Sam Roberson plants crops with his daughters on Sweet Pea’s farm in Bar Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAM ROBERSON

Community rallies to help farming family establish roots



BAR HARBOR — Members of the community have banded together to help the new operator of Sweet Pea’s Farm, Sam Roberson, and his family stay warm this winter. The Bar Harbor-based farm offers fresh seasonal produce, organic eggs and flowers. 

Roberson, a military veteran originally from Arizona, leases Sweet Pea’s Farm where he lives with his wife and four daughters. The family lives in an unwinterized double-wide mobile home on the property that does not hold up well in the cold. 

When Roberson arrived, farm owner Matt Gerald told him it would be a struggle living in the house because it was old.  

“So we came here thinking ‘oh yeah, we can do this, we’ll be OK’ because when you open up the door everything seems really solid,” said Roberson. “We figured we’d get our blankets together.”  It wasn’t until freezing temperatures hit that the farm manager realized the conditions were unbearable.  

“I’m a disabled veteran so my body is telling me I need heat,” said Roberson. The farmer lays in the front room on the floor next to the wood stove to sleep comfortably. The family has resorted to sleeping in close proximity to stay warm. “My girls will sleep in the back room with their mom every now and then, but sometimes they get cold back there, so they come sleep in the front room with me just to stay warm,” he said. At this point, Roberson is still learning how to operate the stove, which is something he never needed to do in Arizona. 

Roberson said that he has burned through all the wood he had and his family has been gathering what they can find in the woods. Some locals have also donated wood to the Robersons. “One person is supposed to come back with another cord, but it’s also hard to find anybody that has wood for sale,” Roberson said.  

Members of the Maine Organic Farmers Association (MOFGA) suggested Roberson apply for help from state programs. When the Maine Housing Authority deemed Roberson’s home unworthy of assistance due to age, some neighbors and farmers joined forces to weatherize it. The team has done a bit of what they call “caveman carpentry” to help Roberson’s family brave the winter elements.  

To keep the water pipes from freezing and to secure a warmer dwelling, the volunteer carpenters insulated the perimeter of the home from underneath and patched some holes around the drafty skirting. So far, supplies for the job have cost $550 and more carpentry needs to be done. 

To assist the Robersons, a GoFundMe page was created by Renee J. to raise $1,000 for weatherizing supplies. Remaining funds, if any, would be used to purchase heating oil. Since its inception, the page titled “Help a military vet and his family stay warm!” has reached well over its goal, and the amount continues to climb. 

Roberson said that his family is so grateful for the kindness of the Mount Desert Island community. “We are also so thankful to the farming community for helping me a lot and for the locals who are helping us get these guys paid off,” he said. Roberson hopes to one day tell his daughters that they “don’t have to live this way anymore.” 

The Roberson family fundraiser is still accepting donations and can be accessed by visiting https://tinyurl.com/2zsjpke2. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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