Sheepscot General Store
Summary: Ben Marcus and Taryn Hammer own and operate Sheepscot General Store at Unca’s Farm in Whitefield, Maine. The general store supplies staples as well as locally produced products, goods, and produce. They grow diverse vegetables and specialize in growing certified organic strawberries for sale at the store as well as a pick your own sales. They are operating the general store as a pseudo food hub; providing a market and platform for local producers, artisans, and farmers to sell their goods. They’ve expanded by creating an in store café serving coffee, baked goods, pizzas, beer, and wine filling their town’s void for such a spot. Committed to being a resource for the town, they’ve established a small lending library within the store and have a community room available for a whole host of activities and events.
Now in their third year of doing business, they are poised to do well. Everyday brings at least one new customer through their doors. Their success has been based on their entrepreneurship, ingenuity, hard work, and the supportive Whitefield environment. Graced by sheer good timing and opportunity, the business has been fostered by the heart and soul of its members and community. Sheepscot General Store is an excellent example of the power and need for young farmers to reinvent and revitalize abandoned town centers and economies across the country. Small communities in America want this sort of thing going on, they want a place that feels good, where they can come in and talk with their neighbors while participating in the local economy. Marcus and Hammer, along with many partner farmers and friends, are making what resources they have work for their business. They have been successful doing so but face the same operating limitations many small farmers and business owners face due to limited access to capital.
History: Ben and Taryn met in sheep club in college in Washington. Post college, they moved to Ben’s hometown of Whitefield, Maine. They started farming on Ben’s family land, land that had been fallow for decades that had little farm infrastructure or equipment. They both needed off-farm jobs and realized that enterprise was not working. Serendipitously, the town general store, farmland, and equipment were abandoned and up for lease. Driven by the organic and unanticipated opportunity, the two decided to take on the endeavor. They and their new business were warmly supported by their local community and assisted by Maine based non-profits and organizations such as: MOFGA, Land For Good, the Maine Small Business Development Association. They have experienced a good working relationship with the property’s absentee landowner and they intend to continue leasing for the foreseeable future.
Ben and Taryn have been open and receptive to new ideas and have been driven by intuition leading them to create an organic and authentic community general store. Marcus and Hammer are committed to collaboration and innovation when it comes to food, farming, and business models. They have experimented and applied their ideals by leading a multi-farm, collaborative CSA that joined local farms with similar values to market collectively playing on each member’s individual strengths. The concept was attractive in its collective ideals, lower risk, and acknowledgement of small farm market saturation but was difficult to manage in practice with the money not equalizing out for all. This year, they are returning to growing their own produce for the store but will continue to supply diverse products from local producers.