Last year, Sarah Smith, farmer and owner of Grassland Organic Farm in Skowhegan, found herself unexpectedly single; wrangling three kids ages 3, 6 and 9; and trying to manage the day-to-day of farm life.

It was a lot to take on, and she became what she described as a “computer farmer.” Days were spent running the business and overseeing employees and interns but not actually doing production work — not exactly what she had in mind when she began farming professionally.

“I’m a great mom. … But in the end, I love to work and I love to work on my farm. I don’t want to sacrifice that, but I’m also not interested in putting them in day care all summer,” Smith said. “So, there is this balance that needs to happen.”

This year, Smith is hoping to implement a unique solution: a “grow pair.”

The position combines an au pair with a farm-based role. The ideal candidate would love children, want to live and work on a farm and be okay with not being in a traditional apprenticeship role.

The farm regularly hires paid summer interns to learn and work, and child care always has been part of the job description on Smith’s farm. However, this is the first time child care will be the primary function for the role and farming secondary.

“Some people think farm work is always 70 degrees, sunny and in soil that never has rocks … but what I realized was some of those people would be awesome to hang out with my kids and still learn about what it looks like to milk cows,” Smith said.

But there’s one problem: finding the right person.

Most au pairs who come to the United States through professional placement services are not keen on homesteading; instead, they tend to seek a taste of life in a big city, such as New York or Boston.

“Most foreign nanny types are just not that interested in farming,” she said. “Skowhegan, Maine, is just not cool and hip enough.”

Eventually, she would like an organization such as the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association to host a list of farms looking for “grow pairs.” The need is great, Smith said, especially in the summer, when farming parents may feel overwhelmed by child care duties at the peak of the season.

Even before she was a single mom, Smith’s children frequently tagged along while she worked. Sometimes it meant a baby was strapped on her back while she milked cows; other times it meant babies were lying on a blanket surrounded by toys.

“My kids kind of get dragged along, and that’s OK,” she said. “But I would much rather be able focus on them and make sure that the time spent with them is quality time.”

A full “grow pair” job description is available on the Grassland Organic Farm Facebook page. Anyone interested in applying should contact Smith by emailing grasslandfarm@hotmail.com or calling 207-474-6864.

Natalie Feulner

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the...