BRUNSWICK — To arrive at Milkweed Farm just after daybreak during harvest season is to feel late to the game.

Farmer and co-owner Lucretia Woodruff is bent over in the fields, pulling perfect carrots from dark brown soil still damp from the morning fog. The youngest of her four children, Maeve, 10, and Daire’, 7, are dressed and ready to accompany their father, Michael, on a mission to relocate the egg-loving skunk they trapped the night before.

Farmhand Muriel Garner is using a knife to trim heads of lettuce into the kind of tidy glory that would make a food stylist’s heart beat faster.

The only being still asleep is Shirley, the guardian dog, snoozing after performing her nightly duties of scaring off coyotes, foxes, deer – any predator of poultry or produce who ventures too near.

Woodruff was drinking coffee at 4:30 a.m. “I get up early so I have time to think,” she said.

What you see before you are the fruits of not just hard labor but of morning thinking sessions. Milkweed looks like it has been there for a century, but it’s a farm built recently from scratch. When the Woodruffs bought their 12 acres in 2005, it was nothing more than a field, bordered to the right by the neighbor who sold them the parcel and still presides over 50 acres of wild blueberry fields. To the left – over a few hills and dales – is Brunswick’s best known farm, Crystal Spring.

The Woodruffs relocated from Phippsburg, living in a tent while they built the barn. After that, they threw up a glorified shed and worked on their home, which rises out of the fields, a spare, white, off-grid clapboard structure with a tangle of shoes on the back deck; four children require a lot of footwear.

Over the course of a long August day, Daire’ leads the ducks to and from the pond, Seamus, 12, feeds the chickens, as well as Hank the steer, and Maeve makes bouquets for the farm’s CSA (community supported agriculture) shareholders. Everyone puts in a couple of hours of work before a breakfast of softly scrambled egg tacos topped with homemade kimchi, but there is a sense of relaxation as the big push of the season winds down.

“Spring is really the hardest time,” Woodruff said. “Because then you are trying to do everything.”

The main goal on this overcast August day, beyond picking and cleaning produce, is putting new beds in the hoop house for some key succession plantings, like spinach and greens, that will help keep the farm producing into the fall. Instead of hitting local farmers markets, Woodruff focuses on her thriving CSA programs, which run in the summer (13 weeks) and the fall (6 weeks) and feature everything from meat birds pasture-raised at Milkweed to cheese and yogurt from Wholesome Holmstead inWinthrop.

This is the season of celebration, of pushing off worries about the cover crop of buckwheat that probably should have been cut a couple of weeks ago and instead savoring all that has gone right. The tomatoes as big around as Lucretia’s outstretched hand, growing redder every day, the shallots and onions drying in the hoop house that might turn up on a plate at Fore Street in Portland or El Camino in Brunswick (the Woodruffs sell extra produce to restaurants) and a rain that comes, for once, at just the right time.

“I love working in the rain,” Lucretia says as the skies open up after lunch.

By the end of the day, Daire’ is on at least his third T-shirt, Maeve is ready to perch on her mother’s lap and the farm share customers have come and gone with their bounty, having exchanged local news, recipes and stories about what they did with last week’s haul and what they intend for for this week’s.

“The best part of this has been the community,” Lucretia says.

 


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