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Morning Dew Farm, Newcastle, Maine
Brady Hatch and Brendan McQuillen as experienced by Ben


“Maxwell, Out.  Out. I said out!” Brady forewarns, in a tone that makes it seem like she’s used to repeating.  She puts her rake down, brushes the blonde hair out of her face and walks over to her rambunctious dog.  Maxwell looks up, wags his tail feverishly, and remains standing in the same spot. Brady and I have just laid spinach seed and Maxwell, an overly friendly golden retriever, is doing his best to mix up the well-groomed soil.  His company is always appreciated, just not always completely helpful when work needs to be done at Morning Dew Farm.
Farmers wake up early. More often than not, they beat the sun out of bed.  The customary depiction of America’s farmer is a man in his fifties with weathered face and hands and a rock-solid work ethic fortified mostly by time.  America’s farmer is out riding his plow wearing a sun-washed red O’Malley’s Propane hat and a patched-up faded denim shirt.  His old beagle Jake, when not off chasing geese, is running along his side.  I couldn’t tell you exactly where this farmer is, but he’s probably somewhere landlocked in the plains of America’s Heartland, far away from the ocean.  After meeting Brady Hatch and Brendan McQuillen though, this stereotypical image was refocused.
I wake up around 8 am in the RV.  The sun has been shining for an hour or so now. Barefoot and in only boxers, I scamper on the gravel driveway of 149 Cottage Point Road. I’m doing my best to avoid any damage to the soft underside of my foot. To the squirrels waking up in the pines above, it probably looks like I’m walking on hot coals or doing some sort of elaborate rain dance.  I finally reach the welcoming door of Adam’s gray house that from the Damariscotta River looks like a church.  Feet now firmly planted on friendly ground, I am in awe of the Native American peoples who navigated much harsher terrain with nothing more than floppy moccasins.  I consider and conclude that they just had tough soles.  When I was younger, I had tough soles too, but they’ve gotten softer over the years. I’m working on getting them back though.  I’m going farming.

Twenty minutes after getting dressed, Wigs and I meet Brady Hatch and Brendan McQuillen, both 24, and Maxwell their dog, almost 1, at Morning Dew Farm in Newcastle, Maine.   Brady is a pretty woman, petite, but with a strong jaw worthy of someone who works with her hands.  Brendan much taller, sports a beard that, judging by its thickness, he started growing in early spring. He is wearing a well-worn navy blue hat that has a white patch on the front outlined in green with the words National Fishermen scripted in blue.  Brady and Brendan look like farmers to me, albeit a little young. The couple greets me with a warm welcome, but it’s still early enough in the morning when unnecessary chitchat is more of a chore than anything else.

After stowing our gear (cameras, recorders, notebooks, etc.) safely under a tarp, Brady, Brendan, Maxwell, Wigs and I walk down from the barn to the greenhouse.  The ground, wet from the last of the dew and the now morning drizzle, feels fresh between my toes (I know this because I forgot shoes, so I am wearing flip-flops).   Once cozily inside the greenhouse and free from the rain, Brady tells me about the day the greenhouse was built.   “We offered a free lunch and beer to some people from town in exchange for help.  The greenhouse came in a kit, and the directions were terrible.  The wind was blowing hard and it was raining pretty heavy, but we got it up.  We learned a lot from the experience.”

Morning Dew Farm is a beautiful place, rain or shine.  In addition to the greenhouse, there is a picturesque farmhouse with the proper shutters and shingles, a barn worn down just enough to be authentic but not so much to be unstable, and fields of lettuce, tomato, spinach, and leeks. I especially enjoy the wild apple trees and the lone pear tree.    

Morning Dew is not your typical farm.  First, it’s only fourteen miles from the Atlantic Ocean – coastal enough that shellfish detritus is used in the topsoil and compost. But mostly, Morning Dew is different from a traditional farm because it represents a new wave of crop cultivation.  Locally grown organicLocal means crops are not shipped in from all over the world but instead grown at local farms for use at local restaurants, groceries, and homes.   Organic is more difficult to pinpoint.  It has all sorts of legal definitions, but to simplify, it means grown and processed without chemicals and pesticides.  And one more thing, the farmers of Morning Dew and Maine in general are younger.  The average age of an American farmer is around 55, but because of ambitious young farmers like Brady and Brendan, the average Maine farmer is 52.


