Monhegan Hay Day 2016
Monhegan Island is a small ocean island community eight miles east of Pemaquid Point on the midcoast of Maine. The island is a picturesque tourist destination but it is also home to a small winter community that is striving to endure the onslaught of modern living and the high cost of maintaining itself and remaining sustainable without considerable help from outside.
The islanders are experimenting with a number of sustainable practices. One such endeavor is the development of a “farm” on the island to provide local produce for the island. The Farm is a distributed network of plots on various people's lands that were typically already gardens and are being used by the farm. Landowners of these plots become part of the the farm’s CSA and are given a portion of the overall produce, while the rest is sold at a weekly farmer’s market to pay for costs and staff.
The farm is using many sustainable, organic practices to conserve resources and produce a high quality product, including super-mulching to minimize the encroachment of weeds and to conserve water (watering is challenging on such a distributed farm without organized irrigation infrastructure).
The mulch of choice is hay or straw. Often this hay is scavenged from islanders who buy hay in the fall to insulate their foundations through the winter and it is available in the spring for the farm. As more technical energy conservation has come to the island in another effort to save energy (another substantial cost to island living) less and less hay is available. The cost of importing hay from the mainland can be upwards of $12 to $15 a bale by the time it has made it across the water and delivered to the garden plots.
Monhegan island is small and rugged. While there are substantial private plots of land that grow thick, rich grass, few of them could be harvested with any large scale harvesting equipment. The grass plots are often mowed as lawns for summer houses and so are not needed in a “lawn” condition until the arrival of the summer population, some time in mid-June. This makes these lawns the ideal targets for a first cut of hay.
Enter the Monhegan Hay Day! The first of which was held in 2015.
This year the tradition will continue with another Hay Day on Saturday, June 25, starting around 7:00 AM. A couple of fields have been added to the mix this year. Below is an aerial view of the plots with a map showing how to get from the wharf to the fields, about a half-mile walk.
The group will start with Cabot’s and Mrazek’s fields, moving on to Cochrane's if time and participation allow. The group will mow unless it is actually raining. Fog, mist, even drizzle are not going to stop the mowing, but may make it less glorious. All proceeds (hay) will go to the Community Farm. Participants can bring a scythe, rake, lots of water and a lunch, and camera or canvas.
To join from the mainland, The Monhegan Boat line and the Hardy Boat Cruises both offer day trips to the island for a fee ( $35 and $36 respectively). Parking at the mainland boat departure sites is $7 and $3, respectively. Reservations must be made for either boat. Check the weather before making the effort to take the trip.