Winterberry Farm Member Profile
Introduce us to yourself, your farm and your draft animals!
I am Mary Perry of Winterberry Farm in Belgrade Maine. We are a 40 acre diversified certified organic farm, horse and oxen powered. We grow veggies for our 110 member 3 season CSA. We keep a small flock of romney sheep for wool and layers, meat birds and turkeys for our fall CSA. We have an on farm farm-store where we make and sell value added products from what we grow: fruit and meat pies, jams and pickles, pestos and prepared meals etc. Our oxen are 8 year old milking short horns, Star and Red. Our team of horse are 14 and 18 year old haflingers, Ginger and Nestor.
What got you started in draft animals?
I showed quarter horses in my former life so having a horse and raising my kids around horses seemed natural. And they are therapeutic in keeping me sane as I farm and raise my 3 kids as a single parent. I decided on horse power for our farm because I know how to run a horse a whole lot better than I know how to run a tractor, and they keep us on a slower pace and keep it all in balance as the kids grow. My three kids are Kenya 21, Gil 17 and Sage 11. Gil started with the oxen when he was 9 with 4H. He is not part of 4H now. He now brings them to the Common Ground Fair for the scooting demonstrations and for twitching with them in the woods. He and his boys have literally grown up together– they have always been shoulder to shoulder in height. Even now with Gil measuring in at 6″1″ those boys are right at his shoulder.
How do you incorporate horses and oxen into the farm?
The oxen have a cart that dumps. We use that daily for manure. Their other job is to bring heavy loads down the hill to the veggies fields and full loads of veggies up the hill to the washing area. The horses do sleigh rides for customers in the winter, and with the forecart they pull a disc and plow for the vegetable fields.
What are the advantages of working both horses and oxen on one farm?
The horses keep me happy and Sage rides and jumps them. The oxen have helped to raise Gil. They work with him daily in the woods bringing wood in for us to burn in our home, they check taps in the early spring for Gil’s sugar shack, and they have helped him build a pretty cool cabin.
As a teamster-drover, what goals or aspirations do you have that you haven’t met yet?
Finding the time to work with the horses more myself.
Where do you look for advice and inspiration about working horses?
For Gil’s oxen we reach out to folks that have helped him all along since his 4H days. For the horses I reach out to local folks that I have met at the MOFGA Low Impact Forestry weekend. And Gil and I try to attend DAPNet’s annual gathering.