Zook Family Farm

Name:            Zook Family Farm

Location:        266 Maple Grove Road

                       Fort Fairfield, Maine  04742

What Makes the Zook Family Farm Unique?

Joseph and Fannie Zook moved to their farm on Maple Grove Road in Fort Fairfield three years ago.  They are one of several Amish families who make their home in this rural part of Aroostook County.  The Amish who settled in Fort Fairfield and neighboring Easton hailed from various settlements in New York, Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri.  Joseph’s family is based in Tennessee and Fannie came from Ohio.  Joseph had met Fannie in Iowa when he was visiting relatives.

Joseph Zook explained that many Amish came

to the area because the land was affordable after many small family farms were replaced with larger commercial operations.  The Zook family purchased the farm from a retired Fort Fairfield farmer who now lives across the street.  The land had not been worked for several years and the twenty-eight-year-old Joseph Zook and twenty-five-year-old Fannie Zook are bringing it back. 

When asked what Joseph thought about the Fort Fairfield area he commented about how welcome and supportive everyone has been.  The settlement of the Amish in the area has been viewed positively since the Amish are respected for their willingness to work hard, their family values, and their love of the land.

Residents of the Presque Isle area may recognize Joseph Zook because he participates in the Presque Isle Farmer’s Market each Saturday.  He also comes to town on other days during the growing season to sell his produce.  His organic produce (although not officially certified) is displayed on a table under a shade tent.  He is surrounded by vendors with cars or trucks so the buggy in the backdrop where he stores his produce is noticeable.  His horse is tethered down the road in a shady spot.

Joseph brings a large assortment of produce

from his two-acre garden to market including peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, corn, beans, cantaloupe, watermelons, and tomatoes.  Fannie’s colorful old-fashioned handcrafted soaps are also available for sale.  They have beautiful molded designs and various scents and are made from their goat’s milk. The Zooks carry an assortment of homemade jams such as raspberry, strawberry, peach, and blackberry.

Making furniture is one of the activities that keeps Joseph busy during the winter.  He explained that his father-in-law had a furniture business in Iowa and he helped Joseph with his woodworking by providing advice and patterns. Joseph makes an assortment of Adirondack furniture from pine and spruce.  He builds regular single chairs, single fold-up chairs, regular double chairs, double corner chairs, loungers, round picnic tables, porch swings, and children’s chairs and wooden rocking horses.

Joseph sometimes brings one of his beautiful pieces of furniture that he makes to the Presque Isle Farmer’s Market.  He also sells some of his furniture at the Amish store in Easton.  His products are exceptionally solid and sturdy.

Like other conservative Amish families, the Zooks do not use electricity or a phone.  The tools that Joseph uses to make furniture are powered by a gasoline Honda engine.  His workshop is heated by wood.  Water for the house is powered by a gasoline pump.  Hot water for the family is obtained by heating it over the wood stove.  Kerosene lamps provide their light.

The Zooks are self-sufficient.  They preserve and can large quantities of food from their garden.  Their milk is provided by their goats.  Joseph said that they buy a few things from the store such as flour and sugar.  The food that the family eats is healthy and unprocessed. 

When this interview took place at the Zook Farm, Joseph and Fannie’s two young barefooted daughters were happily jumping in the furniture shop in the pile of feed bags and also playing outside surrounded by the turkeys and two goats that were wandering about.  As they climbed into the old wooden cart with the iron wheels, one could not help but think how their youth is set apart from so many other children who depend on computers, television, and video games to fill their days.  Besides providing a place for the girls to play, the old wooden cart served a functional purpose as Joseph explained how he used it to transport the watermelons and cantaloupes from the garden.

The many chores that must be done on a daily

basis on an Amish farm take time.  Preparing for a farmers’ market is always a challenge for all the participating farmers since it means harvesting and packing their produce or products early in the morning and then transporting them.  Joseph has the additional responsibility of readying his horse and buggy and taking the thirty-five minute ride to and from the market.  Joseph awakens around four o’clock in the morning each day.

When asked about getting to various places by horse and buggy in the winter Joseph said it was manageable since the horse and buggy offered good traction in the snow and ice.  When Joseph and Fannie’s daughters are old enough to attend the one-room Amish school he will transport them back and forth each day with the horse and buggy.  They, and the other Amish children, will go to school through eighth grade.  There are approximately twenty scholars in the Amish school at the present time.

The Amish do not appreciate having their pictures taken.  It is against their beliefs.  As promised, no pictures of Joseph or his family or any Amish people were taken for this profile.  Photos of the animals that Joseph’s family raises and photos of Joseph’s furniture and the family garden and market display were shared.

The Zook family is a tight-knit family.  Joseph’s father was visiting from Tennessee and helping out at the farmer’s market.  Joseph’s mother-in-law had just finished helping to weed the strawberry rows when this interview took place. The entire family was heading over to Joseph’s sister for supper.

The Amish  are devoted to their faith.  Sunday is always viewed sacredly as a day of rest.  The Amish community is very close.  Joseph spoke about a recent barn raising where approximately 75 men worked together to raise a 150‘x38’ dairy barn in one day!  There is an appreciation for the  Amish families in “The County” because their work ethic and willingness to help one another align well with the Aroostook way of life.

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