Frequently Asked Questions
Are you organic?
The short answer is no, we are not exclusively organic.
We use many organic techniques, including crop rotation, cover cropping, releasing beneficial insects, soil sampling, application of manure and compost, among others. At the same time we do sometimes apply commercial fertilizers if our soil tests indicate a need and sometimes use seed treated with fungicides. Generally we try to use organic guidelines as much as we can, employing integrated pest management (IPM), but our apple trees are sprayed on a regular schedule according to conventional standards, trying to use as little pesticides as we can and still get a saleable crop.
We live close to our crops and no doubt have the greatest exposure to pesticide risks, so we weigh our decisions very carefully.
What is the growing season around Southern Maine?
Roughly 120 frost free days.
There is quite a bit of variation of temperature just within a few miles. Where we are in Buxton, we are likely to have below freezing temperature as late as the first week of June and as early as the last week of August,but more typically around the 20th of September. Nearer to the coast or on the Casco Bay Islands, there is rarely a frost after Mid-May and before Halloween in the fall. Within those guidelines, one must pay attention to weather forecasts and be ready to cover tender crops, if frost is predicted.
Beyond the frost issue is another concern of soil warmth and temperatures promoting growth. For plants of tropical origin, such as tomatoes and peppers, even if the plants do not actually freeze, they are “set back” by cool conditions and may lag behind other plants which were planted later and did not suffer from the cold.
Some plants actually do better in cool temperatures. These include many of the leafy greens like spinach, kale, and many of the lettuces as well as both shelling and edible pod peas. Onions, too, should grow early, not because of temperature, but because of sensitivity to length of day. They should be well established before the days begin to shorten in late June.
What tomatoes should I grow?
The list of tomatoes is long, and one should try several varieties. At least one type should be a hybrid variety bred for quick production and disease resistance so that in a difficult year you will harvest some tomatoes. These might be Jetstar, celebrity, big beef, early cascade, or better boy. After you have your “insurance” tomatoes you can try any number of different colors, sizes and shapes. Old favorites include brandywine (funky flavorful pink), mortgage lifter (large pink), golden jubilee (large yellow), san marzano (a paste type), sweet 100’s (red cherry), and sun gold (orange cherry).
Why don’t you grow corn?
We sell corn that our cousins Dixie and Bill Harris grow at their farm in neighboring Dayton, Maine. They are experts at corn and miraculously have a steady supply of wonderful corn all summer, which we are able to pick up daily and have fresh at our home stand and at the Portland Farmers’ Market. Since the Harris Farm sells their corn at the Saco Farmers’ Market, we do not duplicate by taking their corn there also.
Corn requires lots of land and high fertility. Each corn plant produces one or two ears, only. When corn is ready it needs to be picked and sold quickly, unlike carrots which can wait a while in the ground until needed. We have decided to use our limited growing space for other crops.
What about Maple Syrup?!
For about 30 years, maple sugaring was part of our operation and a lovely way to welcome spring. During those years, the farm grew, and we added different enterprises and built greenhouses. In 2008 we made a difficult emotional decision, but an easy economic decision: we were spreading ourselves too thin during the month of March. Snell Family Farm no longer makes or sells maple syrup. If you fondly remember our pancake breakfast, here is the recipe for our multigrain pancakes. We recommend many other local sugarhouses including Harris Farm, Giles Family Farm, and many more listed here.
Why aren't my cucumber plants producing any cucumbers?
If your plants are producing plenty of blossoms but no fruit, you may have only male blossoms. Male blossoms produce pollen, but no fruit. Cucumbers (and other vine crops like squash, melons, and pumpkins) produce mostly male blossoms when they are under stress. If you have tiny cucumbers attached to the blossoms, those are female blooms. If those are rotting before they grow into full-sized cukes or they are making spherical or misshapen fruit, your flowers are probably not getting pollinated. Are there many bees in your area? You can pollinate your cucumbers yourself during morning hours. Take a dry paintbrush and touch the pollen on as many different flowers as you can. If you think there are lots of bees, but no fruit, you may not have enough nutrition for your plants. If you aren't getting many or any flowers, your plants may not be getting enough sun. Cucumbers (all vegetables, really) need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, more like 8-12 hours is best.
I am planning a wedding and would like to cut my own flowers; can I do that at Snell Family Farm?
Sorry, we do not offer Pick Your Own flowers. The best option for DIY flowers for events is our bulk buckets of flowers which are available June-October. More info on those here.
I am planning a wedding and want to book flowers from Snell Family Farm. What do I do next?
Thank you for considering local flowers! We are thrilled to be growing so many options for you. Carolyn will be happy to meet with you to discuss your flower options, starting no earlier than one year before your event. The best way to start the conversation is to email Carolyn@snellfamilyfarm.com. More flower info here.
Does Snell Family Farm host weddings?
Why do you have so many tractors?
As a diversified farm, we grow lots of different crops which have very diverse needs. In any given day, we may be mowing, plowing, tilling, cultivating, moving pallets of potting soil, laying plastic, setting up irrigation, spreading compost, transplanting young veggie seedlings, planting seeds, and harvesting flowers or vegetables. In order for these activities to happen at the same time or within a short period, we have gradually added more tractors and more specialized implements over the years to make each day more productive. Our collection of 12 tractors plus a couple Gators and lawn mowers is the result of thirty years of tweaking our systems to make the most of our collective skills, land, and crop repertoire.