Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Introducing the 2010 Of Farms and Fables Artistic Team!

The 2010 Artistic Team has been assembled! We are thrilled to welcome Cory, Keith, and Claire to Of Farms and Fables.

Cory Tamler, Playwright

Cory Tamler is currently a bit of a vagabond. She’s been Chicago-based since November 2009, where her playwriting projects include Sketchbook X with Collaboraction, an ensemble-written adaptation of Iphigenia for which she was a lead artist, and the 2010 Fresh Eyes Project with Red Tape Theatre. In Pittsburgh, her plays have been given productions or workshops by the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre, Future Tenant, Yinzerspielen, and Redeye Theatre Project. Her work has also been produced in Troy, NY (Bakerloo Theatre Project) and Augsburg, Germany (Theater Panoptikum). She studied physics at the University of Pittsburgh, among other things, and spent the better part of her first seven months in Chicago learning the ropes of the theatre admin world as an intern at About Face Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre Company. She also writes grants for the side project. Collaboration is her joy, as is theatre that is engaged in, born of, informed by, and in conversation with community.

Keith Anctil, Actor

Keith Anctil has been seen on stages from Boothbay to Boston, Machias to Manhattan and points in between. He has worked with many companies including The Theater Project, Mad Horse Theater, AddVerb Productions, Open Waters Theater, Running Over Productions, City Theater, The Stage, Shakespeare and Company. He also performs improv with The Escapists and is a founding member of ACORN's Naked Shakespeare Ensemble. Keith does extensive film work with Page Street Studios, Bernard Smith Productions and Gitgo Productions. When not performing, Keith runs theater education programs at Cheverus High School, The Breakwater School, ACORN Studios and is the founder and artistic director of the Wescott Theater Company.

Jennie Hahn, Director

Jennie Hahn was born in Thomaston, ME, and received her training in community-based theater from Cornerstone Theater Company. A student of the inaugural Cornerstone Institute in 2004, Jennie worked on seven Cornerstone productions between 2002 and 2005. In 2006, Jennie returned to her home state of Maine to found Open Waters Theatre Arts. Since that time, she has produced and created Living History, The Stone Fisherman, FeverFest 2008, and Choirspeak: The Maine Woods. Fundamentally a performer, Jennie has appeared with One Year Lease in Northern Greece and NYC, and with Ken Roht's Orphean Circus in LA. She has trained with the SITI Company in Los Angeles, and holds a B.A. with Honors in Drama from Vassar College. Jennie received a 2010 Personal Grant from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust in support of Of Farms and Fables. She lives in South Portland with her husband Wade and her one year-old son Simon.

Claire Guyer, Company Manager

Claire Guyer was born and raised in Thomaston Maine and fell in love with theatre at an early age. By the time she left for university in Halifax NS, she had participated in 120 productions and concerts as a performer, writer, technician and director. While studying at the University of King's College, Claire trained in devised theater with Zuppa Theater Co. and earned her BA with honors in Theater Studies and Early Modern Studies. She currently lives in Portland Maine where she has worked in viewpoints training, is a company member and puppeteer with Edsil/LEPANTO and a director at the Children's Museum and Theater of Maine.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Holsteins! Holsteins! (Claire)

Imagine standing next to a 1,500 pound pure bred Holstein cow. Thats one of the things I did during our trip to Kay-Ben farms in Gorham last Monday. Most of the time, I was trying to keep up with the stream of information the farms owners Eddie and Becky were more than happy to share with us and take pictures of everything. Like Jenny said in her post above, these cows are impressive animals, but walking up to one of the full grown milkers in the feeding/milking barn is an experience like nothing else.

First of all, just try and imagine something that is 1,500 pounds. To me, its sort of like being asked to think of Descartes' 1,000 sided figure- its pretty easy to think about in an abstract way, but to actually think about what it will look like in a cow is another story. Lets put it this way: a Volkswagen Beetle weighs about 2,0000 pounds, so imagine three quarters of a Volkswagen capable of producing 12,000 pounds of milk a year. The mind boggles.

Jennie and I are not very tall individuals- probably around 5'4 if we stretch. in the picture above you can see Jennie with one of Kay-Ben's owners, Eddie, and one of his heifers. Sorry for the shaky photo, I think I was laughing when I took it. What you can't see very well in the pitcure is that this cow's hips were almost level with Eddie's head. The cow I sidled up to was too busy eating to even notice me. Her hip bones loomed at least 6 inches over me!
The closer I got to her, the warmer I got too. Becky, one of the incredibly informative owners of Kay-Ben farms, told us that cows like the one I was standing next to keep their body temperatures at 101.5 degrees, well above our 98.2. It felt good on the misty March morning we were there.