Between shoveling manure, raking topsoil, and planting arugula one pinch of seed at a time, I get a better glimpse of what brought Brady and Brendan here.  They met their senior year in a Philosophy of Environmental Thought class at Johns Hopkins. The class was a blend of both of their majors: Brady, Environmental Studies, and Brendan, Philosophy.    They read and interpreted the likes of Thoreau and Emerson. Their discussions on transcendentalism merged into friendly conversations, and soon they were meeting after class to grab what Brady considered lunch and Brendan breakfast. Over these meals, they found that they had much more in common than one class. 

Originally, both had intentions of studying International Relations and becoming suit and tie-wearing ‘big wigs.’ They wanted to make a global impact by working for the United Nations or some high-powered law firm but sometime before graduation, they became disillusioned with the world of politics and academia. Brendan questioned the point of his Political Philosophy class, “People are hungry out there and we’re asking, ‘Is proportional representation in Germany a more effective system than the Lord of Chambers in Britain?’ Is it really going to the root of the questions we should be asking?  For me, it wasn’t.”

So upon graduation, they both decided to work with their hands and find a more tangible self-fulfillment.  Both apprenticed as farmers in the Pacific Northwest and the South to learn the trade- not the traditional post-collegiate path. According to Brendan, “Yeah, I got shit about it.  $150,000 education from Johns Hopkins and you’re going farming.  You’re wasting your time.”  He clearly doesn’t think he is. “It feels good to work hard at the end of the day and complete a task.  Growing crops and seeing the whole process of growth is tangible.”   Also, he says his education has paid off in ways he couldn’t have imagined. “You bring your education with you wherever you go.  It helps with direction, orientation, and everything else.   It also helped us write a 48-page business plan for the farm this past winter.”

Farming might be more tangible than other trades, but it is no easier.  Brady notes, “People write books about how easy it is to farm organically.  You just have to do this, this, and that.  Well, I wish that were the case.  It’s hard work.” The dampness of my shirt and the dirt underneath my nails is hard evidence that organic farming is no walk in the park, nor is it a standard nine-to-five gig. 

It has begun to rain harder now and inside the greenhouse it sounds like we’re in the bellows of a drum that someone is rapping with gentle fingers.   It’s harder now to have a conversation, so we concentrate on our work.  We finish the days’ work in half the time because today Morning Dew has double the employees-four instead of two.  I’ve worked up a good sweat and quite a hunger as well, but before we head in for lunch, we walk over to the fields on the other side of the farm. Brendan pulls a couple of bluish-green leeks out of the ground.  “These look good,” he says.  “Sure do, what are you going to do with them?” I ask.  He laughs. “We’re going to eat them, that’s what we do.  If I grow something I want people to eat it.  I’m not saying growing huge hollow pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns isn’t cool, but my favorite part of work is feeding people.”

Crops in hand, Brendan, Wigs, and I walk up the stairs of the porch, through the screen door, and head for the kitchen. I try my best to help out by washing and chopping the freshly picked vegetables, but I’d probably be of greatest service if I stayed out of the way. Brady puts a pot of water to boil and Brendan pulls open the fridge and grabs four locally brewed Maine beers.  He asks if I can drink, considering I’m working and what not.  I tell him that a beer every once in awhile probably fits my job description.  “Good,” he says. “It’s a hell of a lot better than drinking that orange stuff in the corporate cafeteria.”  I couldn’t have said it better.  Beers in hand, we go to sit down.  He strums away at his banjo and I listen.  The combination of the sound of the rain outside, the banjo inside, and the aromas emanating from the kitchen puts me at ease.




