Paula Roberts enjoys helping animals, people and organizations. As a farmer, teacher, MOFGA Board member, and even politician, she helps them grow as healthily as possible. At Meadowsweet Farm in Swanville, she and her husband Sumner purchase young cattle and give them as much freedom and open pasture as they can until they are ready to be sold as beef. They also raise their own sheep and lambs; this April, they had 37 adults and a “mob of lambs.” At that time they also had 39 head of cattle ranging in age from under two months to one-and-a-half years, as well as horses, geese, laying hens and a few bantams to be “decorative.” “Our sheep, cattle, chickens and gardens are fed a natural diet without added hormones of chemical fertilizers or medications,” their farm brochure states, and they treat their animals “with respect, allowing fullest expression of their natures consistent with good husbandry practices.”
Paula and Sumner moved to the 120 acres that would become Meadowsweet Farm in 1993. Before that, they lived for seven years in Orrington, where they had just a few animals and a garden: “We farmed casually, organically.” Sumner is originally from Maine and is a full-time farrier and farmer. Paula, who grew up “mostly” in Massachusetts, is a substitute teacher, student, and choir director at the Belfast Unitarian-Universalist Church they helped start four years ago. Now she is looking for a full-time teaching job in a middle school, working with children in the wild and woolly years of early adolescence. “I’ve been working with this age level for 10 or 11 years in one way or another. I just really enjoy them.” Her philosophy of teaching is remarkably like her philosophy of farming: “It makes me sad when I see people put [middle school kids] in strait jackets or expect them to work in solitude, in silence or by themselves. All people want to do is quash them. They need to be watered so they can grow, given some freedom.”
With a special interest in education and agriculture, Paula ran for the State Legislature in 1996 as a Democrat. In spite of not having been “particularly political” before and having lived in an area a relatively short time, she got 46% of the vote. She enjoyed the race, saying, “It was fun. It was really wonderful just to meet people all over the district.” Given the support she received the first time running, she seriously considered trying again this year, but hopes to be teaching full-time soon, and “I just didn’t think I could do both.”
She does, however, represent Waldo County on the MOFGA Board of Directors. Two years ago she was elected as an at-large member, and last year, as the Waldo County Chapter representative. She takes information from the Board to the Chapter, which meets monthly, and takes the Chapter’s concerns to the Board. She is also interested in organizing “get-togethers” for local MOFGA members who are not necessarily involved in the Chapter, but who do care about gardening and related issues. This spring she organized a workshop in Belfast where Eric Sideman talked about the proposed national organic standards. “I just thought it was really important to give people a chance to hear Eric talk about the standards.” About 30 people came, including reporters from the two local newspapers, which, according to Paula, have “been good” about covering both the national standards and the new site for the Fair (located in Waldo County).
Paula has also done a lot of fundraising for the permanent site. last fall she spoke to local groups and organized a MOFGA fundraiser with “entertainment and information” – Chaitanya York and Mort Mather, respectively. She is looking forward to the new site in a characteristic way. “I’m really excited about the Fair being in Unity and, even though it’s not finished, being able to look back and see how it grows each year. I really hope people who go this first year will be thinking about that.”
– Ann Cox Halkett