Hackmatack Theatre now sharing land with bison Farm | Community Spirit

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Hackmatack Theatre now sharing land with bison Farm
Hackmatack Theatre now sharing land with bison Farm

The ranch will officially open later this month on land that the Guptill family began farming in the 1600s and that has also served as a the home to Hackmatack Playhouse for the last 40 years. The theater and ranch will now share the land.
 
Conor Guptill was returning from a year studying abroad in Israel, musing about how he might settle back in New England, make use of his family’s beautiful farm land in Berwick and incorporate his spiritual pursuits from the seminary into his life plans.  Childhood friend Christopher Gallot of North Berwick, meanwhile, was spending days working at an architectural firm in downtown Boston but brewing up an idea to take him out of downtown Boston and closer to the land and his hometown in Maine.
Within three months, the two friends had plans to turn Guptill’s family farm into a working bison ranch. But more than creating a bison farm, they envisioned a intentional community where people would come together to create sustainable agriculture, an educational center and a local marketplace for culture, food and the arts.
 
Today there are three female bison wandering the grounds of Guptill’s family land, which is best known locally as the home of Hackmatack Theater.  As rehearsing young actors sing out the lyrics to favorite show tunes, nearby chickens cluck and bison snort.  By the time farm officially opens in late June, seven more bison, including three new born calves, will be joining the summer stock crowd.
 
Guptill and Gallot have a vision of ultimately raising 30 grass-fed bison on the 24 acres in Berwick. They plan to sell the lean, healthy meat almost entirely on site, giving customers a chance to interact with the animals “and with us, the farmers.” Within three years they see the Bison Project incorporating other unused and underused farmland in southern Maine.  

“Designing the Bison Farm and all the systems that make it work was as much of a satisfying design process as any building - it is undeniably different from building, but these things all stem from creating something, said Gallot, 24, who focused his studies on sustainable architecture while at Carnegie Mellon’s architecture school. “In my opinion architecture is much broader than buildings and my work in Bison Project is under that umbrella.”  The young men describe their project with the kind of youthful energy that makes anything seem possible.  Although they look more like eager young job recruits than hippies, their vision mixes 60s idealism with today’s green movements. Through raising bison, they hope to educate the community about sustainable food production, balanced ecosystems and traditional farming.
 
“Our intent is to spread the Bison Project vision through on-site learning --- interactive classes, school field trips and volunteer opportunities,” according to the website. Their dream is to be part of a growing movement sustainable farming in this region.  And ultimately, they believe, the Bison Project is about relationships. This winter they launched the project with "Jubilee Gatherings" at the farm, their foray into the notion of creating an intentional community that encourages local culture and local food. Eventually they hope to have weekly Jubilee Gatherings at Hackmatack, with a local goods market, area artists and musicians, co-op exchanges, forest trails and local food pot-lucks.
 
Hackmatack Playhouse opens its 40th summer theater season of musicals and comedies on June 29.   
Hackmatack box office staff are available to answer questions about both tickets and bison meat sales at 207-698-1807 or at www.Hackmatack.org.

 

 
 

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