 A couple of banjo licks later lunch is laid out.  It consists of hot potato and leek soup, freshly picked garden salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette and grilled cheddar cheese on French bread with tomato and basil.  In between bites, we talk about what really matters.  Brendan replies, “It’s all about enjoying the small things.  I have a wonderful girlfriend and business partner, we have Maxwell (he’s a good dog), a cool roof over our head, a car that starts regularly (for the most part), a fulfilling occupation, and plenty of food. It’s a simple way of life.  Old time Americana.  ‘Family, it’s time to gather round the table’ type deal. ”

Brady explains in greater depth how Morning Dew works.  They rent the property from Brady’s mom and set it up as a food cooperative where local townspeople pay a fee and become members for the growing season.  Members are entitled to freshly grown local groceries twice per week.  Currently, there are eighteen co-op members, but next year, they expect that number to double to thirty-six. Morning Dew is notably different from your chain fluorescent Supermarket:  Aside from the freshness and locality of their products, Brady and Brendan offer a new family discount for families that have children younger than two and they offer work-share programs where anyone can come work the farm in exchange for crops.  Their yoga instructor is a work-share farmer. 




The local organic movement is gaining momentum.  In fact, supermarket chains like Whole Foods and magazines like Organic Style are taking the old Saturday farmer’s market, bringing them to the mainstream, and making a profit.  However, not all who jump into organic farming are doing so because of the appealing bottom-line. Brady and Brendan are farming for more than money or glamour. Brendan points out, “They don’t show the picture of the farmer in the magazines.  He’s never around, because he’s too busy working.  Instead they show some woman with a Bolivian cashmere scarf.   But you know what, the magazines work though because they get the message across.  I see that woman in the scarf at the farmers market all the time and she buys our tomatoes.” 

 When the couple is not working at the farm, they wait tables at The Damariscotta River Grill.  All the restaurant’s summer salad plate specials and many of the other vegetables come from Morning Dew.  Fittingly, when the couple is not farming or waiting tables, they like to relax by cooking.  Clearly, their lives revolve around growing and providing food.

 Halfway through lunch, Brady’s Mom walks in.  She and her husband moved to this Maine property from Capitol Hill to start a sheep farm and now, only two years out of college, her daughter and boyfriend have carried on the farming tradition.  Like all moms who ask because they care, Brady’s mom inquires if Brady is drinking a beer.  Brady replies, “Yes, Mom, but it’s organic.” 




After lunch, I help to clear the table.  Inadvertently, I succumb to a stereotype. I ask Brendan if they use the dishwasher.  He replies laughing, “No, and we also churn our own butter… Yeah, we use the washer.  We’re children of the modern age too, we still need movies and the internet, and c.d.’s. We want to listen to groovy music from time to time.”

It’s raining harder outside now, but I’ve decided that I can’t leave the farm until I take a picture of Brady and Brendan standing next to each other holding a pitchfork.  Brady tells me the pitchfork is out in the fields and points me to the closet where an extra yellow raincoat is hanging. The coat is a little small but after a couple of jostles, I manage to put it on. I run outside and jump the steps of the porch. My flips-flops don’t help much and I slip all over the place maybe my soles are getting tougher.  Now back in the greenhouse, I take the picture and it comes out just as I hoped.   I call it American Gothic Refocused With A Dog Named Maxwell.




Although they’re not jet-setting around the world arguing cases on international diplomacy or lobbying for free-trade, Brady and Brendan’s impact is no less great.  In fact, it’s that much more focused.  It’s local. Brendan confidently states, “I am going to make a difference in my family, my town, my friends and community.  That’s what I have control over…I don’t have control over the United Nations or Kim IL Sung.  When I read the paper I can get real depressed but when I go to grocery store I can have a great trip, see people I know, get some good food.” 

Some tomatoes you buy in the store are picture perfect because they are sprayed with all sorts of chemicals.  Some are even painted.  Organic farmers are facing tough competition in today’s world of airbrushing, plastic surgery and genetically-modified food.  So, organic farmers are trying to launch a campaign that makes it clear that slightly cosmetically disfigured crops are natural and better.  After spending a day with Brady, Brendan and Maxwell at Morning Dew Farm, there’s little doubt which tomato I prefer.

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