Meet Farmer Melissa Moore
Melissa and Larry work hard to maintain a farmstand attached to the sugarhouse at Windswept Maples Farm in Loudon.
Windswept Maples Farm in Loudon is where we get the maple syrup and eggs we sell in our store, so I thought visiting with co-owner, Melissa Moore, would be fun. She is a writer and has a lot to say (just like me!) besides their farm is only eight miles from ours.
Larry and Melissa Moore make maple products for wholesale and special orders and keep the farmstand attached to the sugarhouse supplied with tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, and other veggies. Melissa also manages three beehives that produce delicious honey and two smaller nucleus colonies split from the main hives. A nucleus colony is made up of just five frames. The Moores raise lambs for the ethnic market, sell grassfed beef, and have 150 laying hens. Some of those eggs are sold at the Miles Smith Farm Store.
Back in 1983, when Melissa was engaged to Larry, she worked for the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, collecting milk samples for member farms. The samples were sent out to a lab for analysis and measurement of their butterfat and protein content. The information helped the dairymen make informed herd-management decisions.
Later, while Melissa and Larry raised their three sons, she had an off-farm income, writing for farm newspapers and working as a school librarian.
Melissa has lived and worked at Windswept Maples for over 38 years. She said, "Now I'm just too slow to stack hay in the hay wagon. I can help with the unloading or delivery, but I leave the rest to Larry and our three sons. I figured out years ago that it helps to keep our sugarhouse open as many days throughout the year as possible. So my role is to keep regular hours from June through October, and then again over the busy Christmas season. Of course, we feel like we live in the sugarhouse in February and March. I make maple sugar, maple cream, and dry granulated maple sugar. I've tried to expand into lollipops. When making maple candy confections, I work with syrup at high temperatures. My experience is that lollipop ingredients stiffen up fast, and I haven't been able to make many in one batch. I'm still working on my technique."
Besides the maples, the Moores have livestock. Larry manages the farm, including planting, harvesting, and haying. Son Jeff manages the herd of 28 cow/calf pairs of Angus beef, while Melissa does her part helping Larry manage the flock of crossbred sheep.
When it's January, all the action is in the lambing barn. Lambs can be born anytime, night or day, and often need human assistance. Happily, Melissa doesn't always have to go out in the cold for the midnight ewe checks.
"Before I go to the barn, I take a look at the camera. If all is quiet, I stay in bed. If I see a ewe lambing, it's boots on and a cold trip to the barn. We subscribe to a software app called the Calving App. I can record every calf's birth on my iPhone and then download and print all the records to keep on file in the office," said Melissa.
Like other farmers, the Moores spend their "vacation" days visiting other farms and equipment dealers. But Melissa and Larry have adopted a pretty agreeable plan for those days. Every trip to an equipment dealer is matched with a visit to a place unrelated to work. For example, a trip to Forrester Farm Equipment in Chambersburg, PA., might follow a visit to a quilt shop in Lancaster County. Or an errand to the New Holland dealership in Ceresville, Md., was paired with a visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. But she let Larry go solo on a trip to New York State to look at a manure spreader. "As much as I wanted to go to the Landis Arboretum in Esperanza, N.Y., the thought of making the return trip with a used manure spreader in tow just didn't sound like too much fun."
What It Takes
A few years ago, Norman Bowles, an old friend from her milk-sampling days, asked Melissa, "Is being a farm wife what you expected?"
Melissa responded, "Well, Norman… I guess you have to be in it for the long haul. It's never dull. There are some tough setbacks, but there are so many grander moments. It's a good life with a bounty of fresh food and the chance to put your dreams and plans into action."
Fall store hours at Windswept Maples Farm in Loudon are Thursday through Saturday 1 PM to 5 PM or by appointment.