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Mary Ellen and Austin breaking ground on a new five acre field in 2011. Stacey Cramp Photography

Green Spark Farm is family owned and operated by Mary Ellen and Austin Chadd. Mary Ellen grew up in South Portland bordering Maxwell's Farm. In 2000, she asked for a summer job at New Leaf Farm in Durham, and learned organic salad mix production and precision hoeing. In 2001 she was a MOFGA apprentice to growers in Thorndike and Brooks. She worked for several years as a landscape gardener while attending the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in upstate New York and becoming a Master Composter. In 2005, through The Evergreen State College in Washington, Mary Ellen studied tropical agroecology abroad in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and interned with the Nicaraguan National Farmers' Union. Mary Ellen met Austin in the Ecological Agriculture course at Evergreen.

Austin grew up in the foothills of Mount Rainier in Washington State. He had farmed a couple acres on his dad's farm in Puyallup, WA raising brambleberries, dahlias, sheep, apples and diverse poultry. He had also worked as the farm assistant for two years at Evergreen's student farm. Mary Ellen was able to convince Austin to tutor her in soil chemistry equations, and to come to dinner, and later to move home to Portland, Maine.

Our professors and mentors of ecological agriculture taught us "systems thinking" - a holistic outlook to understand and investigate a farm as a human-manipulated ecosystem. They taught us that sustainable agriculture is as much about community building and ecological responsibility as it is about economic sustainability.

We were lucky to have the opportunity to work together on a farm crew after college at Kirsop Farm in Tumwater, Washington. The Kirsop farmers exposed us to a full production organic market farm selling produce at farmers' markets, co-ops and restaurants, and through a CSA. We use much of what we learned from the farmers at Kirsop in our own farming, from choi planting to potato washing.

In fall of 2009 we broke new ground in fields that were fallow for at least 25 years. We named Green Spark Farm after the wonders of the vegetable world. We grow some unique rare and heirloom vegetables, as well as many favorite standard vegetables.

We are a young farm that started up with the Maine Organic Farmers' & Gardeners' Association Journeyperson Program for new farmers. In 2009 we mentored with Mark Fulford, soil specialist and farmer of Teltane Farm in Monroe. In 2010 we mentored with Seth Kroeck of Crystal Spring Community Farm to hone our skills in organizational management and rotations on our leased farmland in Cape Elizabeth.

We are grateful to the Cape Farm Alliance and the communities of Cape Elizabeth, Portland and South Portland for their support and friendship. We are supporters of MOFGA and Maine Vegetable & Fruit Growers Association for the guidance, training, support and networks they provide us with, and continue to revel in the friendships we find by their side. We enjoy researching the farming history and community surrounding Green Spark Farm's acreage.

We've grown from farming out of a one-bedroom apartment on Portland's East End to leasing 15 acres in Cape Elizabeth and farming year-round full-time. In 2013 with support from our family, we bought a house seconds from the farmland where we thrive. Running a farm and growing our family provide us with endless inspiration and challenges. Running our farm business is the best job we've ever had! We owe our successes to our dedicated regular customers for their feedback and friendship, our farmer-mentors for teaching us high quality standards and farm business evaluation, our supportive family, and our community for demanding local organic vegetables year-round!