MONROE — Heide and Greg Purinton-Brown don’t have any stories about how their ancestors have farmed the same piece of land for generations.
“We don’t come from a long line of farmers,” said Heide, “but I hope we’ll be the first of many.”
The Purinton-Browns own and operate Toddy Pond Farm in Monroe — located, as the name suggests, on the shore of Toddy Pond (Hancock County’s body of water with the same name is not the only one in the state, it turns out).
The couple moved to the farm about three and a half years ago, planning to serve as caretakers of the property. Heide said the owners at the time wanted someone who would farm the land, however, and so she and Greg decided to become farmers.
Their work backgrounds did not immediately suggest the move was a natural one. Heide has a nursing degree and had worked as an OB nurse, breastfeeding educator and nutritionist, before making the move to home where she homeschooled the couple’s two children. Greg, meanwhile, had spent more than a decade working in the corporate banking world.
They did, however, have what they described as an interest in “food we can feel good about eating.” They had raised chickens, tended their own gardens and made their own yogurt and cheese before making the move to Monroe.
In the several years since they arrived, the Purinton-Browns’ venture has grown to include cows, sheep, pigs, chickens (both meat birds and laying hens), bees and two varieties of pigs. They raised goats for awhile, too, but do not presently have any.
The farm offers a number of meat products at its on-site store, ranging from ground lamb garlic sausage to maple, apple spice and chorizo pork sausage. Also for sale are fresh eggs, honey, ice cream, kefir and yogurt.
They also offer ice cream sandwiches at the Belfast Farmers Market.
Both the kefir and the yogurt are made with whole, full-fat Jersey milk from the farm’s cows, and it’s the latter product that is the farm’s signature offering.
“Yogurt is what we’re known for,” Heide said.
The process of making yogurt is pretty straightforward, albeit time-consuming and hard work.
“It’s labor-intensive,” Greg said.
Cows are milked in the morning, and the milk goes into a big, stainless steel can. It is strained, and then goes into a pot where it is made into 30-gallon batches.
The yogurt is inoculated with a culture, and is then poured into Weck-brand, 1-liter glass jars. It cultures for eight hours at 110 degrees, and is then taken out and refrigerated.
Toddy Pond Farm offers two varieties of yogurt — plain, and vanilla. The latter is made using whole vanilla beans that are ground up to give the yogurt flavor. That can result in some sediment — tiny flecks of beans — settling to the bottom of the glass jar, which Heide said initially confused some customers.
“When we first started out, people were like, ‘Why is there dirt in my yogurt?’” she said.
The couple said the German-made Weck jars are great for getting yogurt out of because they are big and have wide mouths.
As proud as they are of their finished product, Heide and Greg said what is most important to them is their process and philosophy of how they farm and work with the animals that make their food products.
“The way we farm is very intentional,” Heide said. “We try to have people see and understand that.”
Toddy Pond Farm consists of 520 acres, of which about 30 acres are in use as pasture. The cows that make the milk for the yogurt are all grass-fed, and the Purinton-Browns don’t irrigate or fertilize the pastures they have — both of which would require the use of a lot of fossil-fuel derived energy.
They don’t till the soil, which Heide said would release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They have planted clover, which helps sustain the bees at the farm.
Toddy Pond Farm utilizes permanent pasture and managed, rotational grazing methods, which the couple said is better for the land.
Greg said how they treat and handle the animals is different than at most dairy farms. Calves are kept with their mothers, instead of being taken away and bottle-fed.
“They’re highly emotional creatures,” he said. Heide added that cows “care deeply for their calves.”
Cows are only milked once a day, which is also unusual — but it is done for a reason and produces a better product, according to Heide.
“With only milking once a day, the milk is higher in protein and fat than it would be with two-times-a-day milking,” she said.
The Purinton-Browns said their approach has been well-received by their customers.
“They really do value it,” Greg said. “It makes them feel better about what they’re purchasing.”
Where to find Toddy Pond Farm products
The Local Variety & Bake Shop
79 Main St., Bucksport
Tiller & Rye
20 South Main St., Brewer
Toddy Pond Farm Store
174 Carver Road, Monroe
The Belfast Co-op
123 High St., Belfast
The Belfast Farmers Market
Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May-Oct.
256 High St., Belfast
Fresh Off The Farm
495 Commercial St., Rockport
Good Tern Co-op
750 Main St., Rockland
Terra Optima Farm Market
218 South Main St., Rockland
For more information about Toddy Pond Farm, visit toddypondfarm.com, search for “Toddy Pond Farm” on Facebook, call 249-3344 or email [email protected].