Morris Moffatt, Crew Boss at Sparrow Arc Farm in Unity, Maine sits down after a long day of work on his back porch with a cigarette in his left hand and a gin and tonic in his right. The dirt smudged under his right cheek bone follows down to his equally covered dirty feet. He “guns down a butt” letting me know that Sparrow Arc is a unique farm due to the high quality vegetables and small crew, while selling a great deal to upscale restaurants in Boston. This year the farm is working with 8 acres of orchard and approximately 42 tillable acres in Unity and the surrounding town of Burnham; all done with a seasonal crew of five people.
Owner Matthew Lineham is in his late twenties and started the farm six years ago. Not only is the farm young but the crew member’s ages range from early to mid-twenties, all local community members of Unity, Burnham, and Thorndike.
Though the farm itself is not certified organic, their practices are. “We grow a mixed market garden, selling a wide variety of organic crops, Matt chooses to not be certified, he doesn’t believe in getting involved in local politics. We grow food the way it should be grown, without pesticides and chemical fertilizers.” says Moffatt. Sparrow Arc Farm markets to CSA’s and restaurants in Southern Maine and the Boston Metro area. Sparrow Arc has CSA’s in both Massachusetts and Maine; Waldo County’s Volunteer Regional Food Pantry just received yellow sun and white satin carrots from the farm for their monthly food distribution just last week. Though the farm participates in CSA’s what makes the farm so special is their work within restaurants.
Sparrow Arc Farm has an unusual approach from other farms in the Waldo County area due to their close relationship with their customers. The farm grows specifically for the restaurants they sell to. “We ship to Boston twice a week; we make relationships with the Chefs at these restaurants and ask them what they would like us to grow. We go out of our way to ensure these relationships stay strong.” says Moffatt. The farms “hands on” approach with their customers allows the farm to grow a unique crop, filled with kinds of produce that may be uncommon to find.
What Sparrow Arc Farm may be best known for is their Waldoboro Green Neck Air Turnip; they are one of very few farms that grow the vegetable. Legend says that the Waldoboro Green Neck Turnip, or rutabaga to some people, washed ashore in 1886 along Maine’s Coast of Claim Bake Nation and has stayed in Waldoboro County ever since. The turnip is so distinctive due to the fact that the genetics have not been altered for the last fifty years and you can only find the turnip in the Waldoboro area.
The farm also grows New Red Pots, Moffatt states, “Potatoes are potatoes but what makes our Red Pots so special is we ship the potatoes with the skin mostly untouched which is very hard to do. Because of the care we give during washing and handling the skin is left on, which allow them to be higher quality and look more appealing.” They also grow a wide variety of salad greens that come in 11 different varieties including baby leaf lettuce, beat greens, cress, mustard greens, and arugula. All of their produce from the farm comes with a 100%, two week guarantee once shipped.
Yet, when it comes down to it, what makes Sparrow Arc Farm so extraordinary is the high end, award winning restaurants they sell to, restaurants that have even received the James Beard Award. Moffatt says, “We sell to places like Chef Peter Davis at Hennery Etta’s Table in the Charles Hotel, a high end restaurant that specializes in New England, home- style, fresh, seasonal, big portion cooking.” They also sell to Coppa, a wood fired, cured meat, pizza restaurant, and Earth at Hidden Pond, a very fancy high end restaurant.
Moffatt ends the interview saying he’s out of cigarettes “If you really want to know Sparrow Arc Farm, know this… we sell to places that make their own bread, make their chicken stock in house, places that care about where their food comes from. The restaurants we sell to make food the right way, these Chefs are not making gravy from a packet, I can tell you that. Last week we found out that the Dalai Lama ate at Hennery Etta’s Table. He ate our produce, that’s pretty cool, knowing our energy became part of the Dalai Lama, how many farms can say that?”
What’s more important to know about this farm is that they hold their produce to a superior standard. Not only is it easy to sense that farming is a way of life for Morris, but he also shares how proud he is. “I am a farmer, that’s what I do, I grow vegetables and I cook vegetables, and people eat the food I grow. I believe in Sparrow Arc Farm and I plan on working there and growing vegetables the rest of my life.”
Written By: Meg Joy
Photo By: Heather Linehan