CHARLES DEGRANDPRE

CHARLES DEGRANDPRE

FREEPORT

The death of Charles DeGrandpre, a former Wolfe’s Neck Farm manager known for his leadership in organic agriculture, continues to resonate throughout the Freeport community.

He was 88 when he died on Thursday.

Originally from Ipswich, Massachusetts, DeGrandpre got his start at a farm owned by Barclay Warburton after serving in the Navy.

At a time when farmers were using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, DeGrandpre was already thinking about the use of compost and crop rotation.

In 1968, he was hired by Lawrence M.C. and Eleanor Smith, founders of Wolfe’s Neck Farm, to help develop their organic beef farm, where they raised mostly Black Angus cattle.

“He had organic experience, which back in the 1960s were not concepts to have come into use,” his son Jim said on Saturday.

“Many people came and learned about organic concepts because (Wolfe’s Neck Farm) was at the cutting age of organic,” he added. “(DeGrandpre) also used all these organic principles, which involved enriching the soil and treating the soils naturally without any sort of use of chemical fertilizers.”

DeGrandpre’s son Chuck said his father was an interesting teacher when it came to farming.

“Growing up on the farm, we all worked it and learned from my dad,” he said. “He never came out and said ‘this is what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.’ He always led us to it by example. He shared that not just with the four of us as we were growing up, but as well with so many others.”

Jim noted that his father would hire community members to work on the farm, including family members, high school students and lobstermen who were looking for work during the off season.

“They always seemed to want to come back because it was always an environment where my father was respectful, but they also learned a lot as well,” he said. “My brothers and I had a lot of friends who were at the farm during the summer, and so even though we were working often 12, 13 and sometimes 14-hour days, it was much more pleasant because we had a lot of folks working with us.”

DeGrandpre was always willing to help those in need, whether it was plowing neighbors’ driveways in the winter or being available when people sought him for advice, said Jim.

“He produced a lot of very positive, forward-moving individuals,” Chuck said. “He had a very big part in forming their commitment to life and the community, and that was one of the things that’s tough to gauge, but a legacy that is very significant in this community.”

Even after retiring from the farm in 1992, DeGrandpre lived in a home directly adjacent to the farm property, and remained connected to the farming community.

The founders’ son Sam, who continues to serve on the farm’s board of directors, also shared his thoughts on DeGrandpre’s contributions to Wolfe’s Neck Farm.

“He was a very practical person and my father had some ideas that weren’t completely thought out, and it was an interesting combination to see them work together,” he said. “Charlie wanted the new, but he also wanted the things that would work.”

Even while recovering from some serious health problems, Sam said DeGrandpre was still heavily invested in the farm’s current initiative in organic dairy.

“Wolfe’s Neck Farm is what it is in large part because of his contributions,” executive director Dave Herring said on Friday.

“Charlie is a legend at Wolfe’s Neck Farm,” he said. “He’s had an influence on so many of things that have happened there over the last 50 years. He was just a really special guy, and he’s going to be greatly missed by all of us.”

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