Welch Farm
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Name:            Welch Farm

Location:       186 Roque Bluffs Rd.

                        Roque Bluffs, Maine 04654

Phone:            207-255-0133

Email:            welchfarm@mgemaine.com

Products and Services:

-retail and wholesale wild blueberry sales

-rental of cabins

What Makes Welch Farm So Unique:

If you head to Downeast Maine in August it appears that just about everybody is talking “wild blueberries.”  Large fields are covered in blue and also many shades of red, green, and yellow. The over fifty varieties of wild blueberries that grace the rocky landscape produce many striking variations in color. 

When you travel the main Route One through Washington County, colorful plastic rectangular blueberry containers are stacked in piles in the fields just waiting to be filled. Some of the fields are sectioned off into long rows with twine so that the rakers have their own designated area in which to pick the berries. Blueberry sales run the whole gamut in Downeast Maine.  The small backyard seller, who is picking the berries by hand, is often offering pints of berries for sale in coolers at the end of their driveway or at the local farmers’ markets.  The sight of large tractor trailers hauling gigantic crates of blueberries that were harvested mechanically from local blueberry farms is a common occurrence.

The Hanscom family of the Welch Farm in Roque Bluffs has been harvesting blueberries for several generations.  The farm was named after Wayne Hanscom’s grandfather, Frank Welch, who came to the property the day he married his wife, Mary, in 1912.  They bought the farm from the Thompson family. Unfortunately Frank and Mary’s house burned two months after they moved in.  The farmhouse was rebuilt and, in time, 400 head of cattle was raised on the farm and 200 head of sheep was raised on the nearby islands.

When Wayne Hanscom was growing up and taking responsibility of the farm for his aging grandfather, he made a decision to taper the amount of cows that were being raised on the farm and to focus on blueberry production.  He has picked blueberries for the past fifty-three years.

Blueberries have always played a significant part in Maine history.  Native Americans ate the fresh blueberries and preserved the berries by drying them.  The dried berries were used as seasonings and to cure meat.  Wild blueberry tea was valued for healing.  During colonial times

the blueberry was utilized in a variety of recipes.  Blueberries were even canned and served to the Union Army in the Civil War.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of blueberry production is the fact that blueberries are very great from a health perspective.  They contain an antioxidant that helps combat infection. Blueberries are filled with vitamins and minerals.  They are fat-free and contain no cholesterol or sodium.  Although many blueberry fans appreciate the healthy aspects of this fruit, their love for the berries is often simply based on the fact that they taste so delicious in the jams, jellies, muffins, cakes, and pies.

Helen’s Restaurant in Machias is famous for their pies.  The blueberries in their blueberry pies have been provided by the Hanscom family for the past five years.  The Hanscoms also sell their berries to the IGA supermarket in Eastport.  You can find their berries at the Machias Valley Farmers’ Market.  If you head to the North End of Boston you can even find 1600 pounds of the Hanscom blueberries that have been used to make blueberry sausage!

For the past thirty-seven years during the third week of August each year, the Wild Blueberry Festival has taken place in Machias.  It has become a wildly popular and well-attended event.  Some of the highlights of the weekend’s festivities include a community musical, craft fairs, blueberry pie eating and cooking contests, a fish fry, a bean supper, a Black Fly Ball, one and five mile road races, a children’s parade, food concessions, fireworks, and musical events.

The Hanscom family of Roque Bluffs graciously opens up their blueberry farm and welcomes visitors to enjoy an educational tour about blueberry farming each August during the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival.  Visitors can drive to the farm or hitch a ride on a school bus that transports visitors to their farm and back to the Festival.

Lisa Hanscom leads the tours.  Visitors learn all about how the blueberries grow

naturally by rhizomes.  She shares a great

deal about the history of blueberries in the area and demonstrates the various boxes

and containers that have been used over the years.  She also points out the different

winnowers and equipment that have been used in blueberry production.

Lisa’s stories about growing up on a blueberry farm were extremely interesting.

She laughed as she explained how the

children were told that they would be sent back home if they didn’t pick every possible blueberry!  When she was young, a crew of seventy rakers would harvest the berries.  It would take several weeks of twelve-hour days. 

The days of young children picking blueberries in the fields are part of the past with the exception of children living on the family farm.  It is now against the law for a child under thirteen to be in the field picking berries without a parent.  Bending over and raking blueberries in the August sun is hot and exhausting work.  Lisa encouraged visitors on the farm tour to try raking some blueberries.

The various blueberry rakes used in harvesting blueberries by hand were shown on the blueberry tour.  The heavy Talbert blueberry rake (used up until the 1980’s) was on display.  The stronger, lighter Hubbard aluminum rake was also set out for people to observe.  An assortment of winnowers was also exhibited.

The two types of blueberry pruning were discussed on the tour.  Visitors learned about the years when the Hanscom family

mowed the fields and the years when the fields were burned.  Each method has advantages and disadvantages.  Mowing the fields leaves vegetation which rots and attracts bugs and disease.  Burning the fields is extremely expensive.  Because their relative, Herb Hanscom, has much

of the necessary equipment to prune the

fields, Wayne and Scott and Lisa Hanscom are able to do these jobs themselves.

The blueberry processor that the Hanscom family works with is Allen’s Wild Blueberries out of Ellsworth, Maine.  Roy Allen II, the President of Allen’s Wild Blueberries, commented that “The Hanscoms are very nice people and are terrific to work with.  We have enjoyed a relationship with the family for over twenty-five years.  They are a bit different than most of our other growers in that they do all of their own work on their fields.”

It might be surprising to learn that blueberry growers do not find out what they will be paid for their crop each year from the processor until December.  One year when it proved to be a particularly difficult one, the Hanscoms only made an $800 profit for the entire season.  All of the Hanscoms have second jobs.  Lisa drives a school bus and serves as Selectperson of Roque Bluffs.  Wayne recently retired from working as a land manager of many small blueberry farms.  Scott, son of Wayne and brother to Lisa, is an integral part of the blueberry operation, and he also harvests and sells firewood.  The family rents cabins on their land to acquire some extra income,

as well.

Blueberries have proven to be an integral part of the economy of Downeast Maine.

Blueberries are sold fresh, frozen, and dried.  In addition to providing seasonal employment for many individuals, harvesting the crop has resulted in the production of many by-products including

blueberry jams, jellies, syrups, cereals, wines, salsas, cookies, coffees, teas, barbecue sauces, etc.  Many blueberry-related crafts have supported local artisans.

The next time you enjoy a product containing blueberries you might want to

think about the fact that there is a good chance that the blueberries were harvested in Maine as Maine is the leader of lowbush blueberry production in the United States. If you stop at the nationally-renowned Helen’s Restaurant in Machias you can be assured that the blueberries in their blueberry pie are fresh, tasty Maine blueberries.  Besides the enjoyment acquired from consuming the scrumptious dessert,  you can support local farming since the berries in their pies were picked right down the road from the fields of the friendly Welch Farm in Roque Bluffs, Maine!


From left:  Lisa, Margot, Wayne, Chandra, Haili. and Chris.

Missing from the photo is Scott Hanscom.

From left:  Lisa Hanscom and Wayne Hanscom

Wayne Hanscom

Lisa Hanscom

The Hanscom barn was built in 1840.  It is a Western Style barn with two doors on the gable end , which was unusual for the New England area.

The Hanscoms rent cabins on their land.