Sparkplug Farm is a 30-acre diversified vegetable farm on Vinalhaven Island, located off the coast of Maine. Farmers Sara Hodges and John Wright began the farm in 2012 after earning Bachelors degrees from Warren Wilson College and apprenticing through the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). John and Sara currently hold a five year lease on 30 acres with 5 acres currently in production. They follow organic practices, but are not certified as such.
Vinalhaven Island has a year-round population of 1,000 residents, presenting both an unique challenge and opportunity. The farm currently supports a 70 member CSA, in addition to wholesale accounts and a weekly farmer’s market. Because of the small year round population Sara and John are able to work more directly with the community to tailor to the year round demand while also working to grow crops specifically for the summer community. Currently mesclun mix, tomatoes, and garlic are the top value crops for the farm. Shipping to and from the mainland raises costs anywhere from 10-20%, meaning it isn’t currently feasible (or needed) to sell off the island. These costs also means that John and Sara need to pay special attention to logistics, as getting fertilizer or other supplies on short notice can be both expensive and time consuming.
In addition to expanding vegetable production to seven acres to allow for greater cover crop rotation they are also planning to build a certified milk room/parlor as well as a certified chicken processing shed. The decision to add livestock comes in response to feedback from the community, and they are hoping to process 1,000 meat birds next year, in addition to adding two milking cows, and 100 laying hens. The certification process is done through the state, and while not technically difficult, the process requires careful planning as to stay on budget and within the time frame in order to have the new aspects of the farm up and running for next season. John and Sara both work part time off the farm during the winter, but the joy of being outside, self-employed and providing fresh, local produce to the community keep them coming back for more.