After 50 years, Falmouth farm couple cutting down, not out

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FALMOUTH — Half a century ago, newlyweds Elwin and Jean Hansen went into business for themselves.

They started farming at Idleknot Farm, a 125-acre span where everything from corn and cucumbers to hay and pumpkins is grown.

Fifty years later, the couple is planning to celebrate on Saturday with an invitation-only party.

The farm at 261 Woodville Road was originally 250 acres, and was started by Elwin’s parents in 1924. The couple took over in 1964, after Elwin’s father died. Hansen said the farm was always known for its rutabagas, but hay has since become its primary crop.

“The rutabaga business was our backbone of the business for 46 years,” he  said. “We gave that up four years ago. We used to supply Hannaford stores, 150 of them, wholesale.”

Hansen said they have been doing strictly retail since 1996. He said Idleknot is “probably the last commercial vegetable farmer left in the town of Falmouth.”

“My motto when I took over the farm was not to get bigger, but better,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot of hand labor, and there still would be with a market crop, but we have improved it from the time I took it over to where it was all hand labor.”

The couple hires six part-time employees during the summer for the hay season. Otherwise, it’s just the two of them. The Hansens said they have no plans to retire, but know they can’t keep up the pace they once had.

“Retirement’s not in our schedule,” Hansen said. “So our motto is to cut down, but not out.”

He said one of the major problems when it comes to this level of farming is timing the weather: different crops come in at different times.

“You’ve got a certain window. For instance hay, you’ve got three days of that good weather and that’s when the crop has to come in,” Elwin Hansen said. “Same with a crop of vegetables, when that has to come in it has a certain time limit.”

He said they’ve constantly had to plan around harvesting, including sacrificing their health. Hansen said he had a hip surgery and the doctor said he needed three months to recover. Hansen said because of the harvest, he could only take two months. 

“It doesn’t always work when you want it to that way, but at least we plan our appointments around our crop,” Hansen said.

“Just don’t die during hay season,” Jean added. “Or he won’t go to your funeral.”

Hansen said this year was one of the best they’ve had more than a decade, thanks to the long stretches of good weather.

“I can’t even remember a year when I’ve had two crops of hay on time,” he said. “My first crop started in the middle of June and was done in the middle of July. My second crop was done by the end of August. Last year I was still cropping out by the end of September.”

He said one of the hardest things about farming today is having neighbors who “doesn’t understand your way of life at all,” adding that he thinks they are fortunate to still be around after 50 years in the same community.

Hansen said rain or shine, the couple will be celebrating Oct. 4 at the farm with family, neighbors, friends and old business partners.

The couple will arrive by hot-air balloon in the morning to kick off the event, which they are calling the “50-50 Anniversary.”

Hansen said he expects more than 200 people to be there.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Elwin and Jean Hansen are celebrating 50 years of both marrige and being in business. The two took over Idleknot Farm in Falmouth from Elwin’s parents in 1964. They will celebrate the milestones with a party at the farm on Oct. 4.

The Hansens’  “50-50 Anniversary” will be celebrated in their barn at 261 Woodville Road, Falmouth.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.