The Holsteins on Kay-Ben Farms are part of Holstein Association USA, the largest breed organization in the world. Since 1872, people who breed, raise and milk Holsteins have been keeping track of the breed, registering parentage, production and ownership. That's no small task when it comes to Holsteins. They make up 93% of dairy cows, putting the association's catalogue of registered animals at more than 22 million. For breeding farms like Kay-Ben, this means easy access to information about disease and breeding history for all their animals, as well as any perspective mates. All registered cows wear little yellow tags in their ears (even the littlest calves!) printed with tracking numbers that tie them into this impressive national system.

As Jennie and I drove away, we couldn't help remarking how excited we were to see how these animals would become characters in the stories we will eventually be telling. I went off, all fired up to find out the story about Holstein Association USA, and as fate would have it, I soon came across a little fable from their archives! I though I would share it- it seems like a good omen for the beginning of our project.
In May 1887, a noteworthy event in the history of the Holstein breed in America took place. It was the Madison Square Garden dairy cattle show where the four leading dairy breeds - Ayrshire, Jersey, Guernsey, and Holstein-Friesian - met for the first time to see which was the greatest producer of milk and butter. Prizes of $200 were offered for both 24-hour milk production as well as butter production.

Most observers conceded that a Holstein would win a milk production prize, but the Jersey breeders were certain that they would take the butter prize - so certain that they offered a handsome silver cup, with a beautiful Jersey cow engraved on the side, to the winner. However, that cup is now sitting in the Holstein Association USA office in Brattleboro, VT. When the butter samples were weighed, Clothilde, a Holstein owned by Smiths & Powell of Syracuse, had won the $200 and the silver cup. (Story and Photo from ht
So what's the lesson here, folks? Don't inscribe your cow on the trophy 'til it wins!
See you next time!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kay-Ben, March 2010 (Jennie)

Just back from a very full (as always) visit to Kay-Ben Farm. I was attended this time by Cheryl (Advisory Board) and Claire (Company Manager). We met Becky up at the house and she walked us over to visit the heifers. She and Eddie are just back from a trip to Frederick, Maryland for "March Madness", and this has nothing to do with basketball. While attending a large sale of purebred heifers that takes place every two years, Becky and Eddie visited a number of dairy farms in Virginia and Maryland and purchased a heifer for their son Eben to show on the 4-H competition circuit this summer.

The heifers were happy to see us. One in particular, Kiss, who was larger and older than all the rest, actively displayed her outgoing personality. She licked our jackets and pushed her companions out of her way to get a better look at us.

Continuing our tour, we had a look at the show calves in the barn and the dry cows downstairs. The dry cows are at least 7 months into their 9 month pregnancies; we learned that one particularly statuesque expectant cow weighs approximately 2,000 pounds! These ladies were relaxing in the comfort of the barn, munching piles of hay, being pregnant.

We moved outside to visit the new calves. These range from two days to six weeks old and they live in individual hutches in front of the barn. We learned from Becky that the hutch technology is relatively new on their farm; they had always kept their calves in the barn, and resisted making a switch to hutches for some time. After moving the calves outside, however, they found that them to be healthier and happier. The number of deaths they see each season dropped from 7 % to 1%.

It was in the midst of this conversation that we met Eddie - Becky's husband, whose grandfather purchased Kay-Ben Farm in 1916. With Eddie we discussed some of the challenges facing dairy farmers in Maine these days. Competing with large-scale industrial dairy farms out of state is impossible. With the advances that have been made in transportation and technology, and the differences in quantity produced, milk from New York is delivered to Maine packing plants faster than Eddie's - when his milk only has to travel ten miles. Eddie explained that he had to diversify his business in order to stay afloat. The income from breeding and his new compost business far outweigh that of his dairy operations. The number of dairy farms in Maine has decreased to a third of what it was when his father took over the farm, and if his children were to take the farm from him, the number would be half of what it is now.

We traveled into the milk barn and met the milk cows arranged in families, a ten year-old cow positioned between her first two calves and her sister. On the way in, we learned about different feeds, smelling the difference between corn silage and fermented hay. The Bensons grow their own corn and hay, and also purchase blended feeds that have added nutrients - I had a hard time keeping up with all of the information about proteins, fats, fiber, and the plenitude of vitamins in brewers grains. I am always astonished by the complexity of the science that permeates the Bensons' daily lives, by how extensive their knowledge is. Through all of this overwhelming complexity, I leave with the sense that much of what Becky and Eddie do every day is to strive for, or to facilitate, balance.

This is true not only in maintaining the health and productivity of their herd, or in encouraging the successful breeding of their award-winning Holsteins; a need for balance plays a role in the third arm of their business as well. In producing "Surf and Turf Compost" they balance cow manure with waste from nearby harbors, and combine the result with yard waste from municipal dumps and food waste from local restaurants. A business they say they "fell into", the compost is in high demand. There is a market to support further growth, but Eddie is not sure they can manage a larger compost business, considering all of the other work that they are doing.

It is always a treat to visit Kay-Ben Farm, to step into this rich world both familiar and foreign. I was very glad to meet Eddie, to hear about the compost (I hadn't seen the dump trucks!), and to understand just a little bit more about cows than I did on my last visit.