hope in the coming years we will be able to expand and help feed the community better food. This farm is our full-time commitment,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
The chickens are being moved around some newly cleared land in front of the family’s home, in a homemade mobile chicken house built on the frame of an old pop-up camper.
“The flock is composed of a variety of breeds, from Marans to Easter eggers,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
The farm has more than 15 breeds, which makes the eggs diverse in color: dark chocolate, brown, white, olive, blue, and pink.
Elijah takes care of the chickens. Every morning before school, he gives them water and food and collects the eggs. Every night, he collects whatever eggs are left and makes sure the chickens are safely back in their coop.
The farm’s pigs have an appearance similar to woolly sheep at first glance.
Matthew Sturtevant said they are Mangalitsa pigs, a breed that nearly went extinct when commercial hogs became more economical for farmers. The farm started with three and now has 20.
“These pigs are very unique. They look like sheep. It takes two to three times longer to grow them versus a commercial hog,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
The pigs help out with food waste from Lincoln Academy and Nobleboro Central School, according to Matthew Sturtevant.
Harper said one of the pigs’ favorite foods is doughnuts.
“We take the kids’ food waste and feed it to our pigs, as well as feeding them vegetables we grow on the farm,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
Maisie Sturtevant said the pigs are omnivores and eat all kinds of things. Winter is hard on them because they can’t get to the roots and bugs in the ground.
The pigs are kept on a 2-acre lot near the family’s home during the winter, but will move to a farm in Bristol, The Byre and Piper’s Pond, in the spring. At The Byre, another new farm, the pigs will help clear land for the farmers’ highland cows and sheep, according to Matthew Sturtevant.
Before moving to Nobleboro in 2018, the Sturtevant family lived in Massachusetts, where Matthew worked as an electrician and Maisie as a software analyst.
“We had always dreamed of having a farm,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
The family’s first experience raising bees came in Massachusetts.
Maisie Sturtevant’s father, Norman Hochella, was a beekeeper for 30 years in Massachusetts and said the family’s property on Morgan Hill Road would be perfect for raising bees.
Maisie Sturtevant said bees don’t truly hibernate in the winter, but come out on warmer days and keep active in the hive to ensure their queen stays warm.
“They form a big ball around the queen, moving, kind of like the penguins in ‘Happy Feet,’ to make sure the queen stays warm, at 90 degrees, during the winter,” Maisie Sturtevant said.
The family belongs to the Knox Lincoln County Beekeepers, a chapter of the Maine State Beekeeping Association. Through the local chapter, the couple met Jean Vose, a Nobleboro beekeeper with 35 years of experience.
“She became quick friends and a surrogate grandmother to our kids. She quickly became our beekeeping mentor,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
The family harvested 500 pounds of honey last year and aims to harvest 1,000 pounds of honey this year, according to Matthew Sturtevant.
Switchback Farm has 10 acres of land around the family’s home, in addition to 67 acres on the family’s abutting property, which has a conservation easement on it. The easement permits agriculture, but does not allow any building.
Maisie Sturtevant said the couple’s dream of having a farm included providing a place for their children to work.
“Part of our dream here is to build our farm for our kids, for them to each play a part in growing with the farm, working the farm store and at the farmers markets and feeding the community,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
Maisie Sturtevant said the family’s eldest child, Harper, has Down syndrome. “She is awesome at making jams and jellies,” Maisie Sturtevant said.
The farm sells and delivers goods in Lincoln County, with a price list available at switchbackfarm.com. It has had a booth at the Waldoboro Farmers Market in the past and hopes to have one at the Damariscotta market in the future.
The Sturtevants plan to open a farm store next month, during the maple sugaring season.
“This year we hope to tap the full potential, 120 trees. We have a small shed this time and a real evaporator, so we can sell to the public,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
“As I have the evaporator running, the store will be open. We will have our pork for sale (and) beekeeping products, like hand salve and lip balm and honey,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
Other products available at the farm store will include eggs, maple syrup, and produce when in season.
Matthew Sturtevant said the property’s creek and driveway inspired the farm’s name.
“We decided on the name Switchback Farm because the Oyster Creek switches back many times on our property and also our driveway is a switchback that claims cars in the winter that have to be pulled out by tractor,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
Maisie Sturtevant spent summers on Texas Road in South Bristol in the past, and both fell in love with the area after subsequent visits. Her grandparents, Ada and Tom Wriggins, lived and farmed on the 67-acre property the Sturtevants now farm.
“We just happened to find this great house on the Oyster Creek that is next to our other property that my wife inherited,” Matthew Sturtevant said.
Ada Wriggins worked with the Damariscotta River Association, now Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, on the conservation easement, according to Maisie Sturtevant.