Chewonki Farm
Saltmarsh Farm
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Name:            Chewonki Saltmarsh Farm


Location:        Chewonki Foundation

                       485 Chewonki Neck Road

                       Wiscasset, Maine  04578

Phone:            207-882-7323



What makes Chewonki Saltmarsh Farm

So Unique?

When you enter the Welcome Center at The Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, there are impressive displays with photos and artifacts from the early 1900’s when Camp Chewonki was set up as a camp for boys.  It is obvious that there is a distinct sense of pride in the history that has taken place on the Wiscasset property over the past 98 years.

Chewonki operated as a boys camps until the 1960’s.  The non-profit Chewonki Foundation was established in 1962 by former Chewonki campers. The expansion and development of environmental programs on the 400-acre coastal property has been truly amazing.

When the word “Chewonki” is mentioned in a newspaper article or at a conference or in a school, certain topics, which the organization has faithfully explored over the years, often come to mind.  Because of their proven track record with sustainability, natural history, stewardship, conservation, education, and community projects, Chewonki is often considered to be at the forefront of environmental undertakings.

The Chewonki Saltmarsh Farm is surrounded by twenty-five acres of open land and 150 acres of woodlands.  It is a dynamic operation which just solidifies and enhances all the environmentally-friendly qualities for which Chewonki has been recognized on a state and national level.

As with any farm, there is always a great deal of work that needs to be accomplished.  The exciting

aspect of the Chewonki Saltmarsh Farm is that

a diversity of groups contribute to the various tasks and projects that need to be addressed at the farm.

A Semester School takes place at Chewonki.  It is a challenging academic program for high-school juniors and seniors.  The students enrolled in this school attend traditional classes, but also study field ecology; participate in the outdoor program; live in rustic cabins; and work on the farm.

While enrolled in the the Semester School, the students become fully immersed in working with the sheep and the fiber that is produced on the farm.  They learn how to wash, pull, and card the wool.  They then have opportunities to spin, weave, and knit.

Chewonki students help care for all the animals that live at the farm. They take turns helping to provide hay and grain and with cleaning out the stalls.  When lambing time comes around, the students help with the lamb watch.

There still is a Camp for Boys in the summer at Chewonki.  The boys have the opportunity to enjoy a broad selection of activities such as sailing, soccer, archery, art, kayaking, pottery, swimming, tennis, field sports, woodworking, photography, and drama.  They also can choose to participate in the farm activities and the organic gardening program.

When the visit took place for the Chewonki profile that appears on this website, there were summer camp boys who were helping to harvest the potatoes, pick beans, weed, and learn all about wool and the natural dyeing process with various flowers.

Megan Phillips is the head farmer and farm educator at Chewonki.  She is a Registered Maine Guide and an outdoor enthusiast who served as an Outdoor Classroom Instructor and wilderness trip leader at Chewonki. She has taught environmental education in Alaska and led trips for Wilderness Ventures of Jackson, Wyoming, and the Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University.  With a Masters of Science in Environmental Education degree she has been a perfect match in managing the farm and helping to educate the staff and students.

Megan and her assistants seem to be doing a stellar job in providing campers and students with a very real idea of all that goes into the various enterprises that take place on a farm.  In an interview conducted by Ruthy and Clarke that appeared online, Megan explained that a summer day at the Chewonki farm usually averages eleven hours.

Chewonki Saltmarsh Farm places a major focus on the concept of sustainability.  The farm staff and students spend a great deal of time planning gardens that will produce high yields of organic food for the dining program at Chewonki.  Students and campers experience firsthand about

how weeding and harvesting, washing, and carrying vegetables can be tiring and challenging

work during a hot summer day. 

Even though the farm already produces 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of food annually for the dining hall, Megan is determined to work hard for Chewonki to be off the grid and to acquire more food from local sources.  There are two root cellars at Chewonki to store food.  A local farmer was contracted to grow six hundred pounds of onions just for Chewonki.

The Chewonki students develop a relationship with the land. When they sit down to enjoy a meal they have a fuller understanding about all the steps that had to take place to enjoy the fresh green beans that are placed in front of them.  In the height of the summer and into the fall almost all of the produce and greens come from the farm.  During the winter season only vegetables and meat that can be stored comes from the farm.  In 2011, the farm raised over $18,000 worth of vegetables for the dining services.

Animals at Chewonki are raised for meat and milk. According to a poster in the dining area, the Chewonki Saltmarsh Farm provides 700 lbs. of chicken, 900 lbs. of beef, approximately 12 lbs of pork, and approximately 700 lbs. of lamb.

The cows and sheep at Chewonki are pastured on a rotational system and they are moved twice a day.  Situations arise when the staff and students need to decide about the fate of a particular animal.  Megan explained how the farm continuously attempts to bridge the concept of farm production with educational and learning opportunities.

Students learn equine management at Chewonki.

Sal, the draft horse, is used to pull the harvested wood out of the woods.  She also is used to plow the fields.  Young campers see how the horse is readied to work by watching Megan attach all the

harnesses and belts.  They are allowed to help drive the horse under her supervision.

The primary mission of the farm is to educate students while producing food, wood products,

and fiber for the community.   Each of the student’s cabins are heated with wood and students have hands-on experiences with harvesting the wood.  Semester students work with an arborist and a logger to learn about which trees should be harvested and how to to drive draft horses and twitch logs.  Students learn how to move logs with peaveys and how to use a portable saw mill.  They

work with chainsaws and mauls.

The educational value involved with a specific activity often plays a major role in how the activity will evolve at Chewonki.  Farm manager Megan Phillips explained that the farm sometimes has to make decisions on the farm about what makes the most sense for the community from an educational perspective rather than what might be the most financially advantageous route to follow.

Megan spoke about the wind turbine that is located on the farm.  The unit consists of a 100-foot self-supporting tower carrying a 6.6-kilowatt wind turbine, providing power to Chewonki's largest staff housing building and producing an estimated 6,000 kilowatt-hours per year. The turbine does not have a battery system so any unused electricity goes back into the grid for credit.  Megan explained that the power that the wind turbine

provides is certainly appreciated, but that the wind turbine is equally valued for being an educational

tool for the students to learn about energy options.

Chewonki has a Sustainability Office.  They focus on many alternative energy systems including solar, biodiesel, renewable hydrogen, wind, and geothermal.  The use of natural light is encouraged throughout campus as well as energy saving light fixtures, efficient appliances and refrigeration, and

super insulation techniques.  There is a carbon emissions reduction goal of 80 % reduction by 2050.  An aggressive Zero Waste campaign is already in place.  Staff and students are encouraged to consider behavioral changes to help the entire campus move towards greater sustainability.

The educational impact of an activity is always taken into consideration.  Megan spoke about the

Hay Day celebration at Chewonki where the entire community helps to gather the loose hay. Although a tractor could collect the hay in a quicker and more efficient fashion, Megan explained how many hands working together contributed to a tradition that is associated with a joyful community experience.

In all the programs that Chewonki offers there is an

underlying expectation that students and campers are given responsibilities and that they will be trusted to meet the responsibilities.  High school students living in their cabins are trusted to abide by the 10 p.m. curfew.  Young campers are trusted with the pocket knives used in the woodworking class.  Students and campers with the early morning chores are trusted to awaken in time

and perform the chores.  Power equipment that

would be off-limits at many camps and schools

is allowed to be used after safety instruction is provided.  The students are trusted to operate the equipment with caution.

Fifty years ago the non-profit Chewonki Foundation was founded because Chewonki alumni felt so strongly about the value of the boys camp.  Many of the counselors and assistants at the Farm are graduates from the Chewonki camp or Outdoor Programs or the Semester School.  In addition to growing food, and providing heat and producing fiber for the Chewonki campus, the Farm has become a major provider of lifetime experiences that have influenced many individuals to connect  with the land and the community.

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